Sunday, September 11, 2011

We will never forget

Each year on my birthday my Mom says, "I know where I was and what I was doing _____ years ago." I'm pretty sure she said it to me on my 1st birthday and I know she'll keep telling me for the rest of our lives. She tells me all about going into labor with me. I can recite the whole story by heart. When something is that significant, you never forget the details.

Ten years ago today I know where I was and what I was doing. I'm sure no one will ever forget where they were when they heard the horrific news of the terrorist attacks.

I had 2 part time jobs at the time. I was a nanny for a child with special needs and I also worked at my Dad's title company. That morning I woke up a little late so I took a shower, threw some clothes on and broke a few traffic laws to get to my nanny job on time. When I walked in the door I could tell that my employer, Julie, had been crying. I asked what was wrong and she looked at me stunned. She could hardly speak. I remember her saying, "You haven't heard?" We went into the living room where the TV was already on. We watched the news cast. I vaguely remember hearing that someone crashed a plane into the the World Trade Center.  And then we watched the second tower fall.

I just went numb. I couldn't breathe. How could someone do that? Why would someone do that? I wouldn't let my mind go anywhere else. I couldn't...but then Julie said, "Have you heard from any of your family this morning?" I just burst into tears. My entire family lived in New York. Most of them worked within a few blocks of the Towers. My Uncle actually worked IN one of the Towers. What if...NO, I couldn't think it. I wouldn't think it. But it could be....NO.

Julie sent me home which was both good and bad. I didn't know what to do with myself.  My parents were both at work. My roommate was at work. I didn't want to be alone. I don't even remember getting to my apartment but somehow I did. I sat and watched the news for hours. I cried until I couldn't cry anymore. Then I did what they told you not to. I started calling my family in New York. The stupid circuits were down. I guess everyone was trying to call their loved ones too. I dialed and dialed and dialed probably close to 50 times and never got through. I picked up one final time and got through! The phone rang and rang. I finally got my cousin Michele & her husband, Billy's answering machine. I left a very frantic message. It was something like, "I hope you're ok. I'm sure you're ok. You HAVE to be ok."  I realized that they may never hear this message. This message may not ever be played. What I wouldn't go there. Frustrated, I decided to go into work with my Dad. Not really to work, just to see if he had heard from anyone.

As soon as I walked in everyone asked me if I had gotten in touch with my family members. I thought that was a bad sign. Did my Dad know something I didn't? I saw my Dad and he didn't look good. He immediately told me that he hadn't spoken with anyone and asked if I did. I just started to cry. He told me that my Uncle Jerry who had worked in one of the Towers had been laid off. The bank he worked at had closed down. The Friday before had been his last day. Finally, some good news.

I started thinking about Michele and Billy. She was only a few months younger than me. They had just gotten married in April. She worked down the street from the WTC. Billy worked directly behind it. Eventually I said, "What about Michele?" He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He was quiet for a few minutes and then said, "Kel, if something did happen to Michele, we won't know until they find her body. It could be weeks, or months. They might never recover it. We have to be prepared for the worst." I felt like I had been stabbed. I felt all the color drain from my face. My Dad was practical. I was emotional. I didn't want to hear that. I wanted to hear "they will be fine." The truth was, we didn't know. So many people had lost their lives that day. I prayed my cousin & her husband weren't on that list.

My Dad sent me home too.  Again, I didn't know what to do with myself.  I figured the best plan of action was to go to my parents house. If anyone was going to call, they would call there first. So I sat, and watched more news coverage. The rest of the afternoon was a blur. Every time the phone would ring I would jump to answer it. Everyone was eventually accounted for with the exception of Michele and Billy. My heart sank. They couldn't be...dead...could they? NO. They couldn't. They weren't. My dad's words echoed in my head..."we won't know until they find her body." The phone rang again and I jumped. It was my roommate. She said Michele had called me to let me know she was ok and was at her Mom's house. OH THANK GOD! We hung up and I tried to call her but the lines were still down. A few hours later, we heard from Michele.

Michele said that when the 1st plane hit Billy didn't know what to do. When the 2nd Tower crumbled, Billy left his work and ran to her work. All the windows of his building were blown out by the explosion. He decided that they should try to walk home. They couldn't use public transportation since the city was shut down. They ran through thick gray smoke and ask and rubble. They ran toward the bridge to go to Brooklyn. Michele said she was terrified of crossing the bridge. She said she thought another plane would crash into the bridge and that she would die there. Billy convinced her to cross the bridge. They walked until they had huge blisters on their feet. They finally made it to Billy's parents house and were safe.

My family was one of the lucky ones. Thousands of families weren't so lucky. Several of the people who died that terrible day were from Lower Makefield township which is where I grew up. I remember hearing that the pilot of one of the planes was from my town. My heart and prayers go out to all of the people who lost loved ones that day. You may be gone but you will never be forgotten.

I thought I would share Michele's facebook post with you. ‎It seems a fitting way to end this story. She wrote: "10 ago today, right now, I was sitting at my desk looking out my window down the block at the twin towers. Little did I know that my life was about to change forever. The colors yellow, orange and red had no real meaning to me. Terror happened in far away places. Never again would I know the peace and innocence that I felt at 8:30 that morning. Remember all those that lost their lives that day and all those that have risked and lost their lives fighting to keep us safe. God bless America."


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