September 11: 2,000 Miles Apart

19 Jan

I wrote the following story around September 11th of this past year—the 10th anniversary—but have not had the luxury of time to finish it until now. Although I know I could wait until September 11, 2012 to share it with you all… I feel like it doesn’t really matter. We all remember where we were that day. It is a topic that enters many, many conversations that I have with people to this day… on any given day of the year. It is an event none of us will soon forget and there are as many accounts of this infamous day as there are people on the planet.

This one is mine.

And hers. Thank you Jan for allowing me to share just a part of your story…

I was so proud of her for moving out of Ohio and embarking on an adventure all her own. With no job she decided to roll the dice, take a chance and move to New York City.

Brave girl, I thought. I admire her. I envy her. This experience will change her life forever… even if she winds up right back where she started… in the Buckeye State. She will have had the time of her life.

In the summer of 2001, she and a friend took an apartment in the heart of Manhattan’s financial district. Two blocks from the World Trade Center. Two blocks from what would soon become the site of the worst attack ever to occur on American soil. But of course, during the long, sunny days of summer in the city, the events of that fateful day couldn’t have been further from her mind.

Though job hunting, she still found plenty of time to go shopping and enjoy some big-city glam. I still remember the new clothes and trendy haircut she showed me once while we were both back on our home turf, visiting our families at the same time. She was a New Yorker now. And, as Carrie Bradshaw would say: She looked fabulous.

On a random, mid-September, Tuesday morning the sound and vibration from the first explosion woke her from a dead sleep. Eventually she made her way to the rooftop of her building to see what was happening. Not long after, another collision convinced her this was, indeed, not a dream. Fire and smoke and chaos reigned.

2,000 miles away in southern New Mexico it was a little after 6 a.m, Mountain Standard Time. I had gotten up like every other day, set my feet on the floor and flipped on the news. A plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers and, like many others, I thought it an accident and hoped no one had been seriously injured. That was, until I watched—on live television—a second plane smash into the other tower. I was immediately sick. I knew this was no accident.

On the drive to work the news informed me that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon and another into a field in Pennsylvania. Reports were also coming in that people had been spotted jumping from the twin towers. And it felt as though the sky was falling. In many ways… I suppose it really was.

My thoughts immediately turned to her.

I had no cell phone in 2001, so I began driving faster to the office to use the phone. Miraculously, when I rang her apartment, she answered—practically hysterical. Because of the news coverage here and the power outages there I quickly realized I was more aware of what was happening from a technical standpoint. She, much more aware than I of what was happening from a sensory one.

With 24-hour news coverage, instantaneous broadcasting, cell phones and the internet, technology had shrunken our world in such a way that even from 2,000 miles away I knew what was happening at the very same moment she was witnessing it. A voice yelled down my hallway: “The second tower just collapsed.” As I simultaneously heard her cry out the same words through the phone lines.

As she saw it begin to fall, her voice was gripped with terror and disbelief. She would soon report that her windows and view was becoming blackened from the overwhelming billows of ash rolling through the streets, swallowing everything in their path.

I told her that they were reporting for people to grab what they could from their homes, including towels or clothing to place over their mouths and noses and get out—NOW. We said our good-byes and hung up.

Later that night—from a hotel room in Albuquerque where I had traveled to on business—I spoke to her parents and found that she had safely arrived at a friend’s beach house on the Jersey shore. They had walked all the way there, relying on the kindness of strangers along the way to give them masks and bottles of fresh water.

And I thanked God she was OK. And as I later learned of all the people who never got to speak to their loved ones, let alone KNOW whether or not they were OK or gone forever… I thanked God that I was fortunate enough to speak to her in that life-changing moment from 2,000 miles away.

Jan and I at an Ohio State tailgating party. November, 2011

 

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6 Responses to “September 11: 2,000 Miles Apart”

  1. Deb Shields January 20, 2012 at 11:12 AM #

    A very gripping first person account. well written as always and thanks for the reminder of our cherished freedom.

  2. jsh0608 January 20, 2012 at 11:48 AM #

    Very touching story. I remember that day as if it were yesterday. I am glad that she was ok, and I pray everyday for the ones who lost someone. Sure it has been 10 years, but that pain never goes away.

    Thank you for sharing this story.

    • Woman In Thrisis January 24, 2012 at 10:45 AM #

      Thank you, I’m glad you liked reading it. And thank you for visiting! I must admit I don’t return every comment, especially lately as I am moving but I do try to greet new commenters and say thank you for stopping by and then pathetically solicit them to COME BACK! So I do hope to see you again. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, as tough a topic as it is.

  3. Booksphotographsandartwork January 21, 2012 at 9:38 PM #

    I like the part where you say that even if she comes back home she will have had the time of her life, not that she would have failed like so many people would think.

    I would imagine being that close to the event, hearing it, smelling it, touching it would really keep the memory in the forefront of ones mind. The rest of us might not think as much about it.

    • Woman In Thrisis January 24, 2012 at 10:46 AM #

      Thank you Linda. You’re right. It was so much more real for her in ways we will never realize.

  4. Shawdiane June 22, 2012 at 7:43 PM #

    Douglas & I were in the resteraunt tv lounge whilst waiting to go to our table to have a meal. We could not believe our eyes, but because we knew the pictures were unfortunately for real, we both felt shocked, sad & grief stricken for those involved. The whole resteraunt went quiet & most of us had tears in our eyes & we will always remember where we were that terrible day as it is imprinted in our minds for ever. There are no amount of words to express for that day, only deep personal thoughts & the meaning of the word ‘humanity’. We are so glad to know your friend was safe but the realness of what she saw must still be deeply shocking for her to accept. It must have been a blessing for you & to her to have been able to speak to each other at that time. Blessing to you both & our thoughts to all. We were all involved on that & always will be.

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