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Sunday, September 11, 2005

9/11

Every year that brings us farther from the terror attacks of 9/11 makes my memories from that day more and more fuzzy. That queasy feeling I get in the pit of my stomach when I watch the yearly replaying of footage from that terrible day and its aftermath gets more and more elusive as time passes. And this year, the multiple tragedies that Hurriane Katrina left behind makes 9/11 seem even more distant. The news outlets are trying valiantly to keep the coverage of Katrina up, while not giving 9/11 short shrift. But try as they might to give both stories the prominent placement they so deserve, there is a world of difference between the coverage of 9/11 in years' past and this year's coverage.

Though I understand that time goes on, and pain cannot stay fresh forever, I still have a hard time treating September 11th as a day like any other. I was touched very personally by the terror of that day, and I think it will take more than the passage of four years and the horror of fresh tragedy to forget the roller coaster of emotions I went through on this day in 2001.

OrthoDad worked in the Towers. he was there when the plane hit, he was there when the first Tower collapsed. I didn't hear from him for 2 hours after I watched live footage of the Towers coming down. Those were two hours of hell.

The kids were picked up for their first day of school just as the first plane hit. My husband called me from his cellphone. He told me that a "light plane" had hit the tower, but that his floor was ok, and that he was probably going to leave and just come home. I didn't press him to do so, as no one could have known the scope of what was about to occur. That would be the last time I spoke to him for more than three hours. I sat by the television, in the empty house, watching the smoke pour out of the first tower on the screen. Suddenly, in a surreal moment, the second plane hit. I remember thinking, "there must be a radar glitch". Terror just didn't occur to me in my naive 2001 existence. I knew that my husband worked on a lower floor than those that were hit by the plane, but I started calling him on his cell, over and over. A fast busy signal alternated with the message "all circuits are busy now, please try again later". My house phone started ringing. I checked Caller ID. My mother. Told her I spoke to him and he had been leaving. Told my sister, his father, his brother the same when they called. I had no additional information. He said he was leaving. He was OK. It didn't occur to anyone that things would get much more serious than they were. He was OK. He survived the plane crashing into the building. He was coming home. Whew. Our small part in this tragedy was over. I sat by the phone, waiting for him to call from the train, sure he was OK, that he had gotten out. I watched the smoke pour out of the towers, with the absolute conviction that my husband was OK, that this was a small controlled fire, that he was stuck in the large crowds of people evacuating the area, and would make it home soon.

Then the first tower fell. Panic set in. Restrained panic, but panic nonetheless. I wasn't so sure anymore that he was OK. Suddenly, conditions down there had just gotten a hell of a lot more dangerous. The phone started ringing again. My mother, my brother, my mother-in-law, my father-in-law. I didn't pick up. I didn't want to hear the panic and hysteria I knew would be in their voices. I didn't want to have to feign calm and hide the hysteria in mine. I sat watching, in a cold sweat, as the second tower came down. Still pressing redial, still getting the all circuits busy message. Still waiting for a call to come in from him that hadn't yet come in.
Two hours. Two hours I sat, ignoring the incessantly ringing phone, trying to stanch the mounting hysteria that was rising inside of me. Finally, the phone rang. I saw on caller ID that it was my mother-in-law. I still didn't pick up. I heard her voice over the answering machine. "I got through to him, he's OK." I picked up, to hear details, but missed the call. She had hung up.

I went limp from relief. My cell phone rang. It was him. He broke down. I broke down. We didn't talk, silently sobbing together over the phone. I didn't tell him that I had envisioned myself a widow, raising three children on my own. I didn't tell him that I had this foreboding sense that he was gone as I watched both towers come down in a huge cloud of smoke and pulverized glass. I just cried.

Later, when he finally made his way home together with the throngs of people evacuating the City, he told me how close he had been to getting injured by the showers of glass and concrete that rained down around him when the towers fell. He told me about the dust that filled his lungs, causing him to need to have oxygen administered by a passing EMT. He told me that when someone screamed that the tower was coming down, he calculated how high the towers were, and how close three blocks away was, and even as he started running, he thought he had no chance at all.

He had a minor cough for weeks, and a bad eye infection from the dust, and became a news junkie for months, staying up until all hours, watching the footage of the rescue effort which all too quickly became a recovery effort. But he was home. And so many were not. And I had no trouble praying to God over the Rosh Hashana that came so soon after.

So some of you may understand why 9/11 has not yet lost its meaning for me. And I'm not sure it ever will.

24 Comments:

Blogger Mirty said...

Wow.

Thank G-d he made it back to you safely.

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Great account. Did everyone from your husband's office make it out?
And, how does he deal with the yearly coverage. Does it bring back the feelings of stress from 9/11?

8:48 PM  
Blogger Renegade Rebbetzin said...

My darling, I had no idea. Sending hugs your way. :-)

8:56 PM  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

My sister was living in Battery Park City at the time. She was standing by the marina outside the World Financial Center watching the fire on one tower when she witnessed the second plane strike the other tower, and literally ran for her life when the first tower collapsed. It was over 12 hours before I heard from her. And we're the lucky ones.

9:13 PM  
Blogger Rebeljew said...

Great story. Full of real life stress and horror. Devoid of omniscient miracle baloney. This is how true miracles are experienced.

11:18 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Wow.

B"H OrthoDad is alive and you're together and able to write about it today.

I'm in Silver Spring without a TV and was thinking about how it's just not the same without seeing footage today, fourth anniversary. Your post brought back all the memories and all the tears, thank you.

11:37 PM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Wow. Glad that he is ok, what a wild story.

1:13 AM  
Blogger Cosmic X said...

Thanks for sharing that with us.

5:44 AM  
Blogger Shifra said...

OM- What a well told and moving story.
9/11 was the longest day of a lot of people's life you really captured that in your story.
It's good to have a day at least once a year to be able reflect on that trauma and how lucky you to realize what you both have without acutally losing it.

8:39 AM  
Blogger Just Passing Through said...

Very well written Mom. This makes me think it's time I get my tuchus down and write my next installment of my 9-11 story. After reading your account and many others, I always wonder whether mine is even worth repeating. Even though I too ran for my life from falling debris (still have the shirt with little holes in the back) and was convinced I was going to die, for some reason I think what I went through was nothing. It's funny that you mention that Hubby turned into a news junkie. My wife makes fun of me to this day. I'm still obsessed. I have every NY paper from 9-12. I have hundreds of photos I collected online. Also, maybe I should have gotten some oxygen. I had a cough that was so bad I had to sleep downstairs for a while-I was waking up the family. X-rays and all that came up negative and it went away after a couple of months.

10:03 AM  
Anonymous Essie said...

This post gave me the chills. Go glad your husband made it out of there. Beautifully written.

10:25 AM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Orthomom: Thanks for sharing your story. If you don't mind, I would like to share the following site of someone who didn't make it out.

http://nancymorgensternmemorial.org

While I didn't know her personally, I'm friends with part of her family, and was zocheh to be at her livaya in Israel, 3 years after 9/11.

10:58 AM  
Blogger Ayelet said...

Thank you so much for sharing that with us. It was beautiful and moving and ... oh, I don't know what the right word is. I cried and thanked G-d. I have to be reminded to do that sometimes so thanks.

1:07 PM  
Blogger harrassedmommy said...

Thank you for sharing, I needed that cry. I'm glad he made it back and I hope you appreciate Rosh Hashana every year!!
HM

4:54 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Thanks everyone. I'm glad he made it back too.

6:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. OM, this was a great piece. Love to see more work like this from you. I felt your pain and panic like I was there.

7:10 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Great piece on Sept. 11. I never realized that you had been so personally connected to the tragedy.

(As for me-- my father was a block or two away from the WTC site on the morning of September 11th, but he certainly wasn't in either of the towers. So my connection is much more tenuous than yours.)

Did you see my September 11th post?

7:21 PM  
Blogger MODoc said...

I went through a similar experience except it was my brother-in-law who was down there. He had to make a sales call at the WTC that morning. He arrived in the PATH station just after the first plane hit. He witnessed the second plane hitting the tower.

My sister got a call from him on his cell saying that he was heading north out of the area, but then the towers collapsed and it was three more LONG hours till he was able to call again and say he was ok.

I'll never forget that horrible day. Still with the passage of time, and with other tragic events in the interim, it does seem to fade a bit every year.

And yet these pleasant sunny days with that September aura that we've been having in NY...it just brings it back...

10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so glad that you and your husband came thru ok. the memory of the day may fade a bit, but the culture has truly changed since 9/11 and I dont think that will change back soon.

2:25 AM  
Blogger MC Aryeh said...

The most personal blog account of that day I have yet read. Thank you for sharing this, and keeping the memory of that day alive.

2:44 AM  
Blogger Jerusalemcop said...

WOW!!!!

I really could feel as if I was standing next to you experiencing this tragic day. B'H your husband made it home.

All the best

J.

6:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Found this post through the JIBs best post category. You get my vote. Thanks for bringing that awful day back to me so clearly.

9:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read "Debunking 9/11 Debunking" by Dr. David Ray Griffin. It will literally open your eyes.

1:53 AM  
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