I am so grateful that my wife survived this grave tragedy. I will always remember this day as one filled with horror, grief, anger, sorrow and relief. I am also so saddened by the loss of so many good people and my heart goes out to their families and friends.
Guest post by my husband: David J.
As I sit in my chair by my desk and gaze at my “Don’t sweat the small Stuff” daily calendar I notice that the page is still from yesterday. I pull off the sheet that says Monday September 10th on it to reveal the current day. The date is Tuesday September 11thand the topic of the day is reflection. I cannot think of a more fitting topic for this day. Because it is on this day 11 years ago that my life and the lives of most Americans would be changed forever. The horrendous events that took place on that day will be forever imprinted in my brain and have changed that way I look at life.
Since the topic of my calendar is reflection I think this would be a good time to tell my story as seen through my eyes on that unforgettable day.
Back then in 2001 I was a second year Biology teacher at John Jay High School located in Park Slope, Brooklyn. My wife was an office manager for an upstart software company whose office was located in the Twin Towers. She would usually wake up earlier than me since she had to take the subway into downtown Manhattan from our apartment in Queens. I remember that day waking up and my wife was still in bed sleeping next to me. I shook her and said, “Honey your going to be late for work you’d better get up”. She said something like it was ok since she was the one opening up the office anyway. So we both got up got ready gave each other kisses and went our separate ways.
Fast forward an hour or so and I was standing in front of my 1st period Biology class when a student came into the room saying that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers. The first thought that came to my mind was that this kid was messing around with us and just wanted to disrupt the class. After he repeated it several times and told us that he could see it from one of the classrooms I felt my heart drop into my stomach. I don’t remember teaching or what I did for the remaining 10 minutes of that class. I just recall thinking about my wife and wondering if she was ok. As soon as the class was over I quickly walked over to the third floor science lab, which had a perfect view of the twin towers. My memory is a bit cloudy regarding what exactly I saw. But I am thinking by this time the second plane must have already hit the second tower and they must have been spewing smoke and fire. Watching this horrific site with my students and fellow teachers my stomach was twisted about and my eyes were heavy with held back tears. At this moment must have been the first time I attempted to call my wife’s cell phone from mine. I was greeted with the “All circuits are busy”, message or a busy signal.
I kept looking at the clock and thinking this is when she would usually get to work and wondering if she was in the building when it happened. Did she get out? Are they evacuating them? What was going on? The whole school was in a frenzy trying to obtain any type of news of information about what was happening. There were students and workers who like myself had loved ones who worked in the towers. We were all hovering around each other asking if anyone heard from their loved ones. No one heard anything. Looking at the clock it was about time for me to teach another class but I couldn’t. My mind was not capable of dealing with a class full of worried anxious teens. My assistant principal knew that my wife worked in the towers and sent another teacher over to cover my class. It was about this time that we heard and/or saw the towers come down. This site was unexplainable.
Shortly thereafter I headed outside to the front of the school to try and look for a pay phone. I ran into several students some of who were crying and talked to them. I told them that my wife worked in the towers and that I was just as worried as them. This common bond that we shared seemed to comfort them at the moment. Looking up I noticed that the formerly crystal blue sky was now gray and smokey and small pieces of paper and ashes were floating in the air. There were people walking in the street with pieces of cloth or masks covering their faces. There was a burning smell permeating the thick gray air. It truly felt like Armageddon, that the end had come. Looking across the street I saw a pay phone with a line of about 5 people. This was a strange site since you rarely saw anyone using payphones anymore. I crossed the street and took my place in line. After about ten minutes I got to the phone put in some coins and dialed my wife’s cell number. I don’t remember but it was either busy or said all circuits were busy again.
Crossing the street going back to the school I couldn’t help but think that I had lost my wife. Seeing both of those towers collapse like that I wondered how anyone could have survived. After standing outside the school building talking to people and getting little bits of information about the two planes attacking the Towers and another attacking the Pentagon I really thought the country was at war and we were in big trouble. I also thought that nothing mattered to me at that moment except my wife. I couldn’t stop thinking about her my head was spinning. It was then that one of the aides from the school told me that there was a phone working in one of the school offices. I rushed into the building and into the office.
After a few minutes of waiting for other coworkers to finish with their calls I tried my wife’s cell again. I had no luck. Then I figured I would try my voicemail from my cell phone. It didn’t work at first. I am not sure exactly about the next part. I remember calling the voice mail again and I could her a message and it was my wife. I never heard her voice sound like it did on that message. There was terror in her voice and she was crying. She was explaining how she saw it all, the planes crashing, the people jumping from the buildings to their deaths, the explosions. Part of me felt a huge rush of relief and emotion as tears came down my cheek. The other part of me just wanted to reach out and give her a big hug. But I couldn’t. I then tried several more times to call her cell phone with no success. I eventually got through to my sisters boyfriend who worked in DC. I am not 100% sure but I think that he told me that he got through to my wife and said that she was ok. This was more of a relief but all I could think about was getting to her. I told my assistant principal that I wanted to leave and go home. She suggested I stay but I couldn’t.
Driving home was a mess. All of the roads were jam packed with hysterical drivers and emergency personnel. It must have taken me two hours to get home. A ride that would usually only take one. At home I turned on the news and watched and listened to the coverage as I repeatedly dialed my wife’s cell phone from our landline. Hours went by and I still hadn’t heard her voice live. I was going crazy and wanted to run into Manhattan to get her out of that mess. I thought about getting in my car a driving as close as possible to the city and then walking in. However after speaking to my parents and several others they said the best thing to do was to stay put in case my wife needed me.
After sometime I spoke to a close friend who also worked in Manhattan. He told me that all the subways and roadways were closed going out of the city. He said he would wait for my wife by the Queens Bridge and they could walk across together. A little time after we spoke I was finally able to get my wife on the phone. Hearing her true voice was such a relief. We were both crying on the phone as she spoke and I listened. We both just wanted to hug each other and forget all of this madness that was happening. I tried to tell her how to get home but she was in shock and very confused. Eventually they opened up some of the subway lines and she was able to get back. It wasn’t until much later on that evening that she finally got home. It was then that she shared with me the gut wrenching details of what she witnessed.
She told me that she was crossing the street to go to the Towers when she heard this blaring noise from a jet engine. Looking up she saw the first plane smash into the Towers and the ensuing explosion. How she ran for cover in one of the nearby buildings. There were many more details that she shared with me that day. However I will leave that part for her to tell someday since that is her story.
I can’t help but think over and over again that if she hadn’t overslept that day she may not be her today. And how if she hadn’t stopped to get a cup of coffee before going into her building this would be an entirely different story.
Irina is the owner and editor at I love my kids Blog. Mom of 2. She enjoys writing about parenting tips, DIY projects and feature lots of toys and products for family and kids of various ages.