On September 11, 2001…I opened my eyes half asleep to see the Twin Towers on my left…I was riding the bus into Port Authority and seeing them was my signal that I was almost there. At Port Authority, I looked at the digital clock as I walked briskly in the crowd. 8:45 am. Arriving at work at the Random House building in the middle of Times Square, a coworker had a live picture of the first tower hit on her computer. “It seems like it was a commercial plane.” That’s strange, we all thought. Still, my co-worker and I go downstairs to get our morning bagel in the cafeteria. By the time we come back upstairs, the second plane has hit. It is apparent.
My friend and I walk across town to your building Dan- you were working at CBS then in the BMW building all the way on the west side. From there, you can see the smoke downtown from your window. The phones are not working. Four of us, you, me, and your friend and mine, head outside into the surreal streets on this perfectly clear day. We decide to head uptown to your apartment on 125th Street and we catch a cab together after a long time waiting. Subways and buses are not running.
Interestingly enough, in the memorial letter about you my old coworker and friend still today writes me after you die, she remembers that day. She remembers how we found someone’s blackberry left behind in the back seat of the cab. How we decide we should take it and try to find their number and return it. The cabbie, a crazy one, hears us talking and starts screaming that she has to return it and to hand it over. We know by her tone that she is not planning on returning it. That day, you see, like any day, though it is full of heroes, did not bring out the best in everyone. You put up a fight- even then, on that insane day- wanting to return it to the proper owner – wanting justice to be done on both grand and small scales. That was always so important to you. The result: after only a few blocks in traffic- we are kicked out of the cab. You are furious. I am angry with you for what I felt like was provocation on your part and now here we are- the four of us- still needing a ride uptown.
Funny, I don’t remember how we got up to your place from there. (We did). But my friend still remembers that incident and writes in the letter- that she never forgot how you tried to stand up for what was right- and that it was you who made her feel safe and protected on that day.
I never thought that now, ten years later, you would be dead. I never expected I would be friends with a few of those newly widowed- the 9/11 widows. But today has felt, I realize, familiar- the drawing near of an anniversary of sorrow. That day was just as surreal as the event of your own death. Except that, untouched by the event ourselves- it could remain just that- surreal. It was other people jumping from those buildings- other women widowed- other children orphaned. We were together. The thing that couldn’t possibly happen- happened- but …not to us…not really. Yes, we were there, in that city – but we were alive- together. For those for whom that tragic event did not remain surreal- but became painfully, wretchedly real- for those who did not have the luxury of watching the news replay the horrific scenes together but instead were planning funerals alone without bodies, to them I extend my deepest sympathy.
1 Samuel 2.8 “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap…”