America Mourns
Live Report from the USS Density Reunion 2001
(written from our hotel room using a Macbook and posted online daily)

Dateline 11th September 2001, Embassy Suites Hotel, Dallas, Texas (above, left)
Chris Payne reports:

I went down for breakfast at the Embassy Suites Hotel and was presented with a scene that no-one could have predicted. There were many people glued to one or other of two large TVs in the lobby area of the hotel. CNN was on one TV and NBC was on another. I could sense that something extraordinary was unfolding, but no-one on Earth could have predicted what was going to happen.

By this time in New York, two airliners had been hijacked and crashed into the two World Trade Centre buildings and another into the Pentagon. While watching the NBC transmission, behind one of their reporters, live on-air, the first building collapsed. The rest is, sadly, already history.

The events were naturally covered live by CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC. In the bar area, which usually had wall-to-wall sports programmes, we had the unnerving opportunity to see the unfolding nightmare from the point of view of all US networks and local Dallas TV stations.

(Left) flags everywhere fly at half-mast. (Right) Hotel guests watch in disbelief as the awful events unfold on the TV news.

Dallas is on full alert, as there is strategic military presence in the area, and Dallas/Fort Worth is a major airport. Hotels, car rental companies - simply everyone - is pulling together to see how they can help those who needs to travel to somewhere else, or need to stay put until flight restrictions are lifted.

All planes in the US are grounded, so the USS Density Reunion has had to change strategy. Tanya Baugus, who is in charge of organising the event, has already contacted most of the people who were due to come. A few who are so far away from Dallas that it would be impossible for them to get to there other than by plane, have had to say that they're not coming. However, Tanya's found that even after so many years, the old WWII fighting spirit is still there with a vengeance! Several people have said that there's no way that they'll miss their reunion, and will set off by road at the appropriate time. There's no holding them back...

Dateline 11th September 2001, Embassy Suites Hotel, Dallas, Texas

The beautiful sunrise over Dallas belied the terrible reality of the previous day's events, that maybe for many people hadn't sunk in yet. Each guest was greeted by the horrific front page of their complimentary newspaper. (Below, left) At breakfast, faces were sombre, and many hadn't slept much.

TVs were reporting the only good news so far, that six people were found alive in the rubble.

Everyone is still in shock, some turning away from the TV when the horrific crashes are shown yet again.

After spending several days in the company of the members of the Density crew who made it to Dallas, Mary wrote this piece on Friday 15th

It's not easy to think straight with the shock waves from Tuesday's terrible events permeating everything in the USA, but Chris and I wanted to add some words to his initial reports.

We have often referred on this website to the Radio London Family. The members of the USS Density crew and their loved ones have been holding reunions since 1965, and they too have become one big, close family. None of them had met us before, but they have welcomed us warmly to join their extended family, as we welcome them to Radio London's. Our Density Reunion organiser, Tanya Baugus, her husband R.V. and her parents, Marie and La Verne have been absolutely wonderful to us. Their extreme affection, kindness and invaluable sense of humour has got us through a harrowing time, when home seems further away than just an ocean.

Yesterday, we were taken to visit the John F Kennedy museum in downtown Dallas, where the flags outside flew half-mast to proclaim another tragedy of global magnitude. Someone who had found themselves marooned in Dallas, unable to get a flight home, had visited the museum and filled a page of the memorial book with his personal observations and feelings about the horrors of the assassination and how that long-ago event related to all that his country was suffering now. My own thoughts on the subject were so fragmented that I could not have expressed them so eloquently as this unknown person. This appalling terrorism is of course, an attack, not only on the United States of America, but on all compassion and humanity; yet, for me, being half-American, I could not help but think, yes, this is MY country under attack. Everyone who read that page in the book was moved by the sentiments expressed there. We were grateful to that unknown writer for saying what we could not, and were only sorry that photographs were not allowed in the museum, so that we could take that page and its sentiments away with us.

Amazing stories are happening all around us. Everyone we meet, even strangers in the shopping mall, seems to have something new to add to the picture. One of the hotel managers said that we often think of the US as being so vast, but incredibly, many people you meet either knew someone involved in the tragedies, or have some small connection with the areas where they occured.

The USS Density Reunion banquet goes ahead tonight, with a reduced number of people, but unbowed in spirit. These men have survived a fearful war aboard a minesweeper and they continue to share a comradeship that remained, like their ship, the Mighty Little D, intact through dark days and unknown horrors. They will not easily be intimidated by terrorists.

Two of Radio London's original backers, Ben Toney and Tom Danaher, are due to arrive this afternoon for the evening's banquet and they and ourselves will present the Radio London story. Norman St John phoned us yesterday from England. He was stuck at Heathrow, hoping to catch a flight arriving later today (Friday) but now it seems that sadly, there will not be any flights leaving the UK as yet. Locals cannot get used to the emptiness of the skies and the eerie lack of aircraft noise from the massive airport. Yesterday, we watched from our tour bus as one of the first planes landed at Dallas/Fort Worth airport, as if we were observers of a unique, instead of an everyday event.

We are among friends and we shall have our reunion. The wartime spirit of the Density, like life, goes on.

Reunion Report