Remembering 9/11

twin towers, cross, sunlight, new york city, downtown, 9/11
One man in the sun alone
Walks between the silence and the stone:
The city rises from his flesh, his bone.
–Archibald Macleish
These were the words quoted this morning by Mayor Bloomberg at the Ceremonies for 9/11. Nine years later, I still miss my friends from Marsh & McLennan, Aon and Cantor Fitzgerald, especially my classmate Calvin. I am still haunted by the vision of the towers falling.

And I will never forget

…being at a conference at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel when I over heard someone say a plane crashed into the World Trade Center and thought they were must be joking. Surely, it must have been a small plane from Teterboro.

…seeing a woman half an hour later weeping because the towers had fallen and knowing in my gut that it was no joke. Something was terribly wrong.

…getting Don out of the meeting and rushing to a phone, any phone, to call his wife and let her know we were okay. It was the only phone call we were able to make that morning, so his wife called my family to let them know I was okay.

…seeing my friends arrive at the hotel on foot and bunking out for the night in the conference room because there were no more hotel rooms available anywhere in the city.

…realizing that the very next day I was supposed to be attending a conference at Windows on the World.

…wondering “is he on that plane?” and waiting for hours to hear that my dad was not on that plane.

WTC, 9/11, twin towers, collapse, downtown, new york city

…watching the collapse over and over again on the TV screen in the hotel’s bar for hours, drinking sodas, and shaking our heads not quite believing it was real.

…watching women covered in dust walking in to the bar in flip-flops or bare feet (high heels in one hand) to take a break before continuing the walk home – no matter how far home was. Later I found out that amongst the many women walking that day was a friend of mine. She said that she was working in Wall Street and her family had recently moved to Connecticut. They had a newborn son at home and she would do whatever it took to get home. It was not long after that she stopped working in the city.

…walking to my parent’s apartment for the night because there was no way for me to get back to CT and offering to friends to come with me to stay the night.

plane, WTC, twin towers, nyc, downtown, wall street, terrorism,

…watching my dad put eye drops in his eyes later that night and thinking I can’t believe how lucky I am that he is even here to do such a simple routine thing. He wasn’t in the plane headed to Washington, DC. He heard about the first plane on the radio in the car en route to the airport. He looked back and saw the second plane hit and knew it wasn’t just an accident (AP photo). They turned around and returned to downtown to be with his colleagues on Wall Street. They got as far as City Hall before walking the rest of the way with cloth napkins from a restaurant held to their faces. Of course, the eye drops were for his bright red eyes from being amongst the dust and debris.

…going to the salon for a pedicure in the hopes I could escape the devastation for even a little while. The TV was on and I glanced up to see Frank’s daughter sobbing and wishing for the firefighters to find anything of her father’s – any momento she could hold onto. But all trace of her father (and so many others) had vaporized in the flames and heat.

…hearing my brother’s stories of so many colleagues from the consulting group he was supposed to be working with in the World Trade Center. Just a few weeks earlier, his boss had changed his assignment to an in-house job. One gal told him how she was late to work because she couldn’t decide if she should wear the red skirt or the black skirt. She rushed off the subway train, saw the crowds coming back at her, turned around and ducked back into the subway train. It was the last train to leave the station.

WTC, 9/11 memorial, plan, downtown, new york city

Cross Section of the 9/11 Memorial Museum

…hearing so many stories of survival. My friend, a Navy man then in insurance, instinctively ducked flat into a doorway to avoid the falling debris. Others ran down the streets and risked their lives. His Navy training saved his life.

…or the story of the two young men I used to work with at AIG. They were waiting with so many other of my former insurance colleagues for a meeting to start on an upper floor of the Tower. They were the only two who suggested they leave immediately. They begged the others to come with them, offering to help some of the older guys down the stairs. But  the others insisted on waiting for the elevator that never came.

Michael Arad, Peter Walker, memorial, 9/11, refelcting pool, absence, WTC, Freedom Tower

Memorial Garden 'Reflecting Absence' Designed by Michael Arad and Peter Walker

…wondering if it really made any sense to bring a child into a world where hate came knocking on our door. Years later, having the child I dreamed of anyway, because if we didn’t hate would have won.

9/11, WTC, twin towers, absence, reflecting, water, Michael Arad, Peter Walker, memorial

9/11 Memorial Reflecting Pool

…sitting in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium for Game 3 of the World Series while the President threw the opening pitch. It was likely the safest place to be in the world that night. We were just a few rows from the top of the stadium (the nose bleed seats) and our view was of snipers all around us. It was a new world we were living in but we were a part of it – a part of the dreams, the living and the hope.

Rendering of the Memorial Exhibition at the 9/11 Museum

Never forget…

343 firefighters

23 police officers

nearly 2900 civilians

(photos: AP Photos and 9/11 Memorial Museum)

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8 Responses to “Remembering 9/11”

  1. Doug Soutar Says:

    Fascinating and moving, Cathy. If it had happened one day later you would have been gone, too. I lost one friend who was a lawyer at Marsh and McLennan and another who was a broker at Cantor Fitzgerald.
    If I had gotten a legal job at Marsh Mac back in the late 70’s, it could have been me, too. You just never know.

    • averydesigninteriors Says:

      Thanks Doug for visiting my blog. And so sorry to hear you lost friends too. It’s hard to imagine that anyone in our area didn’t lose at least one person.
      9/11 really does remind us of the fragility of life – how one tiny circumstance could change everything. I could have been at the conference in Windows on the World, my brother could have been working on the consulting assignment, my Dad could have been on the plane or in their WTC offices.
      I count myself amongst the lucky and the blessed.

  2. EntertainingMom Says:

    Lovely post, Catherine.

  3. Rob Says:

    It was a terrible, terrible day.

    I was living in London, England at the time, entertaining friends out at lunch. We travelled home by bus, and was chatting with them. A lady on the bus confused our accents with American, and told us about what had happened. I couldn’t believe it. We went back to my flat and turned on the TV. What a nightmare, still unbelievable as it was unfolding before our very eyes. It took a long time to even take it in.

    I too wondered about the idea of bringing children into a world where such a thing could happen, and act carried out because of hate, oppression, cultural intolerance, and insane religious fervour. But, I soon came to realize that such conditions are fuel to a mandate to be the best parents possible, to contribute to a generation of people where these sorts of negative, evil forces on our world is not accepted or encouraged.

    It was, in a funny way, a call to be the best parents the world has ever seen, with the concept of empathy and understanding being the central and single most important lesson we can teach them. Because it’s empathy that undoes it all, that casts out the seeds of hatred that causes these acts to occur, both on that day, and all over the world.

    Thanks for this heartfelt, and not just a little bit harrowing, post.

    • averydesigninteriors Says:

      Thanks Rob for your account of that day and for being a regular fan and friend of my blog. I hope one day to not feel like my world is turned upside down from the 9th through the 12th of September. It was all a little too close for me.
      I love being a mom. And I can’t imagine my world without my daughter in it.
      I like to think that I am a better parent for having experienced deep loss and learned the lessons. Yes, I agree, terrorism and hatred can only be over-turned by love and compassion. It is my sincere hope that we are all able to change the world (starting with our corner of it) to a more compassionate place – one of hope for the future and respect for all other people – so that our children grow up knowing fewer (or better yet no) differences.

  4. Dan Thomas Says:

    Thank you for your post. I remember that shortly after 9/11 most people could not look at a picture of The Twin Towers. I thank God we have healed to the point of being able to talk about it. But I feel we will never totally heal. It is up to us to pass on to our children what happened and how it affected us all. Was so hard trying to explain it to my then 7 year old. I think she understands today, a whole generation growing up feeling a bit less safe.

    • averydesigninteriors Says:

      Dan, Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. I still have not quite figured out how to explain 9/11 to my child – I bumble and stumble through it. I still cringe when I see photos of the Twin Towers and I am not down in the Wall Street area very often any more fortunately. Nothing against Wall Street – just that it brings back too many memories. The 10 year anniversary was on the television and I held it together until the bagpipes and then had to leave the room. All my child really understands is that mama still cries about it each year on the anniversary. Wishing you peace, Catherine


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