November 15 - December 14, 2001
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By Fall, 2001 we had not set foot in the USA for two years and both felt it was time to go back rather than to continue to rely solely on emails to keep in contact. .
So mid-November saw us leave Darlington and head for the airport. We spent a great four weeks in the States visiting our friends(Moshe, Cathy, Sue, Jemma, Roberta) in NYC, our former neighbors and friends in and around Middletown (the Daggetts, Ryders, Lius, Huangs, Jan’s bridge buddies, and more) and even visiting former colleagues and friends in Scottsville, VA (Caroline), Atlanta, GA (Merrill & Paula, the Sonphaos), and Charleston, SC (Mike & Beth).
We started with New York City and walked the streets from north Manhattan to the remains of the World Trade Center. Compared to the great damage that was once evident, all was now cleaned up. We saw nothing of the vast layer of ash and talcum and building dust that initially covered the area. What we saw was absence, absence of an immense presence that used to fill the sky. We had seen it many times from the Hudson river, as one part, as the central part, of a magnificent skyline. We had seen it as an immense height for which we had to crane our necks backward to see its fullness. And now we saw from behind a tall fence covered by blue tarp, fragments of the very recognizable wall, hardly taller than the cranes working to clean the place. In a few weeks after our visit they too would be gone.
Thanksgiving brought us back to our former suburban lives. We ate and stayed with one set of former neighbors, the Daggetts, and they had as guests another, the Ryders. We saw our old house, fundamentally unchanged, but still renewed — or, at least renewed in the eyes of its new owners. They had taken two of Gerry’s precious trees (we hear a hurrah from Jan, ever seeking more light), washed the cedar shakes so that they had the golden yellow of their youth, and, we hear, made other changes inside.
Many of our friends have an association with AT&T and/or its telecom offspring such as Lucent, Telcordia, and Tellium. All have fallen on hard times in the last two years as telecoms (and dot coms) have gone from boom to very bust. Happily for us and for them, none were out of a job, or at least had taken a golden handshake before the tidal wave of collapse had hit them. But they had many tales of their colleagues who were now on the beach.
Like all suburbanites we had been owners of a car and daily users thereof. But in 2001 we had only driven ourselves twice, and that was in Thailand when we got thoroughly lost. So now renting a car and driving south for two weeks felt like such an adventure. How we enjoyed being behind the wheel on the open road. We did about 2400 miles (4000 km) and were very impressed that we spent less than $75 on gasoline (petrol).
Besides seeing friends and driving, our big use of time was visiting Civil War battlefields. We visited seven new ones, including Fort Moultrie, the site of the real beginning of the civil war, and Petersburg, the denouement.
After our pendulum reached the extreme of is motion at Savannah(very much associated with antebellum South and the civil war; we liked it a lot) we paused, as pendulums do, and then began our northward return. Our major stops were more battlefields and in Arlington, Virgina. In a week we were back in NJ for our last taste of our former lives and then in ten days were in Manhattan where we again walked the streets, enjoying Central Park, Times Square, and Fifth Avenue again. And then it was over.