Thursday, September 11, 2008


I would have been on a plane today if I were going to the Half Marathon in Chicago. The date had not escaped me when I looked into when I'd have to fly...

We had just moved to New York a few days before 9/11. We hadn't unpacked the TV or radio yet and I had no idea what was going on... We lived in Park Slope (Brooklyn) then and it was a GLORIOUSLY beautiful day... 

Chris had left at around 8:45 a.m. for work and he was actually under the World Trade Center riding the subway when the first plane hit. He found out what had happened once at work, but by then, everyone knew what was going on, and it was almost impossible to get cellphone coverage within the city limits. I knew he was safe, but still, we couldn't talk for quite a while.

Neighbors remembered seeing our moving truck and some people pressed all the buttons on our building until they reached me, "the new young mom who just moved in." They wanted to make sure we were all OK.

There were moms and kids on their brownstone stoops all up and down our street, anxiously trying to reach their husbands that morning. 

I got up on the roof of our building with Katya and I could see the towers engulfed in thick, grey smoke. 

Neighbors let me watch some TV coverage with them. Then I kind of went into shock and left. 

I took Katya (exactly a year old) and stood in line at the local hospital to donate blood. I even asked if they were collecting breastmilk. I thought of all those nursing moms who wouldn't survive, of babies who would refuse formula. Katya would never have accepted formula and I moved like a zombie, imagining what would happen to babies like her when their moms didn't come home.

Half of the firemen in our local firehouse died. Thirteen of them. They were among the first on the scene. The utter pain in our neighborhood was palpable. Many children in our neighborhood lost a parent that day; some lost both.

Later that day, I learned that some of those moms on my street never did get to speak to their husbands again. One of them had been busy running after her kids and had let her phone go to voicemail that morning. She never did get to say good bye to her husband.

That's why I carry my cellphone with me everywhere I go and I always have it on. I have it silenced during classes, but I can tell if it vibrated... I wonder if I'll ever get beyond that. That's also why I got Katya one last year, when I knew she'd be on school trips far from me three times a year. 

(The terror in Beslan, when over 300 women and children were murdered in a Russian school on the first day of classes on September 3, 2004 was even more trauma. We had just moved to Russia then, too. And it was Katya's birthday). 

A week after 9/11, I met a mom in our neighborhood with her newborn daughter. "Oh, how cute she is! How old is she?" I asked. "She was born at 9:10 on 9/11." That's when the first plane hit. I was speechless. The mom then told me her daughter's name, Hope Grace.

In my post about Katya's birthday last week, I included a picture of her wearing her blue feather boa and crown... She wore that for most of the fall and winter, over her snowsuit... It made people on the streets stop and smile. We all needed that. 


Tina in CT said...

Oh, it brings it all back so much and I'm reading this while tears roll down my face.

We were so lucky that Chris was OK.

Christine said...

I love the story about your daughter wearing the boa. :) What an amazing story you share.

Natalie said...

So increadibly sad even from hundreds of miles away, but to be so close to it is hard to comprehend.

Anonymous said...

It was strange and disturbing day in so many ways. And it is true, it was as beautiful day as you can imagine a day in September.
I still can not make myself go and see the Ground Zero, or hear the date 9/11 without tears coming to my eyes.
When we finally made it home from work that night, we realized that we have no radio or TV reception - the Twin Towers antenna provided us the signal. We never even new that.


MamaPoRuski said...

Amazing. Thank you for sharing!

Annie said...

I cannot imagine actually having been in NY. Just reading your reminiscence made my stomach literally turn. It was bad enough just being here, at a church, in Lansing, MI. I will never forget the physical sensations I experienced on hearing the news. And that odd mental stumbling as my mind tried to comprehend, grasp, make sense of such unbelievable news. But one thing that surprised me - even in that first moment of groping for understanding - was that I suddenly felt a connection to all the people in history, and in the present day, who experience such traumatic events more than once...even in an ongoing way. During wars, today in Sudan, Iraq. It is hard to imagine how their minds and bodies stand up to it.

Rachael said...

I didn't realize that was when you were living there! We were all so profoundly affected from a distance. I can't even imagine being right there.

Yes, I thought about you potentially flying on 9/11 too. I didn't say anything to you, because I didn't want to spook you, but I'm not sure I'd have flown, esp. internationally on that day. It'd be too weird. Too spooky. But, I'm nervous that way.

Tina in CT said...

I had not even thought of the day that you would have been flying to Chicago. You know me; I'd have freaked out.