It was late on Monday afternoon and I had coughed my way through the entire day. Shivering with a voice that resembled a skipping record I drove to the doctor’s office immediately after work.
“Mom, you don’t look so good,” my daughter commented as I walked into the house and sank down into a nearby chair.
“The doctor said it’s bronchitis,” I replied to her concerned inquiry. “Hopefully the cough medicine and antibiotic will make me feel better tomorrow,” I squeaked in between repeated coughs.
“Kristen, I’m not gonna go to work today, I’ll take you to school but I gotta get some more rest,” I told my 8th grader as I made her breakfast on Tuesday morning.
I barely recall lying down on the couch when I returned home that morning, but I will never forget the images that flashed across my television screen as I scrolled through the channels trying to change the horrifying pictures. I struggled to focus – doubting that I was fully awake. Maybe this is a movie channel, I recall thinking.
The reality was that it was just after 8:46 A.M. on September 11, 2001. A plane had hit the North Tower. I recall being shocked into an upright position from my comfortable resting perch on the couch when I, along with the rest of the country, heard the incredible news that a second plane had hit the South Tower.
Still reeling from the same horror and disbelief felt by most Americans I was overcome by a frightening awareness. “Oh my God, Tim! I don’t know exactly where he works…which building…which floor? But he is there somewhere. Oh my God, Tim. He can’t be dead, he’s just begun to live,” I heard myself cry out loud.
“Don’t jump to conclusions,” I told myself as I dialed my daughter-in-law’s New York office phone number. “Irene…have you heard from Tim….I don’t know what building he works in?” I asked all in the same breath.
“No…he always calls me at nine o’clock…I knew something was wrong when he didn’t call…I can’t reach him…there’s no information…no one’s working…we’re just listening to the broadcasts…he’s on the 78th floor of the South Tower,” she replied trying to control her voice between sobs.
“Irene, it’s going to be okay; I just know it is,” I told her. “No…no…no your little girl is not going to be without her daddy…that’s just not going to happen,” I reassured her. Finding an inner strength I didn’t know I had, I put aside my fear of losing a son as I reassured and consoled my almost inconsolable daughter-in-law speaking with her three more times before New York City phone lines shut down completely.
Somewhere in between my phone conversations with my daughter-in-law I remembered my promise to myself to call and find out what the school was telling the children about events that seemed surreal. Even the familiar, ever-calm voice of the principal’s secretary sounded apprehensive this time.
“We’ve scheduled a prayer service for two o’clock, and the children will be dismissed immediately after,” she said.
The good news that we had been praying for came later that day. My son Tim – Irene’s husband, Marie’s father and Kristen’s big brother was alive!
But it was only a few days later that I realized his ‘little’ sister – not yet a high school student had grown up far beyond her years in this short period.
“We will never be the same – things won’t be like they used to be. We’ve lost our innocence!” Kristen exclaimed - unaware that she had expressed the feelings and emotions of those who are much older than she.
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