Another glorious morning in Yosemite Valley, the most beautiful place on earth. We’d packed the ropes and clanking gear, excited about our latest adventure and getting to grips with the granite. The breakfast room was buzzing, then someone rushed to turn on the TV. The first tower was burning, a plane was heading for the second, suddenly our climbing didn’t seem relevant at all.
We returned to our room, perched on the end of the bed to get close to the TV. Every channel was showing the same images. In the time it had taken us to walk across the motel forecourt, the first tower had fallen, then the second. We felt the first wave of shock from the American people on the other side of the continent.
For an hour or so, we sat there. American TV news is not the best, certainly no match for the BBC and Channel 4, but to tell you the truth, I don’t remember one word of what the reporters said. Imprinted on my mind are the images, a plane, a tower, an impact, smoke, flames, collapse. Repeat. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell and past President Bill Clinton were the only two men of gravitas the media could track down, they spoke as statesmen, no-one could find George W.
We felt helpless, frivolous for being on holiday at such a time, embarrassed to be in a place of peace and beauty when the world was changing before our eyes. If we had been doctors or experts in rescue, we would have somehow rushed over to New York and offered to help. But we’re not, and we’d get in the way. So what to do? We did what we were there to do and climbed.
Others did the same, we pitched up at one of the popular (and easy) climbing lines. I never said we were good climbers. It was all quite surreal, everyone was in a daze, but carried on, because there was nothing else we could do.
Now, ten years later, there’s a lot of debate about whether 9/11 changed the world. Latest thinking is that much of the upheaval in Afghanistan and Iraq would have happened anyway, the economy would have boomed and bust and we’d all be carrying our shoes at the airport. I don’t know, I’m not an academic, but I know it changed my world.