It was a beautiful clear day, the sky was a gorgeous blue, not a cloud in the sky. I had just dropped Will off at school. We had moved two weeks earlier into a new house in the same town and he was at a new school, but he loved it and he was just entering 2nd grade and was with all his friends.
I had settled in to finish painting a bookcase in our TV room white. I didn't have the TV or radio on and just as I'm getting into the painting the phone rings and it's my mother.
"Julie - have you heard from Bart?"
I'm surprised at the frantic sound in her voice. "Why would I hear from him? I just saw him before he left for his office?" What's gotten into my mother, "What's the matter?"
"Haven't you heard?"
"A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center!" I'm thunderstruck and it's hard for me imagine, much less believe it. I'm picturing a small prop plane crashing into one of the towers.
"Is anyone hurt?" I ask. I'm still clueless.
"Yes! It was an airline jet!" I'm in shock. "Have you heard from Bart?"
My heart lurches, "No!" I shout at her. "Let me go, let me call him, I have to call him!" I quickly hang up the phone. My hands are trembling, I turn on the TV that is right next to me, as I try and dial the phone and call him. I can't get him on the first try, I try again, I get his voicemail at this office - his office - across the street from the World Trade Center!
"Bart-call me! Let me know you're safe! I'm home!" I hang up. I'm watching the TV - the Today Show - they're talking about a second jet that has crashed into the other tower.
"No, no, no! Oh my God! Oh my God!" It's all I can say, as I watch thunderstruck. I bring my hand to mouth in horror. Images of debris falling from the towers before me, did Bart make it to work, has something fallen on him and killed him? What time did the first jet hit? I'm trying to calculate whether Bart would have been in his office or on the street? Where is he where is he where is he? I try calling him again and again - I just get the voicemail, I'm frantic. No answer on his cell, he never carries it.
I'm watching the news, anything for a look to see what's happening. I'm alone and trying to keep my head, but I'm so scared. Before I know it, my mother is walking through the door. She's nearby in the next town. She asks me if I've heard from him. I tell her I haven't been able to. They're talking terrorists now on the news - what's happening? What's happening? I hear jets flying overhead. The phone rings, it's a freind, asking me if I'm going to get Will from school - she's getting her kids. "No." I want to keep him there. He's safer there and I don't want him to see me so upset not knowing about Bart.
My mother and I go into the kitchen and sit down in front of the TV there. We're glued to it, and I have the phone in front of me, waiting for his call. A half hour has gone by, I'm frantic. The phone rings, I grab the phone, "Bart?!" It's my brother. He works in Newark, "Julie, have you seen the towers? It's amazing, I have a perfect view of them!"
I'm nearly hysterical, I tell him, I can't talk, I tell him I haven't heard from Bart yet - I'm crying now I HAVEN'T HEARD FROM BART I DON'T KNOW WHERE HE IS OR IF HE'S ALL RIGHT! I remind him Bart works right across the street at One Liberty.
"Oh man, I'm sorry, he'll be all right." and he quickly gets off the phone. My mother and I watch the first tower collapse. That's it, I lose it. I'm convinced he's dead. How can anyone live through something like that? If he's anywhere near there, how could he survive? It looks so devastating on TV. Then the next tower collapses, I remember watching Ashley Banfield and her glasses on TV reporting. I'm holding my mother and crying, we're standing and hugging each other and I'm just wailing - I sound like an animal, but I don't care. I remember seeing my neighbor walk down his driveway and he briefly looks in our kitchen window and sees me. He must know I'm crying because Bart is dead.
So many emotions are going through me, "What do I do? what do I do? What do I do?!" I cry to my mother - I'm really losing it - I'm hysterical. My mother shakes me and says right in my face, "You be brave, you be strong because you have a little boy who needs you." Shehe hugs me and I cry even harder and shut my eyes - I can't stand it. The thought of Bart dead, William fatherless, me a widow - all kinds of images are floating in front of me. "How will we find his body? We'll never find his body!" I've never felt like this before, my mother is holding me and trying to comfort me, shushing me as if I'm still a small child. I'm glad William can't see me. I'm glad he's at school. My brother Bob rushes in to the house. The front door is open since it's been such a beautiful day with the screen door unlocked. How can it be such a gorgeous day when Bart is dead?
I'm crying and sniffling and trying to pull it together, my bout of hysteria has subsided. Bob joins us in watching the TV. I'm hoping to see a glimpse of Bart somewhere, maybe he's alive - maybe he got away in time. All I can think of is Bart. We continue watching, my mother is holding it together for me. She's strong - the mother of six children - she's good at this. I'm not.
A few more people call over the course of the morning, friends asking if I've heard from Bart, they've heard from their husbands - assuring me he'll be all right. Finally, the phone rings at 12 pm, I answer it, it's not a caller id number I recognize - it's from New York!
"Bart? Hello? Hello?" No answer it went dead. "Bart? Bart" I'm screaming into the phone. I hang up. It rings again.
"Bart - hello?!"
"Julie!" It's Bart. ThankyouGodthankyouGodthankyouGod. I cry. He tells me he's all right. He started walking uptown as soon as the 2nd plane hit. He was outside and looking up and saw the huge fireball and immediately started walking away as fast as he could. He left everything back at his office.
"Julie, you can't believe the horrible things I saw," he tells me in a hushed voice.
He met up with some friends and they all walked up Fifth Avenue and not until they got to the 30's did phone service work again. They watched the towers fall from a bar somewhere. He was far away from them by then. Thank God. He sounds great - he's okay. We'll be okay. He has to get off the phone, he's borrowing someone's cell. He's heading over to the river to get a ferry to NJ. The tunnels and bridges are closed. I hang up, I'm a new person. I tell my mother and brother Bob and he eventually leaves knowing Bart's okay and we'll be all right now. Mom stays with me and we keep watching the news. One of my nextdoor neighbor comes by to see if I'm all right. She heard me crying. She looks fearful and embarrased. She's a nice older lady. I tell her Bart's okay, she's relieved and goes to tell the rest of the neighbors. They all heard me wailing before, I don't care if I made a spectacle of myself - it's okay now - Bart's okay!
I go get William from school as always at 2:45 and we walk home. He doesn't know much. I don't tell him about the bullet we dodged today. Mom is still at home watching the news. Will's watching with us and we're all watching and all of sudden Bart walks in the front door! It's 3:30 and he's never looked so handsome. Tan, wearing a button down shirt, no tie, his hair kind of tousled, my God - he never looked so good! I fly into his arms and hold him. He laughs and kisses me, tells me he's all right. He got a tan from waiting for the ferry in the sun, the lines were endless. When he got to Weehawken, he started hitchiking home and someone picked him up immediately. A former sailor in the navy who wanted to do his part. He drove Bart all the way home to our front door - 20 miles. My mother hugs him and leaves right away - knowing we need our time alone together. As soon as she leaves I burst into tears and hold him tight.
I've never been the same since that terrible, terrible day. I wrote this out a year ago and I still find it hard to deal with. We live about 20 miles west of the city, we have a gorgeous view of the NY skyline. For weeks and weeks I remember watching the smoke around ground zero, it went on forever. I can look at the skyline now, for two years I couldn't even look at it or go into the city, but as time went by, I got my courage back. Bart still works Downtown, he even went back to work at One Liberty after they restored and cleaned it (it had been a makeshift morgue on the ground floor).
We can never forget, be vigilent always.