[personal profile] yes_2day
In this chapter, John and Paul face some of the realities of John's disclosures, and also some of the consequences.  And even as the gossip is growing, events are in play that will wipe John and Paul off the front pages.

Hope you enjoy - this is FICTION, with only a few current events that are real thrown in for good measure.



Chapter 149


LENNON ADMITS THAT 
MCCARTNEY IS HIS LOVER!



       This was only one of hundreds of worldwide headlines that screamed at Paul from magazines, newspapers, Internet stories, and live broadcasts, and it was hardly the most lurid.  MTV and talk radio was agog about the news, and interview requests were coming in from everywhere.  They all wanted the ‘tell all’ story.   The tabloids were playing it for all it was worth.  The ‘straight’ press was conservatively hedging its bets, unsure if John’s outburst was a joke.  In any case, amongst Beatle followers and fans, there was mass chaos going on.

       “This is just about as bad as I thought it would be,” a subdued Paul said to Henry.  Henry had covered his New York office desk with a smattering of these headlines, and John Eastman and Timothy were there for moral support - Eastman for Paul, and Timothy for Henry.  Paul added softly, “It’s Pandora’s Box.”  John Lennon had chosen to stay home, not wanting to face the real life consequences of his momentary departure from sanity.

       Henry said, “There’s a lot of it, but mainly the legit press is very sympathetic.  They either are writing that it might have been a big joke, or they’re appreciative that you were both so honest about it.  They think John was hilarious.”

       “The backlash won’t be far behind,” Paul said gloomily.  “The religious right...”

       “They aren’t major fans of yours anyway,” John Eastman comforted. 

       “I’m not worried about ticket or album sales,” Paul said honestly.  “It’s the moral crap they’re going to spew, and the things that will hurt Linda’s memory.  I know it is in the pipeline.  The devil always has his day.”  This led to an uncomfortable silence.  But Paul perked up, as he always did.  “Still, as I’ve said, it can’t be helped.”

       Henry said, in an attempt to lighten the mood, “At least we’re ahead of the story now, and that puts us in the catbird seat.”

       “How so?” Paul asked skeptically.

       “It’s much easier to be disdainful of people’s prurient curiously when you have admitted the truth about yourself.  Maybe the fact of your relationship - by a stretch of the imagination - is news, but the details about your relationship are not.  The legitimate press will not go there because if you say, ‘that’s too personal’, they will feel icky.”

       Paul sighed.  “I wish I had your confidence in what you call the ‘legitimate’ press.  Back in the day I would have agreed with you, but in the last 15 years or so the line between the legit press and the tabloid press has blurred.”

       “That’s true,” Henry agreed, “but it’s a question of degree.  The established news organizations will pull back when it becomes tasteless, and will leave the tackiness to the tabloids.  And people really don’t believe all that they read in tabloids.  To them it is like fiction in a way.  They read it to be titillated, but they don’t really believe all of it.”

       “It’s wrong though,” John Eastman grumped.  “It’s like poking people with sticks.  It’s immoral.”

       Paul smiled at his brother-in-law.  He was such a loyal friend and partner. He sighed with decisiveness.  “So, okay, this is where we are.  Where do we go from here, Henry?” Paul asked, his voice now sounding in kick ass mode.

       “It depends.  Do you want to address the subject in more depth in an exclusive interview with a friendly reporter?  Or do you want to go back to the 15-minute soundbites where you refuse to discuss it?”

       Paul regarded Henry with hooded eyes for a few moments and then said, “At least until the tour is over, let’s go back to the 15-minute soundbites.  I think John and I have had enough excitement for the next little while.  We’ve only got one more month on tour left, after all.  And we really do need to see how the dust settles.  The way many are interpreting it is that it was a big joke.”



*****


     
       While Paul was at the business offices, John was puttering around the apartment, trying to avoid looking at the Internet.  He was very curious about how the information was being treated there, but terrified he’d be sick to his stomach if he found out.  He was the one who answered the phone when Stella finally got through.

       “Finally!” She shouted down the phone line.  “Getting through to Dad has been impossible! And I’ve tried your line about 5 times!”

       John chuckled.  “Your dad’s at a business meeting, and I’ve been screening my calls.  They’re coming fast and furious, and I’ve been ducking them all.  This time when the phone rang I noticed it was your number though, so I picked up.”

       “I’ve called to bust your chops,” Stella said in mock anger.

       For a moment John was worried.  It was only after all the dust had settled the night before that he had remembered Paul’s and his kids’ fears of how Linda would be treated if the truth were to come out.  “Stella, I didn’t think...”

       Stella laughed.  “I’m just teasing, John.  I thought you were spectacular!  Amazing!  Good for you - getting your own back!”

       John sighed with relief.  “To be honest, I’ve been worried about what you would say.”

       “I’ve been urging you both to be honest about this for a long time,” Stella chided.  “It’s about time.”

       “But your mother’s memory...”

       “We will all stick up for Mum’s memory, John.  I’d like to see them try to tear her down.”  Stella’s voice was stoic and cold as a stone.  “None of us will put up with it, even for a moment.”

       John said, “I hope your Dad feels the same way about it...”

       Stella considered this remark.  “Well, what I know about my father is, once the shit hits the fan, he goes into overdrive.  Now that it is out there, he will do everything in his power to protect both you and my mother.  He’ll be your strongest supporter - you watch.”

       John felt better when he heard those words.  He knew instinctively that Stella was absolutely right about that.  Paul had certainly been the only one in the Beatles inner circle who had stood up for John fiercely and without reservation, both publicly and privately, during that whole Beatles-are-bigger-than-Christ debacle.



*****

      
August 1, 2001
New York City


       Jason and Gerry were deep in the throes of their Wednesday evening at-home.  It was a full house tonight - no doubt all the men had come to gossip about the John and Paul revelations.  Of course, they’d all known the truth for years, but they were highly amused and excited by John’s way of announcing it to the world, and Paul’s laissez-faire reaction to it.  Of course this announcement had cheered up the LGBT crowd immensely, from the older, discreet crowd, to the younger in-your-face crowd, and all the ‘crowds’ in between. 

       “Did you go to one of their concerts?” Jason was asked as they settled in with assorted after-hours drinks. 

       “We went to their first one in Manhattan,” Jason answered.  “It was fantastic.  The crowd was electric, and whenever they sang a love song the audience went crazy.”

       Gerry said, “They were very circumspect though.  Professional.  There was no difference in their presentation than any of the other concerts of theirs I’ve attended.”  In truth, Gerry had been a little offended by some of the naughty signs that the audience had been flaunting.  He thought of Paul as a very dignified person, and did not like to see that dignity slighted in any way. 

       “Where are they now?” Another man asked.

       Jason said, “They’re in Philadelphia tonight I think.  They’ll be finishing up the tour in a few weeks.”

       “It’s been non-stop press about it,” a third man pointed out.

       “I’m sure they are used to this level of scrutiny,” Gerry said loyally.  “At least from my perspective they always seem to be so.”

       Someone said, “Did you see the Saturday Night Live sketch on this - when the guy playing John - what’s his name? Will Farrell - went crazy in the press conference?  It was hilarious.  And Jimmy Fallon - as Paul - he sat there with this unsurprised and utterly entertained grin on his face, eating popcorn like he was watching a movie. It was hilarious.”

       Everyone laughed, because everyone of course (except maybe Gerry) had seen it, if not on the night, then on the Internet afterwards. 

       “Lorne Michaels, who produces that show, is a very good friend of theirs,” Jason said knowingly.  “I’m sure they laughed their asses off when they saw it.”

       “Do you think so?  Do they have a sense of humor about it?” The man asked.

       “They have a sense of humor about everything,” Gerry responded firmly.



*****



       John and Paul had watched SNL that particular night, because Lorne had warned them.  Alone in the privacy of their hotel suite (they had been in Chicago that night for their concert the next day) they had laughed themselves sick. 

       “Oh, the popcorn!” John had squealed in between bouts of laughter. 

       Paul laughed.  He had watched himself in the video feed of the press conference and had noted how completely at ease and amused he had seemed throughout John’s ravings.  Giving his character popcorn while watching pretty much captured the vibe.  He had to laugh at that
      
       Still, facing the press and the audience in the wake of John’s revelations had not been altogether easy.  They had tiptoed through a number of their 15-minute sound bite interviews with local presenters, all of whom wanted to ask questions about it, but were afraid they’d get cut off.  John and Paul could see the question on the tip of every tongue, and it was a weighty presence in every interaction they had with the press.  What’s worse, they felt the need to not show or express undue affection for one another, so they sat further apart than they normally did, and very rarely exchanged looks between them.  Now everyone would be looking for a ‘tell,’ and they felt as though a super microscope was on them all the time.  And then there were the paparazzi.  The photographers were revved up by the promise of huge bucks from the print press  - everyone wanted the ‘money shot’ - i.e., some kind of physical affection between John and Paul.  Well, those two gentlemen were not going to accommodate the press in that way.  They were very determined on that score.

       Now, in Philadelphia, John and Paul were on the way back from the concert in their limo.  They were tired and thus uncharacteristically quiet as the car took them back to their hotel.  Each concert got crazier, with more signs with naughty sayings, and more religious fanatics carrying banners and protesting the show.  It felt a bit like being trapped in a circus, and neither one of them was comfortable with it. 

       John, especially, was feeling oppressed by it.  At first, the sheer exhilaration of getting the damn thing off his chest, and shoving it down all those voracious throats in his own inimitable style had kept him mostly up.  There had been moments of fear and doubt, but mainly he had been up.  Now, a few weeks later, he was mainly down about it.  It had been a cheap thrill, but he wondered now if he could pay the price for it.  In addition, amazingly, a whole lot of people had watched and heard what he said and believed it was all a joke, so the monkey wasn’t really entirely off their backs!  He looked nervously over at Paul, who was keeping his own counsel.  Paul’s head was thrown back against the car seat, and his eyes were closed.  John didn’t think he was asleep; he just didn’t want to talk.  John knew that Paul wasn’t angry with him, but maybe he had been hurt or disappointed that he’d done the thing unilaterally?  John turned back towards the car window, and stared out into the darkness, watching the debilitated downtown Philadelphia flash by him.   What had he set loose?  He hoped that it wouldn’t end up being a terrible mistake.




*****

The Hamptons, New York
Mid August, 2001



       John and Paul and family had arrived at the new house they had purchased in Amagansett, in a development in the woods a few miles away from the old McCartney home.  That old home had been Linda’s place, and Paul had discussed it with his kids, and they all agreed that they should start anew in a different house so there wouldn’t be so many ghosts.  When they spent a few weeks on Long Island with Linda’s family every August, they needed a home to go to that was not redolent with Linda’s memory.   John had been tremendously but quietly relieved by this, and had hired the same man who had decorated his New York apartment to help with the Hamptons house.  It was very beachy and comfortable without being a cliché, and the family found it restful and bright.  It was a relatively humble one-level house, at least for that neighborhood, but it had sufficient bedrooms for the whole conjoined family, and a large, meandering and sprawling deck and pool area. 

       This time Sean had come, and Julian also.  Julian needed to follow up on his rain check to take his father and Paul to dinner.  He figured he’d celebrate Paul’s birthday belatedly and his father’s in advance, since he planned to be involved in an art show with his mother in early October.  Julian had come by himself this time, without his girlfriend.  There were problems there, but he didn’t discuss this with any of his family.  So, surrounded by all the McCartney kids, and both the Lennon kids, the McLens were spending a very relaxed end-of-summer break with the Eastman clan. 

       Their first evening there, John and Jodie Eastman had invited them over to their house, a few miles away, and after a loud party and a lot of pool nonsense involving almost all of the cousins, the kids had decided to head to the nearest hip town to hang out in a popular club.  Even Julian went along.  He didn’t get to spend much time with Sean, who was also there without his girlfriend, so he elected to go despite his greater age.  Only Heather remained home, but she was closeted in her room and was quite happily reading and spending time to herself.  She was easily overwhelmed by the energy her family exuded, and needed frequent breaks from it.  Meanwhile, John and Jodie, and John and Paul, remained out on the pool party drinking Margaritas.

       “How are you two holding up?” Jodie asked gently.  “There’s been a lot of press frenzy.”

       John said, “We’re done with the tour now, thank god.  I didn’t think it would ever end.”

       Even Paul had grown tired of the tour after John’s impromptu press declaration.  Being on the stage was great, but everything else associated with the tour was now a drain.  He was ready to go home to London and hibernate for a good long time, at least until the gossip settled down.  There would be, eventually, a new startling news event to axe them out of the headlines.  There always was.  He said, “I’m glad we did it, but I’m glad it’s over.”

       John chuckled:  such a Paul thing to say.  Always seeing the glass half full. 

       “It was a tremendous success,” John Eastman commented, “both critically and financially.”

       They all lapsed into a comfortable silence after that until John said, “I’m sorry to put you all through this.  I know it can’t be easy having paparazzi hanging out across the street.”  (John had noticed them as their car approached the Eastmans’ gate.)

       Jodie shrugged.  “They don’t bother me.  I’m nobody.  They never want my picture.  It’s kind of funny, really, they’ll see the gate open, and I’ll drive out, and I can actually hear them all moan in disappointment.”

       Paul and John laughed out loud, and Jodie’s husband patted her hand and smiled at her lovingly. 

       “But you’re the ones under the gun,” Jodie added.  “It’s so unpleasant...”

       “But predictable...” John Eastman added.

       Paul smiled at Jodie and said, “We’re used to it.  Really, we are.  We may not always like it, but we’re used to it.  And we’d probably get very worried if suddenly nobody bothered about us.”

       John snickered.  He acknowledged the ugly truth in that - he and Paul both had gotten so used to adoration and being the center of attention that, if it ever ended, they’d be bereft and wouldn’t know what to do with themselves. 

       Paul cleared his throat and said to his brother-in-law, “I’m sorry about that nasty piece about Linda in the Post.

       John and Jodie had been studiously avoiding the subject, and Paul’s John looked down at his hands, despondent.  He felt it was his fault, because he had gone after the Post reporter at the press conference, and had made it personal.

       “Henry and I are dealing with it, don’t worry,” John Eastman said, gritting his teeth.  “Those people are unspeakable.”

       “I wish they were ‘unspeakable’,” John said wistfully, making everyone laugh.



*****


     
       This had been Alasdhair’s second exposure to the McCartney-Lennon family, and his first exposure to the Eastman family.  He was overwhelmed trying to keep all the relationships and names straight.  They were all a tight bunch, which - to be honest, Alasdhair had to admit it - surprised him.  He hadn’t thought that the Eastmans would be that welcoming to Lennon.  But clearly they were, and they obviously included him as part of their family.

       He had noted Stella’s exhilaration about John’s announcement at the press conference, and he himself had thought it was - objectively - very funny.  But he worried about how it must feel to Stella’s more sensitive siblings, Heather and James.  And he also wondered how John’s sons would feel about it.  He couldn’t see any noticeable discomfort between these people and John and Paul.  In fact, they all seemed to be very open and friendly with each other.  And tonight, Julian had taken John and Paul out to dinner, and as Julian and Paul had waited for John in the hallway, Alasdhair had witnessed a loving hug between the two men.  It certainly seemed genuine.  He was slowly learning that he should get used to seeing weird and unusual things while hanging out with this interconnected family.

       Julian, meanwhile, enjoyed his night out with his two ‘dads.’  One was his biological dad, and the other was his emotional dad.  He no longer felt deprived of a father figure.  He had learned finally to think himself lucky to have the waterfront covered by two remarkable father figures.  Whatever he might need from a father, one of them was there willing to supply it.  And tonight they were incandescent together, as usual.  They looked at him with eager fondness, and hung on his every word.  Their pride in his accomplishments was obvious, and it touched Julian in his deepest heart. At one point, John went off to the restroom and then over to the bar to reorder a round of drinks.  While he was gone, Paul asked softly (anticipating the answer),

       “Where’s your girl?” 

       Julian looked up.  This was Paul, and he could tell Paul anything.  “We’re breaking up.  She’s moving out.”

       “Is this her doing or yours?  Or is it a mutual decision?”
Paul asked gently.

       “Mine mainly.  She wanted to get married and have babies.  I’ve always made it clear that’s not my ambition.”  Julian had a mulish look about his face that Paul knew well.  John incarnate. 

       To disarm him, Paul smiled softly and said,  “I didn’t know you felt that way.  Tell me more about it.”

       Julian lowered his voice after looking around to make sure his father wasn’t approaching the table.  “I don’t think I’ll make a good husband or a good father.  I haven’t really got a clue how to do either thing, and I also worry if this depression thing that runs in my father’s family would be passed on to my children.  I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.” 

       Paul nodded.  Julian was a deeply empathetic human being who was perhaps a little too sensitive to deal comfortably with the basic slings and arrows of everyday life.  Out of the corner of his eye, he could see John approaching, so he said, “Well, all I can say by way of advice is - try to keep your mind open to possibilities.”  He winked, and a moment later John was with them.  Paul thought it was a shame that Julian still was uncertain about what he could and could not say around his father.  Perhaps there would always be some residual damage to that relationship.

       Mary had been worried about her father, and also her mother’s memory, and had been very much upset by the Post’s nasty comments about how callous her father was - using Linda as a ‘beard.’  They’d never said a kind thing about Linda in all the years that she had been married to her father, and now all of a sudden they’re her champions over the alleged villain, her dad?  She seethed with a deep anger, and it was so unusual for her that it actually worried her.  She felt she could discuss this anger with her uncle, John Eastman.

       “What are we going to do about this?” She asked him. “Stella wants to come out guns blasting.  What do you think?”

       “I think we handle this with disdain and dignity.  We wait a respectable amount of time, and then release a statement signed by all of us - her whole family, denouncing the story.

       Mary was sure this was correct, and offered to help her uncle write the statement.  She also offered to collect all the approvals to use names.  They would draft a letter, and then they would all have their names attached to it - all of Linda’s sisters and nieces and nephews, all of the in-laws, all of the McCartney kids, John’s two sons, and her Uncle Mike of course.  She’d even get some of their closest friends in on it.  It was a great idea, she thought.  She wrote the first draft and showed it to her uncle, who made a few corrections and additions.  Then she showed it to Stella who wanted to add some inflammatory statements, but was talked down to one tough comment that was added to the draft.  James and Heather had a say in it, as did Sean and Julian. 

       This was all going on around him, but Paul had no idea.  The letter was sent to the Post, but also simultaneously to several news wire outfits, and was soon being sent to media all over the world by the news wires. It read:

      “To the Editors of the New York Post,

                “We of course have become accustomed to reading inappropriate and completely inaccurate reporting in your newspaper about our family.  But the story about our beloved Mother, Sister, Aunt and Friend - Linda Eastman McCartney - published on July 29th sets a new low.  The story quotes alleged ‘insiders’ who claim that Linda was not the center of her family’s world; that she was not the love of her husband’s life; that she was not the warm and beautiful soul who grounded us all. 

                “Let us be clear about this: there are no such    ‘insiders.’  Linda’s entire family, and all of her friends and associates loved her totally, understood the deep dynamic  of love and respect that ran through our conjoined families, and would never have said such vapid and tactless things.  [That was Stella’s contribution.]  The Post has made this ugliness up from whole cloth, for the sole   and ignoble purpose of selling newspapers.

                “Not satisfied to besmirch Linda’s memory, the Post goes on to savage our Father, Brother, Uncle and Friend -  Paul McCartney - by claiming he did not utterly love and   adore Linda.  Anyone who knows him will tell you he was her best friend, her most ardent lover, and the one who   was beside her throughout her ordeal with cancer, and    who was utterly devastated afterwards.  Paul and Linda’s love was real and alive, and it is a desecration of her memory to claim otherwise.

                “Finally, we ask that the press stay away from our private family business, of which they know nothing, and let us live our lives in peace.  If any more stories of this kind are published, Linda’s family will take legal action to defend her memory.

                “We are Paul and Linda McCartney’s family and friends.”



       The letter was acknowledged by Heather, James, Mary and Stella McCartney, Julian and Sean Lennon, John and Jodie Eastman and their children, Linda’s two sisters and their husbands and children, Michael McCartney and his wife and grown children, George and Judy Martin, Ringo and Barbara, Olivia and George (well, Livy had signed for him).  And, the first person to actually sign the letter (after he was let into the secret), in a huge flowery signature like John Hancock’s on the Declaration of Independence, was John Lennon.  He wanted the press to be able to read it without their glasses.

       Paul had been deeply moved by this gesture proffered by his family and closest friends.  He took the time to write each of them a brief note thanking them for standing up for Linda.  His ‘thank you’ to John was a great deal more personal and private, however, and left its recipient with no doubt about the depth of Paul’s gratitude.




*****


New York Post
Editorial Meeting
Early August 2001




       “We’ve gone too far with that Linda piece,” the Editor-In -Chief announced to the conference room filed with sub-editors.  “The paper has not got so much hate mail in over half a century.  Not since that Jackie story about Bobby.”

       “It didn’t help - the dignified response coming from the McCartney family.  They made us look cruel.”  This came from the Assistant Editor-in-Chief, who, along with the Editor-in-Chief had been called to the carpet by the paper’s board of directors earlier that day.

       None of them cared if they had actually been cruel.  They were only worried that they looked that way in the eyes of people who buy newspapers.  Celebrities were fair game, after all.  They asked for it when they decided to become famous.

       “So the Board wants us to walk the story back,” the editor said.

       “Williams will go ape-shit,” the city page editor commented.

       “Williams can kiss my ass,” growled the editor.  “We need to do a story discrediting the criticism, and acting as though we weren’t the ones who started it.”  He honestly and sincerely did not see the irony in what he had just said.




*****

September 11, 2001
New York City



       A week earlier, all of the family had dispersed back to their various primary homes, and John and Paul had decamped to their New York apartment.  There they had entertained Jason and Gerry along with a number of other friends for a week, and planned to take the 9:15 a.m. Concorde flight back to London on the bright, clear Tuesday morning of September 11th

       John didn’t like to wake up so early in the morning (he was shaken awake by Paul at 6:15 a.m.), but the Concorde left at 9:15 a.m. come hell or high water, so if he didn’t want to spend twice as long on an airplane he had to get up in time to catch the flight.  He and Paul ate a desultory breakfast that morning, each lost in his own thoughts.  John was thinking how much he looked forward to getting back to Cavendish:  to sleeping in late and entertaining all his friends.  Paul was thinking ahead to all the business that faced him in London. 

       They were at the airport and fully checked in by 8:15 a.m., and waited in the VIP lounge.   Even in the VIP lounge they were the center of attention, with many rich fellow passengers eyeing them avidly from behind newspapers.  John and Paul had a sixth sense about such things.  They always knew when they were being watched.  The hairs on the back of their necks would stand at attention.  Each did his very best to look disinterested and detached from the other:  neither one of them wanted to encourage gossip or speculation.  So Paul was looking at business papers while sipping coffee, and John was reading the latest book to catch his fancy, the utterly entrancing epic John Adams by David McCullough.  John had only picked it up in Amagansett as a beach read, and now he was almost done with it.  He was addicted to it now.  He felt in league with John Adams.  He felt as though he would have really liked the man, and thought he was a lot like Paul, and he also thought that maybe he was like Adams’ cousin, the fiery and unpredictable Samuel Adams. He was utterly lost in the story when the announcement to board the flight was made. 

       Paul gathered up his papers and stuffed them into his briefcase, and both men - waiting until everyone else had left - moved towards the boarding gate. 

       It was 8:45 a.m.

    

*****



       As John and Paul had been sitting quietly in the VIP lounge sipping their coffee and reading, the world as everyone knew it at the time was on the verge of an enormous change.   Less than 25 minutes earlier, an airplane leaving Boston Logan Airport for the West Coast of the U.S. had been hijacked.  Minutes later a second plane out of Boston Logan would be hijacked.  Waiting to take off at the moment were two more planes, one leaving Dulles Airport in Washington D.C. for Los Angeles, and the other from Newark Airport in New Jersey for San Francisco.  NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, was scrambling its jet defenses in response to the first hijack.  The early warning had come from the first Boston flight, where the hijacker had inadvertently tripped ground control connections while trying to address the plane’s passengers.  Still, the thought was it was only the one plane.  Consequently, no flights were grounded.

       All was quiet aboard the Concorde as the stewards and stewardesses served the customary coffee and orange juice with hot croissants, and offered alcoholic relief in the form of Mimosas for anyone who was interested.  Paul had put his earphones on, and was plugged into his Macintosh ITunes player, ready to listen to a mix made for him of recent music by a dj friend. John had been immediately sucked up by his book, and was absent-mindedly sipping on orange juice. 

       The plane was scheduled to take off at 9:15 a.m., but at 8:46 a.m. the first of the hijacked planes had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.  At 9:08 a.m., air traffic controllers immediately halted all activity on the runways while they waited to find out from the FAA what the hell was going on.  On the Concorde, the captain came on to the intercom.

       “We will be delayed on the ground for a moment,” he said calmly.  Half the plane’s passengers groaned with impatience.  John didn’t care.  He was wrapped up in his book.  Paul didn’t hear at all, because he was listening to his music.  It was John who first heard the rumblings of his fellow passengers.  They seemed to be interested in something one could see out of the right side of the plane.  John was seated at a window on that side, and looked out.  He could see both of the tall buildings on the New York skyline 12 miles away with huge, billowing, fiery holes in their middles.  He stared at this dumbly for several moments trying to make sense of it, and then elbowed Paul. 

       Paul removed his earphones, and leaned across John so he could see out the window.  “Holy hell,” he whispered.  “What the fuck?”

       As if he had heard Paul, the captain’s voice came over the intercom again.  “Ladies and gentlemen, we are headed back to the terminal.  There has been an aircraft incident involving the World Trade Center, and the flight has been grounded.”

       The cabin was alive with alarm and conjecture.  John and Paul were quiet, looking about them, and then out the window in bewilderment.  The plane turned around and headed back to the terminal, so John and Paul could no longer see the burning buildings.  As soon as they deplaned, they were escorted back to the VIP lounge, where an airline representative told them the flight was cancelled, and would be rescheduled at a later time.  She gave them a number to call for further information, and said they would receive reimbursement for the flight.  But she had almost no one’s attention.  Everyone had gravitated to the floor to ceiling windows where a perfect view of the bright blue New York skyline obscured by a horrific black cloud could be had. 

       One passenger did say to the airline representative, “Can’t you book us on a different flight?”

       The woman looked very uncomfortable.  She said, “All flights in and out of the U.S. are grounded until further notice.”

       That got everyone’s attention.  As they turned away from the window to stare at her a woman watching the television monitors screamed, and everyone rushed over to the TV.  There they all stood, wordless, for several minutes as they followed the screen that repeatedly showed video of an airliner crashing into one of the twin towers.  The reporter was saying that two separate airliners had crashed into the World Trade Center Towers at 8:46 and 9:03 a.m. respectively.  It was obviously a terrorist attack, and not a deadly accident.  It was about 9:30 now, and suddenly the President of the United States was being broadcast from Florida, where he had been spending the day in a classroom.  He acknowledged that these were terrorist attacks.

       John and Paul - like everyone else - were shaken to the core.  They looked at each other numbly, and it was Paul who said, “We have to get out of here.  Let’s go home.”  Paul had already called his manager, who had - while pinned to the television set - arranged for a driver to pick them up.  It took over an hour and a half to get back to their apartment in the crazy traffic because the two towers had collapsed, sending debris and chaos for several blocks around them, and because emergency vehicles had blocked off all of lower Manhattan.  Thankfully, their apartment was in mid-Town overlooking Central Park, far enough away from the site of the World Trade Centers in lower Manhattan on the East River so as not to be affected by it too badly.   They probably should have gone back to Amagansett, Paul realized, as they were stuck in traffic and crawled along towards their destination using an extremely roundabout route.  For some reason Paul hadn’t anticipated how massive the disaster was until that moment; his mind could not take it all in, he supposed. 

       Once they had arrived, they headed straight for their back patio - the one off their master suite that faced lower Manhattan instead of the park.  They were met with a huge cloud of smoke and white dust, obscuring their view.  Choking on the dust, they quickly closed up the windows, and went back to the sitting room to watch the television.  Paul called each of his kids in England to tell them they wouldn’t be home that day, because they were stuck in New York, but that they were safe and fine.  He also called Julian and Sean and his various managers.

       John was glued to the television set.  He could not believe his eyes.  Had this really happenedHad the world gone crazy?  One thing that didn’t occur to him yet, but which would become apparent to him within the next day - was that he and Paul didn’t need to worry about being the subject of headlines anymore.  They had been well and truly cast aside in favor of reporting this new millennial disaster. 

      
     
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