Nine eleven. Two little words… I wasn’t going to write about the 9/11 anniversary, but I keep thinking of odd things,
- The passengers trapped on those planes or in the WTC were able to make those last phone calls, all about of love…
- Wedding rings were found in the rubble. Undamaged.
- All the people who missed their train that morning.
- Three of those flights were bound for Los Angeles. Only one flight was allowed into LA airport after the government shut down air travel across the country: a plane load of grief counselors.
Of the millions of stories, I know just a handful. Even though I live on the west coast, thousands of miles away from ground zero, I too have a 9/11 story….
By Jeeny at en.wikipedia. [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
This is a copy of the email I wrote to my family that afternoon:
Our neighbor Janet phoned me about seven-thirty this morning, “My brother, Scott works on the 25th floor of the North Tower at the World Trade Center. Can I come watch TV with you.”
She knew he’d survived the initial impact, because he’d called his wife shortly after the plane crashed into his building and told her he’d made his way down to the thirteenth floor, but couldn’t continue because of thick smoke. He promised to call again as soon as he got out.
Janet and I sat ‘glued’ to the TV, drinking too much coffee, while waiting for her brother’s phone call. The live TV coverage showed too graphically the burning buildings, the people jumping out of the windows, and then the final horror as the buildings imploded and fell down. Through the long hours as they showed us the same footage of the buildings falling down, Janet kept repeating over and over that her brother was a survivor, that he’d be okay, how he and his wife were teenage sweethearts, that they had three children who needed their Dad.
The last time I sat through a vigil like this was in 1968 when the plane my sister-in-law Di’s parents’ were traveling in, crashed in Namibia. I sat with my family and waited that long day and into the next hoping for news of survivors. Di was an only child, we were her only family. I told Janet that it reminded me of that time, “Did they survive?” she asked,
When I whispered, “No…” I wanted to kick myself. Some comforter I turned out to be for my lonely neighbor and friend: Janet’s mother lives in Florida, her father in Long Island, her one sister in Italy, the other one in northern California.
Janet and I didn’t say another word about Di’s parents, but we both knew that the likelihood of her brother having made it out safely was pretty slim especially after the second building fell down, and as the minutes turned into an hour and an hour into two, then three, we both knew it wasn’t a good sign. Why would it take three hours for a healthy athletic male to get down thirteen floors?
When the phone finally rang close to noon Janet was so nervous she dropped it and lost the connection! It was her father, he said, “Scott just phoned. He’s okay. Unharmed. Unscratched.”
Scott phoned around 2:30 pm . He told Janet that he was sitting at his desk when the first plane hit his building, and the impact threw him out of his chair onto the floor. When he looked out the window, and saw burning debris, chairs, clothing, body parts floating past, he immediately ran out the door and down the stairs, but was stopped by smoke at the thirteenth floor. He found a phone and called his wife, “Put on the TV and tell me what the hell’s going on.”
I don’t know how long it took him to get down those final thirteen flights of stairs, but apparently, once he’d gotten out of the building he’d had such an adrenaline rush that he ran all the way to Penn Station (which I believe is many blocks from the WTC) before stopping at a bar to use the phone. Although fit, he’s not a runner.
By Wally Gobetz (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wallyg/159454993/) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
When you look at the thick smoke in the above photo, and see how it’s spread over so many blocks, it’s hard to imagine people finding their way through it.
~ O ~ o ~ O ~
I noticed a “camaraderie” among them that I hadn’t seen before, or since.
People had to wait in long lines just to get into the main store, but there was no yelling, no pushing, no rudeness. Every single person who came to my cash register was grateful to be safe and alive, they didn’t mind waiting to pay, or that they were stranded in LA. They chatted to each other, asking the person in the line in front of them, “Where are you going…?” or telling the person behind them, “I was on my way to Australia, just changing planes in L.A …”
It didn’t last long though. Unfortunately.