Trying to rest on the couch after having been diagnosed with bronchitis the previous evening I awoke just before 8:46 a.m., and viewed on the TV screen across the room what I wasn’t sure was real! “What is this?” I recall saying aloud as I tried to comprehend the pictures flashing across the screen. “What happened?”
As I flipped through the channels, the same picture appeared and newscasters described the horrific picture– a plane had hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. A few minutes later, I watched and listened as news media provided additional details – a second plane had hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
“Oh, my God,” I recall saying aloud, “Jim is there. I know his office moved….but I don’t know where…..”
At just after nine o’clock on Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, without any further consideration I dialed my daughter-in-law’s New York office phone number.
“What if she won’t speak to me….I don’t want to make the situation even worse…but, I have to know about Jim….where he is….if he’s okay,” were some of the thoughts that ran through my mind as I heard the ring tones. “Please, please Lord…let her answer,” I prayed.
A disagreement had severed our communication and we hadn’t seen or spoken to each other in more than a year.
“Ooooo m-m-mom,” my daughter-in-law’s voice trailed off in inarticulate sobs when she heard my voice.
My feelings ran the gamut of relief that we were talking again to mounting fear for my son’s life. Trembling at the sound of her voice I pressed the phone closer to my ear trying to discern her almost unintelligible words.
“I d-d-don’t know w-w-where Tim is…he’s n-n-nev-er mis-sed a-a day…he al-always calls me just before 9. I t-t-tried his office… and cell …b-b-but there’s n-n-o answer,” she sobbed.
Beth was understandably inconsolable and although I didn’t want to put her through any more pain I needed to know where my son was. When she replied, “on the 78th floor of the South Tower,” it was time to put my fears aside and reach out to my daughter-in-law.
“It’s going to be okay…sweetheart….no…no…no… he’s not dead…we have to believe that,” I heard myself say.
“Okay….th-th-thanks mom, I’m gonna try to find out if there is any more information available…gonna hang up now.”
“Okay…remember… we have to believe,” I reiterated with all the strength that I could muster.
After what seemed an interminably long hour and a half, I spoke with my daughter-in-law again.
“D-d-don’t know, mm-mm-mom…” were the only words that she could verbalize repeating them over and over through tears – tears that I visualized as she struggled to speak.
“Is Jenny going to be without her daddy?” O-oh…m-m- mom what will we do… w-with…?”
“Beth, Beth…no… no…remember what we agreed – that we would believe,” I reminded her.
I wouldn’t allow Beth to finish what she had begun to say. I didn’t want her to consider the horrifying thought any further.
“Where is Jenny?” I asked.
She seemed to compose herself momentarily and answered:
“My friend’s daughter is Jenny’s classmate; last week we scheduled a play date for today. Mary is still going to do that. It’s better that Jenny doesn’t know anything right now. Mary offered to keep her overnight, and I’m going to let her …I know she is safe.”
“Sounds like a good decision…thank God for friends huh,” I replied.
“Mom, I’m going to go now…” she apologized after putting me on hold several times, “with the help of God we’ll find that Jim is alive.”
I recall my own tears when I heard Beth say again the words that she so often repeated – “with the help of God.” We had three more phone conversations that day before the phone lines were no longer available; our hearts touched as we spoke. I knew my daughter-in-law would have the strength to endure no matter what the outcome for she would have the help of God just as I knew that God gave me the strength to put aside my own fears and encourage her.
After ten years I continue to give praise and thanks to God for my son’s life. He had survived an indescribable ordeal - no doubt “with the help of God.”
Author’s note: Although I’ve changed the names the events are true.
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