Friday, September 11, 2009

How far did you say he was from that building?


I was following my regular routine that morning, eight years ago. Watching something on television while I walked on the treadmill before going to work. The phone rang, and it was my husband. He said he was okay, that a plane had hit a building close by, and he didn't want me to worry. Hmmm - better turn on the news while I walk on the treadmill.

Next call - he's been evacuated - had to leave everything in the hotel room and start walking. It was a big plane that hit the World Trade Center. Uh-oh, another plane hit! Next call was from his office. His boss saying he had been in contact with him, he is okay, but was being evacuated. He said his hotel was across the street and a hundred feet from the WTC. Just as he said that I watched on TV as the first tower came crashing down. HOW FAR DID YOU SAY HE WAS FROM THAT BUILDING?

We all know the rest of the story.

My husband, and his fellow employees walked up Madison Avenue, without purses, laptops, clothes. Without a place to sleep, without medications. But people they knew that lived in NYC rallied. They ended up finding a room at what turned out to be a very posh hotel. They were able to find some clothes, food, alcohol. Lots of alcohol. American Express was able to get my husband's medication, and their boss was able to eventually get them home by flying them out of New Jersey, at a time when no planes were flying. My husband calls him on this anniversary every year to thank him.

It took six months to get his things from that hotel across the street where so many innocent lives were lost. He had to sign a release stating he would not hold the hotel responsible for what may be on and in his things. He signed the release.

The evil perpetrated on that day will never be forgotten. Not by me, my husband, our family, or our country. Never.

But my hope is that we will eventually see that hating will never change the world. And we so need to change the world. Maybe, one day we will all realize that we are One. When we harm another, we are really harming ourselves. That violence begets violence, but so does empathy, love, kindness, and generosity. We have a choice.

43 comments:

Lydia said...

Goosebumps went all through my body down my legs and out my toes when I read this. I know only one other person with a first-hand account such as your husband's and it is these stories that seem most vital. My former neighbors across the street had a grown son who owned/lived in/worked from (as an artist) a building three blocks away. He spent weeks as a volunteer driving firemen back and forth from the church that served as the rest station. I've lost touch with them since they moved out of town.....I really hope that their son has grown the same tenderness in his heart as you and your family have.
Beautiful.

Paula said...

I agree wholeheartedly - it never will be forgotten.

Alaine said...

I agree but try to get that through to these fanatics!

Delwyn said...

Well said Nancy...for those who listen to you and similar cried for unity...

Happy days

Jill of All Trades said...

I've read so many posts today and I am just running out of words. Just out of words.

The Good Cook said...

On that beautiful fall day I went to the home office in Pennsylvania - would have normally gone to my office in New York. fate?

By the time I got home fighter jets were flying over my house. My neighbors husband was "missing", the smell from the burning debris was putrid in the air and we had to explain to our then elementary school kids what evil was.

God Bless the United States of America - we will never forget.

Hilary said...

Brings back lots of memories.
My step sons wife and daughter were in the air near NYC, had left Albany early that morning.
When the news broke, there were a few hours until she landed and called, when noone knew if it was the plane she was in, or not.
You are so right, we create ourselves by the choices we make, each and every one of us.

CrazyCris said...

I was here in Belgium studying for my final University exam (which was the next day) and practising my presentation for my Master's thesis with a friend when her boyfriend called us and told us to turn on the TV and said a plane had hit the WTC. It seemed so surreal we thought it must be some Spielberg-War or the World style prank. Ha.

I spent the rest of the afternoon glued to the tube. I called my parents to see if my sister had made it out of JFK ok (she was transiting through from Minneapolis and had a tight layover and with her luck there was a big possibility she had missed her flight from the previous night and been at JFK during the event), she was fine. And then just that empty sensation in my gut the rest of the day wondering how the hell something like this could have happened.

Needless to say I never got around to studying... thankfully when I walked into the exam the prof said it would be 'open-book", and then he immersed himself in the newspaper. Exams and everything else seemed so insignificant.

4 days later (day after my thesis) I was getting on a plane for a 2 week trip home to Spain. Everyone in my lab looked at me like I was crazy to be getting on a plane. But I told them I refused to give in to fear, that if we gave in to our fears the terrorists win. It's something I've learnt living in Spain where the possibility of a terrorist attack isn't as rare as one would like... If you let such things disrupt your life, then THEY win. NEVER give up hope. Someday all that hatred will dissipate. Even if it's a generation or two down the road by educating the present-day children and eradicating the reasons for that hatred.

I hope that someday 9/11 will be forgotten... because such an event and other terrorist attacks will be inconceivable in that future. Even if that future is quite a ways down the road.

Kay said...

I had to stop reading, as I was going to cry...glad your hubby is okay. blessings to you.

Brian Miller said...

hating will never change the world...you nailed that. i am glad your hubby was okay. i was in the air that morning. life was surreal. a fitting reminder.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

What a powerful post. I was horrified watching it all in real time - BUT I did not have a loved one in the immediate vicinity. How excrutiating it must have been for you.

I agree with what you say about hate. I like Byron Katie's take on evil - she says they are just "confused" and our lashing back does not help "un-confuse" anyone. This is not to excuse their horrific acts - but just to affirm your sentiments that we don't want to end up committing similar deeds in our need to avenge our loved ones or country.

May we never forget what happened that day - and all the brave people who sacrified their lives and their loved ones who still mourn.

willow said...

Hating can never change the world. Thank God your husband made it home to you safe and sound. It was a horrific day.

Erika C. said...

One of the teachers at my kids school was writing on a board for the kids to read about the service aspect of the commemoration today. I told her I was grateful for the rainy weather here because when it is sunny and blue skies on 9/11 like it was that day, it feels too close to home. My sisters were both working in NYC that day and we were on vacation in Provincetown MA. I was about four months pregnant with my son. My daughter was 2. I remember trying to keep her away from any TV images of it. I remember the strangeness of being on vacation while this was happening and my worries when I could not reach my sisters. Finally, the only way we could communicate was when they called my dad in upstate NY and then he relayed their messages to me.

When my daughter was 3 months old we were in "Windows to the World," the trade center restaurant for my husband's grandmother's 80th birthday. We used to go there all the time with my dad.

Anyway, it brings back a lot of memories. One of my daughter's friends in NJ's dad was killed on 9/11 in NYC and I keep meeting people whose lives were impacted more directly.

Wow! I didn't mean to write this much. I guess it is still fresh. But one last thing. On that day, I already had a premonition of memorial services in years to come but recognized that we were lucky in that way. In places where this happens all the time, they don't have the luxury of memorials, since it such an ongoing process.

Leah J. Utas said...

Oh my.

The Clever Pup said...

Your husband was so lucky.

DJan said...

I was at work in Boulder. Our division was having its five-year review, and we had scientific staff from all over the country visiting. We had prepared a slide show with "September 11, 2001" on every slide. We began the presentation, and then we got the word that something had happened in New York. One person had a small B&W TV in her office, and we all went in there and gathered around it.

None of us could grasp the import of what we were seeing, until the first building collapsed. We did too. We just could not believe what we were seeing. Our scientists were stranded there, nobody could fly anywhere. The ones from California rented a car and eventually made it home.

Terrible, terrible times. All of us are scarred from them. Your memorial is very heartbreaking, but also hopeful. Thank you.

ellen abbott said...

As terrible as that day was, it was not totally undeserved. I know this will sound awful to many people but countries have karma just as individuals do. As a country, we are not innocent bystanders. We have caused far more terror and pain through our foreign policies, directly and indirectly. this should be the lesson. What goes around, comes around. Your last paragraph says it all.

Jeff D'Antonio said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff D'Antonio said...

Nancy,

First and foremost, I'm glad your husband was not hurt that day.

Your last paragraph gave me chills. If only all the people of the world would read it and act on it.

And just a note to Ellen, who commented above that it was not totally undeserved: There is a difference between our country and our government. Our country, "we the people", were not responsible for any of those things. Our government was. I love my country, but I hate the policies of my government. But the terrorists did not attack my government, they attacked the innocent people of my country. And that was completely undeserved. Completely.

Emom said...

Thank you for sharing that...I too have such vivid memories...sharing them helps...Smiles...

Celeste Maia said...

Reading your story of how close your husband was to the World Trade Center buildings raised the hair on my neck. You wrote beautifully about a terrible event that changed the world. Here in Spain it was lunch time, and my daughter called me to say I had to turn on the TV. When I did I could not eat anymore. Then I watched as the second plane hit. And a year later Madrid had the train bombings, and my grandson's school bus passed the train station just at that hour.

Melissa said...

I will never forget it. I had just had a baby, he was 3 weeks old. I got a call from my sister around 8:45 or around that time. She was panicked. She told me to turn the TV on right away and explained a plane just crashed into the Trade Center, this was the first plane. By the time I got my rabbit ears in order and turned the TV on the 2nd plane had hit.

I remember sitting on the couch nursing my newborn, shocked, stunned and saddened. I kept saying over to myself that day "How could I have brought this innocent life into this world?" I was so scared. Then we had Anthrax scares in FL too, I was so paranoid and scared, I didn't check my mail for over a month. When I did, I wore a mask and gloves. The terrorism was too much for me to handle.

Even though I was in FL when this happened, I felt the tremendous loss and pain and I will never forget.

This event was really close to home for you. I am glad your husband and co-workers were okay.

I will never forget seeing photos of Fireman running up into the stairwells of the bldgs. or the heroism of the Firemen.

"Jo" said...

I love this post. I am so happy for you and your husband that he was evacuated in time and survived. As I watched a documentary about 9/11 last Wednesday (don't know why it was broadcast on Sept 9th), I figured it would be wonderful if we could turn a bad thing into a good thing. If we could collect all information on 9/11 showing love in some way, any way, like people helping each other get back on their feet, firemen running to the rescue, rescue dogs being rewarded and so on, maybe it could be a comfort for the friends and families who lost someone in the attacks. Many people still suffer from it one way or another, either by not being able to cope with their loss, a post-traumatic stress syndrom - you name it. Maybe a collection of all the love and humanity of that day could help them, so they see there's never a bad without a good, and that love remains (and persists even) in horrifying events like those on 9/11. I think it could help the rest of the world as well; as 9/11 did not only change America, but the world completely. I'm thinking about setting up a website for this. It's a lot of work though. If I do, it's going to take a long time before it's finished.

Meeko Fabulous said...

Nancy. It's chilling to think how close your husband was to WTC. I'm glad he is safe. We will always mourn those lost that day.

ellen abbott said...

Jeff, I love my country too and I hear what you are saying but our foreign policies don't just affect the governments of other nations, they affect the actual citizens of those countries. We the people elect and support our government, so yes, we the people are responsible for what our government does. When this country institutes policies that are beneficial to us citizens and detrimental to the people of the country that they are employed in, a country unable to fight us, then yes, we the people are responsible. When we set up and arm and support a dictator in another country, it is the innocent people of that country who suffer and because we elected and supported that government, we the people are responsible.

I'm not denying the terrible tragedy of that day to those involved, but it should serve as a serious wake up call about our place and our actions in the world at large. Unfortunately, I don't think it did.

Claiming that we the people weren't responsible for the actions of the government we elected, supported and benefit from is a bit of a cop out, especially considering the destruction our country has wrought in other countries.

Lily said...

How horrifying it must have been for you! My daughter and son-in-law work for a company that deals with FDNY. They knew people...

It saddens me that today this country is so divided.

Mental P Mama said...

Amen. We lost so many friends here...

Jeff D'Antonio said...

Ellen, I don't want to get into a political debate with you here on Nancy's blog, but I respectfully disagree with you. I am not responsible for my government's actions, any more than a parent is responsible for the actions of their adult child. Should the parents of a serial killer be executed for his crimes? Of course not.

My government has made decisions without my permission, decisions which you correctly point out are detrimental to the citizens of other countries. But I refuse to be held personally responsible for their decisions. Yes, "we the people" elected them, but their actions are not my actions. Elected officials, for a variety of reasons, do not represent the views of all the people who elected them, and they certainly do not represent the views of those who voted against them.

I would also submit that the process by which we "elected" them is fatally flawed in the sense that we ultimately have only two candidates from which to choose in any given election, and if neither candidate supports our personal view, then our personal view is effectively excluded from the electory process. But that's a whole different debate, I suppose.

Anyway, sorry Nancy for hijacking your blog; and Ellen, I hope we can just agree to disagree here, as clearly we have different points of view. I don't intend to try to change yours, and I'm pretty sure you won't change mine either, so let's just leave it at that :).

Y'ra Amaya said...

hoping for a better world for everyone...no hatred....just love...~^^

Jo said...

Nancy, Omigawd...! I'm so glad he was okay.

I visited the World Trade Center not long before the building were knocked down, and I realized what a huge footprint they had. When I watched 9/11 on TV that morning, I wondered to myself where on earth all that rubble was going to go, the streets there were so narrow. And the beautiful little Trinity Church nearby was left completely unharmed! When everything was all over, I was amazed that more people did not lose their lives that day.

A very good friend of mine is an interior architect, and she designed the offices of Richardson Greenshields in one of the towers. So she knew a lot of the folks who worked there. She phoned me that morning, and all she could say was, "Oh, sh*t."

I wish you were right about changing the world, but unfortunately as long as there is organized religion, it will never happen. Organized religion has caused more wars, and done more harm, than any other entity in human history.

ellen abbott said...

Nancy, I hope you know, and any others who may have been offended by my comments, I don't think that any of those people deserved what happened to them. That is not at all what I was getting at.

Nancy said...

Thanks everyone for your comments. What happened on that day in 2001 affected everyone. It affected the world. Everyone has a different opinion on why it happened, and everyone is entitled to their opinion. I feel blessed that opinions can be shared openly in this forum. That's what our country is all about. The freedom to disagree and still be friends.

I am touched by all of you from around the world. Thank you for caring about us. (Jo - you are a very sweet person to think of a website.) Sometimes we feel like we are hated everywhere. Please know that ordinary citizens had very little to do with the aftermath of 911. That most Americans are kind, just as they are where you are from, I'm sure. The way to deal with terrorism is still being developed. But no one is safe until we do.

We need to take a good look at ourselves. Here in America, most are doing just that. Including foreign policy. But we need to look at ourselves as a global entity. What affects one, affects all. Our world is in peril, and nothing short of a mass movement will save it. We're all in this together.

livenomad said...

What an intense post! I still recall the event, was so horrified at the possibility even though am thousands of km away in NZ. Stayed glued in front of telly for two days. Despite all these, goodness will prevail but we must share and give this to make it go round. A horrible event but one which we must learn from to ensure we dont get lulled into hatred and violence and remember to give and be kind and promote our humanity.
As you say, we have a choice.

Marlene said...

Nancy,
My uncle worked next door also..but we did not recieve a call from him until 8hours to see if he made it...I remember that day vividly..he could not reach a phone for that long..This day effected all of us in such a indescribable way...

Lori ann said...

Nancy,

Thank you for sharing. I hope it makes it easier for you, by talking about it. I can see that that is the case because so many want to share where they were and what they were doing on that fateful morning. We will never forget.

To me there is no right or wrong, no way to make sense of the horror that was 9-11. There is only Love. It's all there is.

Marguerite said...

It is so chilling to think that your hubby was that close. I cannot even imagine what that day was like for all of you, Nancy. My son and I were at my house in Maryland, planning to return to Louisiana, the following day. We couldn't get a flight back home for 5 days. It was a day that I'll never forget, either.

Linda Pendleton said...

OH wow, that was close.

As you wrote, maybe someday... maybe someday all people will appreciate we are ONE.

There is no way we can ever forget how people came together that day...

Hilary said...

Hugs to you and yours.

GYPSYWOMAN said...

very poignant story of your husband - bless his heart and the hearts of all the others -

you are right - we do have a choice - and I CHOOSE PEACE!

to memorialize this day, my blogs ask that while we not forget those lost that day, but to IMAGINE PEACE - perhaps we can begin there - it's all i can think of -

:)

Cubil said...

Wow... a big "where were you when?" None of us will forget the details of that day. When I used to teach Sunday school. I would challenge the kids by asking what events in our modern world would be included if the Bible were being written today. NYC 9-11-01 without a doubt.

Pickles and Onions said...

What a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing.

An ex-boyfriend of mine grew up in New Jersey with all of his siblings - there were 5 in total. On 9/11, 4 of them where in or near those towers and he was in Pittsburgh. The initial reports said that the last plane was headed towards Pittsburgh, where he lived. For a day, his mother wasn't sure if she had any children (at least that was how she told me the story, a year later) until they all arrived home. All 5 survived - one having dodged falling colleagues around her.

I remember when they were evacuating our campus, I rode my bike passed all the backed up cars. Windows were down - it was such a beautiful, clear, warm day - and I listened to the news reports all the way home.

What a horrible day that was. And, now, living abroad for almost 7 years, I have to admit that I also have a hard time with discussing the issue. There are so many sides (Religious, Non-religious, Somewwere in the middle; Republican, Democrat, independent; USA, Europe, Asia, Middle East; rich, middle class, poor; etc etc etc) and so many points (policies, principles, accidents, good, evil, etc) and so many PEOPLE.

I share your dream and am working towards it. Let us reach more peace!

Pat said...

My husband was working in D.C. at the time. I was worried about his safety, too. It was such a scary time. I remember being glued to the TV, watching in disbelief as plane after plane crashed. We have lived in a suburb of Chicago at the time, not far from O'Hare airport. I was wondering if O'hare was going to be a target.

It was hard to believe that people could hate so much as to kill innocent people.

Didn't you feel that the people you met on the street and at work started treating every one more kindly? Everyone was shell-shocked from 9/11, and wanted to reach out to their fellow Americans. Unfortunately, that feeling didn't last long.

11pm said...

Sept 11 is always a stressful time for everyone who's been touched by the nightmare of tv reminders. On the bright/morbid side of things, I'm sure god is going to make a nice rug out of those responsible :)