By BRET HART -- SLAM! Wrestling
When it happened, I was on the other side of the world. A rock 'n' roll promoter in Australia is going to be doing a wrestling tour there and he invited me Down Under. I've seen more of this world than most people, I guess, but I'd never been to Australia.
I get fan letters from there all the time and I feel as if the faces in the pictures they send are familiar old friends who I've never had the pleasure to meet, except for a few who travelled the very long way to various pay-per-views or even here to Calgary.
I explained due to post-concussion syndrome, I can never wrestle again and that I'm retired, so I wasn't sure how much good I could do for this Australian tour. The promoter happily invited me anyway.
I landed in Sydney two Saturdays ago -- their time. I should point out Sydney is 14 hours ahead of Calgary and I never did adjust to the time difference.
In Australia, it's early spring with temperatures similar to what they are in Calgary now. The promoter met my plane and whisked me off to sign autographs at a large shopping mall.
At the mall, there was this really huge line of my fans that just went on and on. I was struck that here I was so far away from anywhere I'd ever been and these people had brought their keepsakes for me to sign. Some of the stuff dated back to the beginning of my WWF career -- magazines, action figures, posters, T-shirts -- and I was moved to see more than a few Canadian flags waving. I signed autographs for hours and everybody was having a good time -- but no one was having a better time than me.
The scene replayed itself in Perth and Melbourne and, before I knew it, the days had blurred together and it was time to go home the next morning.
I got back to the hotel and one of the wrestlers, Stevie Ray, said incredulously: "My wife just told me on the phone that a plane hit the World Trade Center."
I spent the next five days in my hotel room with my eyes glued to CNN, which, I suspect, is what the rest of the world was doing, too. I called home and had an in-depth conversation with each of my kids and admitted to them I was just as distressed as they were while assuring them men far wiser than me will bring the terrorists to justice. Even at the other end of the world, people were in a silent, troubled daze. Like me, they were quiet with grieving faces.
Meanwhile, my friend and assistant, Marcy, a native New Yorker now living in Calgary, decided with me in Australia it would be a great time for her to go back to New York for just one day to take care of some personal business in lower Manhattan. Talk about bad timing. On the crackling cell phone connection between New York and Melbourne, I heard, "I don't think I can get home ... to work ... " I always said that for Marcy to not be somewhere for me on time, it would take some major catastrophe but this was so much worse than anything I could have imagined.
Over the years, the people of New York have been very good to me. They're a special breed -- resilient with a no-nonsense approach to things.
Even so, watching live on TV as a veritable sea of firefighters, police and rescue workers plunged into the second tower to aid in the evacuation -- minutes after the collapse of the first tower had swallowed up so many of their friends and comrades -- I was awestruck by the incalculable bravery of these magnificent heroes. I was humbled by the toughness of innocent civilians who were badly injured and yet carried those who were worse off out on their backs. And I marvelled at the loyalty of a seeing eye dog who guided his totally dependent human companion safely down through 70 floors of thick smoke and falling debris even with his lungs and eyes burning when the air turned to white ash.
The only thing I can say about this horrible tragedy that hasn't already been said would be to share with you my own stories of my experiences in New York -- and America. And of my travels throughout the Middle East.
I will -- as soon as I can find the words.