Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Remembering September 11...

It's hard to believe it was seven years ago. I can remember everything about that day, like my father can remember everything about the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

My wife had left for work as usual. Lindsay had just turned 7 and started 2nd grade a few days earlier. As I work at home, it was my job to get her ready for, and take her to school. It was a beautiful fall day in Jackson, central New Jersey.

I dropped Lindsay off at school and then went to Dunkin Donuts for my morning coffee and a paper on the way back home, just like every other day. When I got back home I added cream and sugar to my coffee and started reading the paper. The phone rang... it was Michele. All she said was, "put the TV on." Just as I turned it on the second plane hit the towers. I was stunned. All I could say to myself was, "that son of a bitch!" In that split second I already knew who was behind this. He had failed years earlier, but hadn't given up. I ended my call with my wife. As soon as I put the phone on the hook, it rang again, this time it was my father. At this point I was so angry that I was using a lot of words that don't come up in polite conversation. My father asked if I had the TV on. "Yes," I replied as I went off on a rant. Being a very religious man, he did not care for my language. I told him I was sorry, but I was angry, angrier than I have ever been. We ended our call and I parked myself in front of the TV... no work today I thought to myself.

Then the news of the Pentagon arrived, and the possibility of another plane up there somewhere. Then the news of Flight 93, crashed in the middle of nowhere. All of the sudden I thought, "Oh, my God... Howell, NJ (where Lindsay's school is) is also the middle of nowhere... the middle of anywhere!" I didn't know what else would happen that day... for all I knew there were hundreds of planes up there. I immediately left the house... hot coffee, lights on, TV on. All I could think about was Lindsay. If ANYTHING happened I had to be with her. I couldn't bear the thought of anything happening to her. It's amazing how your life priorities change when you become a parent.

I arrived at her school 10 minutes later. Mr. Costello, the dean of Lindsay's school, was in the parking lot. I explained to him why I had come. I wanted to take Lindsay home. He requested that I leave her in school. The school was a K-12 and they didn't want to start a panic in the lower school. I said OK, but I wasn't leaving. He said that was fine and asked me if I would help him. The upper school was allowed to leave, but ONLY if a parent signed them out at the office. My job was to direct all parents to the office. First I went inside just to see Lindsay. She saw me peeking through the door window, smiled and waved. I then returned to the parking lot. I could not believe how beautiful it was that day. And as the planes started landing the skies were so quiet it was unnerving. On top of that cell phone reception was dead.

Three o'clock rolled around. I was tired from standing in the parking lot all day. I hadn't had anything to eat. I went inside to wait for Lindsay to come out of her classroom. Then it hit me... how do I explain this to Lindsay? We walked to the car and she asked me why I was at school all day. I started trying to explain the day's events to her. I said, "Sweetie... there are some very bad people in the world, and they did some very bad things today." She asked what happened, so with as little detail as I could, told her what happened. She started to weep.

By now the phones had come back online. My wife called and I asked her, "What should I do when we get home?" We agreed to not put the TV on until Michele got home. And then, we would let her see it only once. It seems like they replayed the scenes of the towers being hit and collapsing a thousand times that day.

When Michele got home, we prepared Lindsay for what she was about to see. We told her that if she wanted us to turn the TV off, just let us know. I also told my wife, "I don't know what's going to happen, but if I am called to serve I will go." Lindsay watched it once and began to weep again. We just held her and tried to tell her everything would be OK. After we put her down, she went and got some paper and a pencil and drew this.

When I saw what she had drawn I had to hold the tears back. How could a 7-year old have such a keen artistic instinct to draw something like this? The planes look like they're circling the towers like sharks circle their prey. The towers and background buildings are crying as if they were people, as is the sun. It was indeed a dark day. The people fleeing for their lives look like ants.

I was then reminded that we had dear friends that worked in the World Trade Center, as both Michele and I had in the early to mid 1980s. One of our friends, in fact, introduced us to each other. We then called each one of them, hoping not to hear bad news. The phones were jammed, but we eventually got a hold of each of them. They were all shaken up, but OK, and all had stories much scarier than mine. Two of them were late getting to work because of their kids, and witnessed the attacks from ferries. One of Lindsay's classmates dads worked for an insurance company on one of the top floors. He was one of the lucky parents whose children had saved them by being late for school. Unfortunately for him, he lost his secretary and a lot of friends and colleagues.

That night I didn't sleep well at all... constantly replaying the scenes from the day in my head, over and over again. I started questioning my God... how could people do this to each other? The next few days I bounced back and forth from thinking peace was the answer, but finally realized that this was bigger than that. It is a battle between good and evil. And we can all only hope that good will eventually win... whatever it takes.


Stacey Snacks said...

I am sorry it took me so long to comment.......
I love the contrast of father/daughter pictures of the twin towers.
That day is forever in my mind, the images will never leave me and will always haunt me.

John Glynn said...

Excellent - and the picture your daughter drew is priceless...I hope you still haveb it.

John Glynn

John Glynn said...

Excellent - excellent. I love the picturee your daughter drew - I hope you still have it!

John Glynn

rcoda said...

Yes, John... I have every piece of artwork that she has ever done... except for the ones she has given away to her teachers.

Katharine Boyle said...

Wow, Rich. This is beautifully written and draws up so many emotions. Your actions that day were surely right in going to Lindsay's school. And her artwork is incredible and speaks such emotional volumes. Your photo is stunning as well. Thank you for sharing your memories and thoughts.