trekking the Baltoro Getting There The People The Panorama The Mountains Getting Back September 11, 2001

Patrice and BrendaWe arrived back in Islamabad after the trek on September 11th. With rather stunning timing, we had our first real chance to watch television in three weeks - just as the infamous events of September 11th were happening in the United States 12 time zones away. We (along with the rest of the world) were riveted to the CNN and BBC news channels.

Though people in the States didn't seem to believe us, all of the scary things were happening in the US, not in Pakistan. The next day, many Pakistanis came up to us to express their condolences and grief, their hope that none of our family or friends were involved, and their strong belief that Muslims and Christians would need to work together on the problem. They repeated that Islam stands for peace and that they thought the acts of terrorism were very bad. We think anyone who had even a few words of English came up to us to express these thoughts, often supplemented with gestures. Shop keepers, taxi drivers, maids, average people... all said these kind things to us.

All in all, the Pakistani people could not have been friendlier to us. We doubt that westerners would have been as overtly friendly to foreigners if the situation were reversed. Despite all this, the news reports kept replaying a single scene of unrest somewhere, as if it were representative of Pakistan. Add to this the very threatening comments coming from President Bush during the first couple days, and it is perhaps surprising that anyone could feel that friendly toward Americans.

The US airports were all closed, nothing out-of-the-ordinary was going on in Pakistan, and we didn't plan to return home for another week anyway ... so, we just headed south to Lahore to visit Patrice and Masood as originally planned. The four clients, who were unfortunately all leaving just around Sept 11th had various experiences. Natasha had left a day early and got into Washington DC just before everything closed down, but it was already chaotic. Jack was going back to Saudi Arabia, and those flights were going as planned. Pat and Dale didn't have so much luck : Pat got five unscheduled vacation days in England en route, while Dale spent four days stranded in Karachi.

In Lahore, we spent our days visiting with Patrice and Masood and doing the typical visitor sorts of things : dining out, shopping and seeing the sights. Here are a few scenes from Lahore, some of the markets, streets, shops and a mosque. One shows Mark selecting the silk carpet we purchased this time.

 

 

Nothing dangerous was happening in Lahore, but we all did spend a lot of time watching news casts, discussing the potential consequences of everything, answering panicky emails from the States, and joking about all the demonstrations - there weren't any. The US airports were all still closed to international travel, with no set date for reopening. We assumed that we'd get to be ex-pats for awhile and started to look forward to it (except for missing Skunk).

Still, we took the bus four hours back up to Islamabad on the correct day just in case our flight went - fat chance! However, we needed to collect the rest of our luggage from the Shalimar before returning to Lahore to live for awhile, so we didn't begrudge the trip.

We really didn't believe it when, about four hours before our flight was scheduled, PIA announced that it was going to go. At midnight we piled into a taxi and went to the airport to receive a big shock - our flight really DID go ... the first one to the States since the 11th. JFK airport had just reopened to some international flights that day.

We'd been so sure the flight wouldn't go that it was almost disappointing when it did go as scheduled. The delays were minor, though we did have to fly around, instead of over, Afghanistan. We even caught our first connecting flight to Dallas. 48 hours later we drove up to our little blue house and met a very happy Skunk. Now we HAVE to go back to do all of those things we'd planned to do after our flight didn't go!


Getting There | The People | The Panorama | The Mountains | Getting Back | September 11, 2001