A comment on my previous post made me recollect my thoughts about this devastating day – 5 years ago.
I was home.
I was perhaps enjoying a cup of coffee. My daughter was in Kindergarten and my son in second grade. He was just diagnosed with asthma and he was having a tough time. He needed a nebulizer and treatments every 4 hours. I was exhausted.
The phone rang – the kids were already off to school. It was my husband. He told me he was stuck in traffic and he thinks the reason is because some airplane crashed. He is not sure where, because the radio announcement was confusing. He asked me to turn on the TV to find out what was happening.
I froze. There on every station was the World Trade Towers in flames – well the first one anyway. I told my husband what I saw and he said some things out of disbelief. He was getting another call. I hung up. He called me back and said he was ordered to go to the site. (he was a NYPD officer.)
I begged him not to go. I pleaded. I cried. I told him it looked really bad and besides what can he do. That was not his area. I panicked.
My heart raced as I heard comments about terrorists and suicide and more reports of hijacked planes. I thought I was going to throw up. But I couldn’t take my eyes off the TV. And then it happened – I am not sure if I saw it first hand (as I saw it so many times in repeated plays) – perhaps I was in the kitchen, but I heard the news. The second plane hit. They were not sure if they were evacuating.
I remember screaming at the TV – get them out. My God – get them out. I saw people jumping and I thought of my husband, where is he? Then the phone calls started.
“Mom, where does Aunt Lena and Anthony work? Didn’t Anthony work at the trade center? Wasn’t he there during the last bombing? Mom, where are they?”
“Calm down, Elaine. They no longer work there but they are close. They are fine though. Your brother is not there either. Everyone is fine.”
“Mom,” I say, “Erick is there.”
“I am sure he is fine”, she assures me.
I go back to the TV.
I stand there watching, glued – and then….
It just collapsed.
And so did I.
I even scream. I know I did, but I didn’t hear it. But I screamed. I ran to the phone and my husband’s cell just rang and rang. “Answer it”, I pleaded – “answer the damn phone.” Then all lines went dead – I couldn’t get through to anyone.
I watched people jump from the buildings and I wept like you can’t believe. And then the second one went down. And I was just numb.
We heard of the PA flight and the DC crash. My uncle works at the Pentagon. To be honest, I don’t know if he was at work that day. All I know was we found out pretty quickly that he was OK – either he wasn’t at work yet or his office was not near the site. I am not sure.
Then I was forced to make a decision. Do I take my kids out of school? What do I say if I do? I didn’t know where my husband was, and I had no idea if more attacks were on the way. I grabbed my keys and ran for my car. I went to the school and there were other parents there as well. The officials were understanding. There were people crying all over. We all knew people. Friends. Family. Acquaintances.
I reached for my children and I hugged them tightly and I cried. I told them something bad happened but we are safe and we are going to go home and wait for daddy to come home.
I didn’t let them anywhere near the TV. I kept my bedroom set tuned in, low. I situated them in the living room with videos and kept my eyes and ears on everything.
And then the phone rang.
It was my husband and I cried. He was upset. Too many people he knew were involved. He was ordered to go to his sector instead of the World Trade center shortly after our phone conversation. I asked why he didn’t call to let me know he was OK – he said he tried. But naturally, he needed to maintain order at work.
I don’t remember much of the days that followed. It was all a blur. My husband went through severe depression for a while. He felt he wasn’t able to do much to help. He went to the site numerous days, but he felt useless. He found no survivors and he learned of many friends that perished. He was needed more at his precinct, yet he wanted to be there in Manhattan. My husband has asthma as well and they did not want him to aggravate his condition by placing him there. He had to go through numerous tests and follow ups regarding his lungs.
I was fortunate.
My husband was safe. My family members were safe. I had no close friends or relatives that perished. I recognized many names (though from years ago) that had died – acquaintances. I heard many stories of how “so and so” was late for work for one reason or another and missed being at work by minutes of the attack. Who missed the train, bus etc. Who stopped for breakfast or took a cigarette break. And then there were the unfortunate ones. The ones we mourn. Even though we don’t know them. We could have.
I remember feeling uneasy for the next few months, years, especially the first few weeks. I needed to cross bridges (literally) many times to visit family. I feared they would be bombed. NOTE: this fear was NOT instilled in me by the Republican Party trying to keep control over our government! That is absurd. This fear was instilled in me the day these terrorist proved to me that we are all vulnerable. As long as they are around, we are all still vulnerable. But I don’t live in fear anymore. I go about my business and I trust that the best is being done to protect us. Nothing is full-proof, and there may be another attack. But it is no one’s fault – no one except these terrorist. And they must be dealt with. I don’t ever want to live through another day like I did on September 11, 2001 – and I got off lucky.