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The world in a Greyhound

When I got out of the shower I heard how Carlos shouted:

-Come to see this!

It was nine thirty in the morning on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

Carlos, my older brother (he was 33 years old), and his family (Mapi and little Carlitos and Pablo, still a crib baby) lived in apartment 3606 at 175 North Harbor Drive in Chicago.

Floor 36.

Apartment overlooking the Sears Tower.

-Come to see this! –Repeated Carlos, who was having breakfast in front of the television, ready to go to work.

I obeyed as the little brother obeys the older. According to CNN, planes were raining.

Two of them had crashed into the World Trade Center, another had fallen next to the Pentagon, and the fate of a fourth was unknown. The world’s airspace was in chaos. And our parents were flying to Chicago: this must have been a family gathering.

We would not hear from our parents until three or four hours later, when they called us from Zurich: the commander had turned around to land in Switzerland.

At that time we were horrified: the Twin Towers had collapsed, air traffic had been cut off and George W. Bush and Rudolph Giuliani were talking about Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, the Saudis and Afghanistan.


Alfredo Abián reached me on September 12. He was the deputy director of The vanguard. Dagoberto Escorcia, head of the Sports Section in those days, had told him that I was in Chicago.

Abián had had to scratch, like any other journalist. The mobiles, in 2001, did not have transoceanic coverage. To find me, the journalist had called my parents’ house in Barcelona, ​​asked for my brother’s phone number in Chicago and called me at the apartment.

He didn’t find us the first time or the second, because we weren’t always at home.

He did it to the third:

–Sergio, I hope you are all well. We need you. Xavier Mas de Xaxás (then the only correspondent in the United States) must stay in Washington and there are no international flights. You must get to New York however you can.

Life aboard the coach

Some passengers were crying, others were praying, an executive had handcuffed his briefcase to his wrist

I nodded, made my duffel bag – it amounts to $ 300, six T-shirts, two jeans, some shorts and running shoes, that would be more -, I changed my sportswriter uniform for a fire extinguisher and went to Greyhound Station in New York. Chicago I paid $ 60 for the ticket and, before leaving, I called Carlos to let him know:

– I’m going to NY.

“And where will you sleep?” My older brother asked me.

-No idea. Solutions?

–I will call my partner Federico in NY (both, my brother and Federico Linares, worked for Ernst & Young). Maybe I can put you in his apartment. Call back later.

I hung up scared. I hopped on the Greyhound and immersed myself on a 25-hour ride.

I was going to spend hours in solitary confinement, so I devoted myself to contemplating the passengers.

Some prayed. Others were crying. An executive had the briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. His traveling companion, a nasty looking guy, was looking at the briefcase out of the corner of his eye. My seatmate was obese and invaded my space. Sometimes he would fall asleep and lay his head on my shoulder. When it became unbearable, I would shake my body to get it off me.

Today, I would have related that live. He would have tweeted and posted videos while sitting in the coach, traveling east. He would have written chronicles on his mobile, chronicles that would have been published immediately in the digital version. I would have booked a hotel room in NY and paid for it.


At twelve o’clock at night we stopped in Cleveland, I located a phone booth, I called Carlos collect and asked him:

–And Federico? Will you stay in the apartment?

-It will. It waits for you. Call him as soon as you get to NY.

I hung up comforted and ran back to the coach.


Our Greyhound reached Grand Central Terminal, at 42 Manhattan and Park Avenue, at one o’clock on September 13.

By then it was already seven in the afternoon in Barcelona and I was in a hurry. I went to find a booth and called The vanguard collect. The fire brigade and ambulance sirens wailed, but I could hear Plàcid Garcia-Planas accept the connection.

Plàcid, a colleague with a trade, offered me various advice. I have not forgotten some of them:

Look for your own perspectives. Tell us what no one who is not in the city will see. And can you send us something right away?

-Can I.

– Write now: 4,000 characters.

I located a coffee shop and struck up a chat with the owner.

“From that window, I saw how the bodies of the office workers trapped in the towers fell,” the man told me.

I wrote quickly, by hand, in a notebook, calculated the characters by eye, and called the collect newspaper again. Now I asked about the stenographers section.

Jaume Olivé answered (Olivetti ).

He told me:

– Sing, Sergio.

I sang the chronicle, with semicolons, and that’s how it was published the next day. Then I called Federico and took refuge in his apartment on Amsterdam Street. I stayed in NY for a month, following 9/11.

Twenty years later they are not Olivetti (DEP) nor the court reporters section of The vanguard. There are hardly any phone booths in NY. Just four romantics take notes by hand. We instagram and tweet on mobile. Carlos is a partner at KPMG in Barcelona, ​​Mapi has returned to law, Carlitos is a professional soccer player in the Dominican Republic and Pablo studies Biomedicine in London. Federico Linares is the president of EY Spain.

Afghanistan continues as we left it.

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