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|| News Item: Posted 2001-09-28

"My first thoughts were of disbelief, shock, and horror."
By Eric Risberg

Tuesday 9/11/01 was a day that I hoped to remember for visiting one of Fonseca's premier quintas in the Douro Valley wine region of Portugal and for driving through Portugal to Seville in Spain during a vacation with my wife. Sadly though, I remember it for watching the tragic series of events unfold back in the U.S.

Before going out to find some food late at night in Seville after a long day of driving, I turned on the television in our hotel room and saw a Spanish station showing these rough images of the World Trade Center along with the author Tom Clancy talking. At first I thought they were showing scenes of an upcoming movie based on a Clancy book. But I changed channels, saw more scenes and realized this was no movie.

My first thoughts were of disbelief, shock, and horror. I prayed for the people at the scene and their families. I then thought of my many colleagues risking their lives out covering the story, but mostly of those fireman who went in to save peoples lives and never came out. I wondered if the Golden Gate Bridge would be standing when I got home. The world as we knew it was going to change forever.

My wife and I had just gotten a third of the way into our vacation. We wondered whether we should try to leave and go back home and weren't sure what to do. I had visions of a huge war erupting and us getting stuck in Europe. As it turned out we couldn't have gone home if we wanted to because of the airport closures and the backups it caused. We decided that it was best for us to try and continue our journey and enjoy the experience as best we could. Being in the south of Spain and Portugal was probably safer than being back home.

The reaction of the people in the places we visited in Spain and Portugal was one of concern but more low-key compared to the emotion we felt in London. The scene outside the U.S. embassy in London was moving. Piles of flowers and cards left out in front of a flag-draped statue of Franklin Roosevelt. People lining up to visit the embassy to sign a book of condolences.

By the time our departure date came in London, the backup caused by the airport closures in the U.S. had cleared and we were able to make it home without delay. A number of people had been stuck there for days. Security seemed increased, but not as much as I expected. We were very thankful and happy when we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and made it safely home.

(Eric Risberg is a staff photographer with the Associated Press based in the San Francisco Bay Area.)

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