NAME: Cameron Appel
DIARY ENTRIES: 10
PHOTOS UPLOADED: 18
VIDEOS UPLOADED: 0
CURRENT COMPANY: Ranger Diaries
Everyone has their story. It’s the nature of this event.
No matter where you were, what happened on this day was no less or more shocking depending on your location. In some circumstances however, it just created a more indelible memory because of your surrounding environment…
… mine was the bush!
Yes, this is a bush story. I’ve often steered away from continuous ‘animal’ stories because our human guests are actually, sometimes, a more fascinating creature.
Our lodge was filled with 48 guests from the United State that day, all of whom were between the ages of 55 and 65. Due to time zones, we had enjoyed a great early morning safari, breakfast, bush walk, lunch and afternoon sleep long before the atrocities of 9/11 had even begun.
The guests and rangers were enjoying some tea and cakes before the afternoon safari when a panicked woman tried to ask where she could find a television before breaking down into tears.
Her husband had managed to account that she had just spoken to her daughter back in the States, and America was under attack. We quickly rushed through to the conference room where there was a big screen projector, and put the satellite channel onto CNN.
It was probably little after 9 in the U.S, and with visuals of a burning tower being relayed back to us, the second plane hit the World Trade Centre… and all hell broke loose, literally!
In a few split seconds, the transformation from ‘is this just an accident?’ to ‘oh my goodness, we ARE under attack’ filtered through the group like wildfire!
Guests – the majority of whom had family or friends in New York – rushed to reception to use the phone! Some changed their mind half way, and return hastily back to the television as if trying to check if they had mistaken what they had seen for a movie or something less horrific. I remember specifically one couple had a son who worked in the World Trade Centre; their anxiety was palpable over and above all the others.
I guess it was a combination of not being home, or the relief of not being home, or the anxiety of not knowing what exactly was happening, the shock and disbelief together with immense sadness and sorrow that made the situation incredibly difficult for us.
Here we were, experiencing our own disbelief by the events we were seeing on CNN, however, we were also managing a group of people who WERE our responsibility, who also had a direct connection with what the television was showing us…
… it was astonishingly sad to witness!
The afternoon dragged on with, of course, more bad news. Another plane had flown into the Pentagon and another had crashed somewhere in Pennsylvania.
By dinner, most of the guests had made their way to the boma. My group – or vehicle – asked if I could recount some bush tales to take their minds off what had transpired. A few seconds into the ‘hammerkop that stole the toilet paper roll’ they were already breaking down into tears and debating who would do such a thing. My guests were quite ‘subdued’ for lack of a better word, my colleagues had gentlemen who were angry and shouting…
“We will get them… those bustards!” said one.
“I know it’s the Russians…” said another elderly chap.
I can’t remember how much information had been divulged on the news networks, but what I do know is that people deal with horror in many different ways.
Here again, were a bunch of 20-something hard-arse rangers, who were better equipped to dealing with charging elephants, low hanging branches and stupid questions, now having to console, listen and oblige emotions that none of us had ever experienced!
We weren’t capable of dealing with this... but we did our best.
We tried hard to do what we could. Dinner came and went quickly, and by 8pm that evening, most guests had returned to the conference room to continue reliving the crash as is it was shown over and over again.
Some guests had heard back from their loved ones in the States. Others, sadly, hadn’t. By 3am most had gone to bed I think from sheer emotional exhaustion. They left that morning and with them, stayed the memory of that event which is and will be forever inscribed on your life with a simple question…
… where were YOU that day?