September 10, 2001. It was 20 years ago …the day before the world changed forever; and one in which my own world went through a life-altering change of its own.
I had just moved into a newly built house in Huntington, Long Island from my beloved N.Y.C. It had been a decision fraught with doubt, as I was an urban creature through and through. That day, still shell-shocked from the new reality of living in the suburbs, I comforted myself knowing that I would return to the city the next day, the 11th to finish cleaning out my apartment on the Upper West Side.
September 11th would be my husband Hersh’s first day of commuting to his office in downtown New York. My plan that morning was to take a late morning train and meet at his office at the end of the day. Stumbling around a collection of floor-to-ceiling boxes, my normal morning routine of listening to The Today Show was decidedly off-kilter. Without cable set up yet, my TV reception was limited. But I had no inkling how very off-kilter it would truly be.
When I heard Katie Couric announce the first report of the North Tower of the World Trade Center being hit by a plane, my initial assumption was it was likely a small private plane that was an accident. I could not contemplate the unthinkable. Still, I wondered if the city subways might experience delays because of this incident and maybe not the ideal time for me to go into the city.
When Hersh stepped out of the subway to his office blocks from the World Trade Center he called me to discuss the feasibility of me coming into town due to the concerning incident at the WTC.
It was 9:01am.
We never had a chance to continue the conversation because while on the phone a second plane hit the South Tower and Hersh watched in disbelief as a giant fireball exploded. I listened to the crackling and then our call was abruptly ended.
My heart was in my stomach. I knew it was no accident and that America was under attack.
Suddenly my beloved city was under attack and I was not there. It was unbearable.
Without the internet, Twitter, Facebook, etc to get second by second news updates and limited TV I was really in the dark, in the dark of the suburbs. Stuck in the unfamiliar suburbs by myself boxed in my hundreds of boxes, worried about city friends, and not knowing how Hersh could get home let alone when was nerve-wracking.
The city shut down suspending all transportation in and out of the city. Eventually, Hersh joined the throngs of confused and frightened souls slowly walking uptown. By evening, limited commuter train service returned. I was fortunate to welcome him back home that evening, his suit bearing the dust and ashes that permeated the skies of N.Y.C. A privilege far too many would not have.
He never wore that suit again and we never had it cleaned. It remains hanging in a closet as a reminder. The dust of that tragedy remains embedded in the suit and in my heart.