Alice sat at her window that beautiful Tuesday morning in September and watched the people falling in the sky. They looked almost as though they were floating, like colorful leaves on a crisp autumn day. Imposing gray buildings blocked her view of the sidewalk below and she was glad. She preferred to think the jumpers had landed softly in the arms of angels.
The two towers stood for barely another hour, their thick black garlands of smoke reaching for miles. Then the world shook and everything became gray. Alice choked on the sooty powder creeping in through her closed window and shut the lace curtain.
“Are you all right in there?” The voice on the other side of the door was barely discernable among the rumbling thunder making its way through the city streets.
It took Alice more than a few minutes to make her way to the door. When she opened it, she found herself facing the young man from upstairs. “I’m fine. Thank you for checking on me.”
“Are you having any trouble breathing?”
“No. There’s just a little dust.”
“Would you like me to call a doctor for you?”
“I think the doctors need to go where they’re really needed, son.”
Tears pooled in the corner of the young man’s eyes. “Are you going to be alright here alone?”
Alice nodded and the young man disappeared down the hall. She was quite accustomed to being alone.
But as one sorrowful day followed another that awful week in September, Alice found she had never felt so isolated from the world around her.
God, I just wish there were something I could do.
The young man from upstairs was volunteering at the hospital, churches were calling for people to help at Ground Zero and there were blood drives all over the city. Yet, Alice remained in her apartment. Useless.
God, it’s horrible being old. It should have been me in those buildings. No one would miss an old woman like me.
She lifted her handkerchief to her weathered face and wept; wept for the lost and lonely, wept because there was nothing she could do to help a single soul. She sat like that for many hours until she could weep no more. Then, for the first time since Tuesday morning, she made her way to the window.
She peeled back the curtain, unmoved since the towers had fallen. When she looked to the right, she could see the apartment of the sweet young woman next door who was listed among the missing. Her eyes clouded once again with tears and she turned to walk away. But then she saw them.
Nose prints on her neighbor’s window.
Alice’s delicate fingers shook as she dialed the number for the SPCA, the one that had been scrolling across the bottom of her television screen for days.
“My neighbor’s been missing since Tuesday and I think there might be an animal inside her apartment.”
“We’ll send someone right over.”
Alice wrung her hands nervously until the man with SPCA printed in large block letters on his chest stood in her doorway. In his arms he held a trembling Chihuahua.
“Well, you were right, ma’am. It’s a good thing you called us.”
“Do you think he’ll be okay?”
“He needs some water and a good meal. Physically, he’ll be fine. Just a little lonely, that’s all. Thanks again, ma’am.”
The burly man turned away with the quivering pup tucked under his arm.
A Bible verse Alice had not heard in many years rang in her ears. God sets the lonely in families.
“Wait a minute! I’m lonely, too.”
The man turned back and looked at Alice standing in her doorway. “Excuse me, ma’am?”
“I’m lonely, too. Maybe he could stay here with me. I’ve been praying and asking God for a way I could help someone and this must be it. I’m an old woman, but I can still help. God sets the lonely in families, you know. I could be his family.”
Alice’s face beamed with joy and purpose and the man thought he had never seen a woman look so beautiful. He held the dog out and placed him carefully in Alice’s hands.
“Yes, He does. You take good care of him. He’s lucky you were here to save him.”
Alice closed her eyes, held the Chihuahua’s soft face up to her cheek and wondered if just maybe it was the other way around.
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families…” Psalm 68:5-6.
The Holy Bible, New International Version.
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