Do you remember where you were? I do vividly. The day the towers fell I was sitting at my desk at work. I heard someone tell me you gotta come see this! And the TV in the conference room was replaying the planes hitting the towers. I immediately called my sister-in-law (my brother was supposed to be in NY that day on business) only to feel relieved that my brother answered my call.
Then I heard and saw the plane hit DC. I had friends working in that building. Again I reached for my phone. I found most of them, but one I couldn’t reach. It took until late that night to find out he had immediately driven to Pennsylvania to see his nephew who was out of his mind with worry.
As I spent the day worrying about my friend, I found out schools were closing. My son was in elementary school at the time and I took off to go pick him up. The security in the building that day was one I have never seen before or since in any school he attended. Parents were only allowed to line up and had to show ID to pick up their child. Then the children were retrieved from their classrooms and brought out to their respective parents. Absolutely incredible is the only word for it.
What I didn’t know that day was that someone I loved dearly and had been there for me through thick and thin was also working in DC. He happened to be in the building the plane hit. Luckily, he survived it without a scratch – at least physically. What no one knew for quite a while was the effect this had on him. He felt the building shake that day and that took a part of him with it. He no longer flies anywhere, he’ll tell you if he can’t drive it’s not worth the trip. He no longer visits DC even though we live less than an hour away, he’ll tell you he’s seen it all. In truth, he’s shaken beyond anything recoverable. He lived when others didn’t and he questions why he is here every day. That day took a special person and turned him inside out and he’ll never be the same again. It also changed every relationship whether friendship or more. I stayed for a while, but it’s like being around a Vietnam vet, you never know what to expect and it comes without warning.
My question has always been the same to both myself and others. So what will you do now?
I do every day in some way. I work in a field where I help those less fortunate than myself each and every day. My phone rings constantly when I am off work and I answer it! You never know when I may need to run to help someone. I can’t drive through the city without looking to see if any of the people I help Monday through Friday are around and look okay.
Many years later, my son starting volunteering at one of our local fire departments. I was very proud of him, but also scared to death. It might be him one day walking into a fire and not coming out. I also joined as an Administrative Member for a time, but I found my regular job is enough of a commitment.
Finally, ten years after this tragic event, I found a man who understands it all. My need and desire to help others and even change plans at a moments notice to run to someone in need. He too helps others every day at work as an EMT. Together we make a difference each day. This makes me very happy to be able to give back and maybe avoid someone else going through the years of anguish my friend has endured.
To answer the question as to what happened to him….unfortunately, he couldn’t take the torture in his mind and after two years of turning to alcohol and drugs, he just couldn’t live that way anymore. On 9/11/2003 he took his own life. I wrestled with it for a long time and finally realized he is now at peace and that’s better than living with the torture of your own mind.
So what I do every day? I work with people who have severe addiction and mental illness and haven’t been able to make it through any traditional program out there. We are non-traditional and it makes me happy to help others not follow in my friends path.
We are a strong country who survived the worst and came out better for it!