September 11, 2014 by Lisa
Here’s what I remember after the Sept 11th attacks:
a friend calling to see if I was watching the news. Switching it on to hear that a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers. Initially thinking that the plane’s pilot must have been really drunk.
Fred’s former mother-in-law calling from Florida to see if he was okay. Suddenly realizing how serious this was.
talking to Fred briefly on the phone, him telling me he was heading down to what we now call Ground Zero since his work crew was there. Then the line going dead.
feeling as if I had been struck physically as I watched the second plane hit the building.
heading into work, not knowing if that was the right thing to do. Realizing everyone in the office felt the same way.
watching a co-worker pack up his things and walk down the hall, heading home to his family as they awaited news of his father who worked in one of the towers.
trying to call Fred over and over and over, never getting through.
watching the first tower then the second crumbling into heaps, taking so many lives as they did. Running down the hall towards the bathroom so I could cry in private, a co-worker stopping me to ask if I was okay. Staring at him in disbelief – nothing was okay.
still trying to call Fred, not knowing if he had made it to the site and if he had, was he safe.
the office closing for the day, everyone sent home to sit vigil by the television set.
arriving home, getting out of my car and hearing the phone ring through the open living room window. Screaming at the phone to keep ringing as I fumbled to find my house key and open the front door. Answering to hear a unknown woman’s voice tell me Fred was okay, that he was with her husband and she had just spoken to them.
calling a friend to ask if she has spoken to her husband; she hadn’t. Asking if she had a Verizon phone with the old two-way calling feature, thinking that if we couldn’t get through to our husbands via cell service, maybe we could with this. Telling her I’d meet her at her house, not realizing she thought I was coming to tell her that her husband was dead.
arriving at the same friend’s house to have the door opened by her husband who said “are you kidding me? I got the hell out of there when I heard what happened!” Watching his wife come into the house and throw herself at him, sobbing and limp with relief.
finally reaching Fred on the phone, then not really knowing what to say except come home. He still wanted to get to his crew.
the next day and for weeks following, Fred and his team working on-site, attending to the Verizon building that had been heavily damaged by one of the towers. The phone lines for the NY Stock Exchange were housed there and the rush was on to restore service.
seeing pictures of that time, Fred standing in what looks like a war zone, holding a heavy-duty respirator mask instead of wearing it. Thinking “What in God’s name is he inhaling?”
picking Fred up from the train every evening, him covered in soot, reeking as if he’d been rolling around in a giant ashtray. Every day, the train conductor refusing to take his ticket, thanking him for the work he was doing. Me crying every single time I heard this.
sitting in the train station parking lot, realizing that so many people had dropped their spouses off that morning, then never got to pick them back up.
developing OCD tendencies to ensure Fred’s safety: “Wait in the car until he gets on the train. he’ll come back out to wave good-bye again. Then wait until the train pulls away, the whole time saying ‘God keep you safe’. If I do all that, Fred will come home tonight.” Knowing I should stop, but being too afraid to jinx things.
realizing it would be easier to stay in the city so Fred could get to the site more easily. Checking into the Hotel Pennsylvania across from Madison Square Garden, us and police officers from all across the country. Wondering if that meant we were really safe or if we were fresh targets.
walking Fred to the entrance of the heavily secured site at Ground Zero, lacking the security clearance to see the destruction up close (and unwilling to do so even if I had). The police officer at the entry point telling Fred to go back and give me another kiss; me dissolving in tears at this.
feeling an almost overwhelming sense of protection for this city, my city that had been so brutally attacked. Realizing that if I had the chance, I would kill osama bin laden myself.
sitting here, thirteen years later, amazed at how life goes on. Because it seemed the world was ending that day.