Tuesday 16 January 2018

Frontier spirit that held shattered souls together

As the only non-Americans on an Ohio river cruise on 9/11, Dermot Gilleece and his wife gained a fascinating insight into the US psyche

EVEN at this remove, recollections remain disturbingly vivid for me of an American holiday that was broken by the catastrophic events of September 11, 2001. Indeed, the very nature of my circumstances at the time made it a somewhat bizarre experience.

On the shimmering, wide waters of the Ohio River, the steam-driven paddle-wheel of the Delta Queen turned lazily under a burning sun. Lines of trees along the bank were broken only at lengthy intervals by the extremities of a riverside town or the sight of working barges close by an industrial plant.

My wife and I were among 170 passengers cruising the 470 miles from Pittsburgh to Cincinatti in classic, 19th-Century luxury -- a mode of travel immortalised by the writings of Mark Twain. Without phones, newspapers, radio or television, it seemed that nothing could intrude on the idyll. Until the Tuesday morning.

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