Friday, September 11, 2009

8 years

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?"

"Hear what?"

"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.


Daphne said...

This was one of the most heart-wrenching things I have read in a long time - I'm sitting here with tears rolling down my face. How horrible those hours must have been for you - I'm so glad that your husband made it home OK that day. In some ways it's hard to believe it was 8 years ago.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Daphne, thanks for the comment, yes, I think it was the singlemost horrible few hours of my life. I too am glad it's behind me and I just pray it never happens again. Of course, the aftermath of 9/11 was terrible too, and those following months, worrying about another attack and Anthrax threat in the mail. We were all buying up water and plastic stuff to seal our windows in case of a biological attack. Those were desperate times with a constant fear hanging over our heads, yet you had to act normal and get on with life. It does seem hard to believe it was 8 years ago.

Penelope said...

My God, Julie, this is a powerful post! I am totally crying right now. I'm so glad all of your family is safe and sound, and I'm so sorry that you had to live through that horrible day. This is a good reminder to be thankful for every day and for the simple things in our lives.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Penelope, thanks, I'm sorry you were crying, I didn't mean to write this to make you cry, yet I did hope to convey the emotional impact made on the average person living nearby and how our world was turned absolutely upside down due to that one horrific terrorist act.

Joanne said...

Julie - This is so horrible to read, but I'm very glad for you that your husband was safe. What a terrible, horrific sight it was to watch the events unfold on tv that day -- even though I live far away from NY and Penn. and DC where different terrorist attacks occurred, it was MY country and MY fellow citizens under attack and it made me sick to my stomach and very, very frightened for my children -- what kind of world was this for them?

Two years ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to spend a few days in NY and we went to the area where the Twin Towers once stood. Such a moving experience to be in the area...sacred ground for so many lost lives.

No, we will never forget.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Yes, Ground Zero still attracts many tourists, I have yet to really go there or spend any time around the area although my husband's office was across the street (they have since moved to the World Financial Center a few blocks away). It's now a big contruction site and I avoid it completely, I cannot bring myself to even go near it. I'm touchy about it, little things can set me off and make me nervous, I sometimes still feel the effects like post trauma syndrome, but not nearly as much as shortly after the attacks. I'm sure I was one of the many, many walking wounded housewives and loved ones that suffered that day.

Blodeuedd said...

I didn't know you lived that close, I was so scared when I read that that he had died. I am glad he made it and you both were safe

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Blodeuedd - yes, we're only about 20 miles away from NYC, the Twin Towers were a fixture of the NY skyline for us, I remember when they were being built in the 1970's, it took forever! That's why I just couldn't look at the NY Skyline for the longest time after they fell because it was such a gap without them and reminder of all those people died and my own reminder of the terror I went throught that day. :(

Joanne said...

Julie - Please understand that I did not mean in any way to imply that we went to the area as an attraction...we went, as we we have been to places like Arlington or memorials as a place of reverance and respect. It is sacred ground. I hope I didn't offend by saying we went in the area.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Joanne, don't worry, I didn't take it that way, no offense taken! I was just commenting that I can't personally go there myself, I'm sorry if I gave you impression!

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