Each of us remembers what we were doing that morning. My own memory is photorealism clear.
"Turn it on and call me later." As I watched the smoke and flames from the North Tower, my stomach lurched. I thought of my middle child, attending law school at City University of New York. I reached for the phone but it rang before I lifted it.
"Mom, do you know what happened?" I sighed with relief to hear my son's voice. I told him that anchors were talking about a malfunction in the plane's navigation system. And, then, I saw the second plane hit.
He told me he was still in Brooklyn-that he had left his apartment but someone on the street told him a plane had flown into one of the towers, and he wanted to call and let me know he was safe. He was standing by his car.
I told him to stay in Brooklyn and call me frequently. The next time he phoned, he was on the roof of his apartment building. We watched the collapse of the towers together, he from his roof and I, standing in front of my television set in Nashville, Tennessee. I would not hear from him again that day because cellular service was interrupted.
Just a week before, I had been living in Manhattan in a sublet with my 15-year-old son. My husband's job would start in February of 2002 in NYC and we'd decided that I should move early so our teenager could begin his sophomore year in New York instead of entering in the middle of the school year. After two weeks, the excitement I felt was replaced by my feeling completely out of sorts-missing my mate. As my son and I walked and talked about what we should do, we headed to the Financial District, the area that, now, is known as Ground Zero. It was noon and the streets were packed with people, pouring out of their offices at lunchtime. Later, I would wonder if I'd brushed shoulders with anyone who died when the towers disintegrated. The next day, I put my teen on a plane for Nashville. Then, I spent the next couple of days boxing everything to send home. When my husband picked me up at the airport, he said, "Well, you sure blundered." Yes, I'd spent loads of money on a sublet, money I was obligated to pay when I signed the contract.
Later, after 9/11, people called and asked if I had a crystal ball or some divine connection with a deity who told me to exit New York-to get my child out of there, and my husband expressed gratitude that we were safe, away from the ashes and debris that actually closed traffic beyond our apartment's location.
"For all Americans, this date will forever be entwined with sadness."
Some people thought we were crazy to move back to New York City after this. But I love the energy here. Or, maybe, I should say I once cared about it. Okay, I still do, but not in the same way. I used to love coming through the tunnel after being away-seeing the vigor that defines Manhattan-the diversity, the pace of the pedestrians. All that changed for me when my nephew was killed in Iraq. A certain joy disappeared from my life. It's hard to explain. It's far more intense than the out-of-sorts feeling I had when I missed my husband. That was easily fixed. This can never be repaired. I talk to my brother who lost his child in George Bush's lie, and I can hear pain. I talk to my parents who lost a grandchild in George Bush's lie, and I can hear pain. I ask many times a day, "Oh, Chase, why did you enlist?"
For months, CNN's Larry King asked each guest on his show, "What were you doing on 9/11?"
Nearly 3,000 people died that day.