Journal Entry:
September 14, 2001

Morning
New York City

We were awakened in the middle of the night last night by a thunderstorm. Dennis jumped from the bed as I gasped for breath. We both thought the city was being bombed... Newark is still shut down so we're going to try to get to Albany by train. Our son can pick us up at the station there and... sometimes I think we're never getting out of here.

Easily Forgotten, Easily Remembered

Sometimes, these years later, I find it easy to forget the smaller moments of our time—my husband's and mine—in New York City during the 9-11 attacks. I remember the big moments, of course. I remember the power surge in our hotel room at the moment of the first plane’s strike on Tower One. I recall my husband’s words as we witnessed the second plane plunge into Tower Two. “We’re under attack,” he said. And I thought, “My children…”

I remember my mother's tears when I finally connected with her later that day, of hearing our youngest daughter’s voice—after six hours of trying to reach her—of the 40 messages from friends on our cell phone, begging, “Please be alive. Please be alive.”

I remember the man who—outside Central Park—wandered aimlessly until he took a seat near me on a park bench. “Are you alright?” I asked him.

“I have no where to go.”

“Do you live here?”

“I work here.”

“But you don’t live here?”

“I have no where to go,” he repeated. I placed my hand on his arm.

“Do you have friends here? Someone you can call?”

“Yes,” he said. “Maybe I will call them. Maybe when they get home.”

I remember the faces on the 8x11 sheets of paper. HAVE YOU SEEN... and MISSING, followed by names, phone numbers, addresses. PLEASE CALL!

And I remember sitting in the bathroom, early the following morning, my husband still asleep. I huddled in the corner, the floor cold beneath me, rocking back and forth, quivering uncontrollably. I placed a call to two Orlando—our hometown—radio stations. Both Christian. Both with Drive-Time DJs who knew me well. "Pray for us," I whispered, crying. "Please. I’m so scared… I’m so scared…"

Diary Entry: September 12, 2001

Late Morning
New York City

Dear Lord, I know my problems are trivial compared to the scores of prayers you are listening to right now. Still, you care for the lilies of the filed…the sparrows of the air. Surely you care for me….There’s no way out of this city and I am stuck with the visions of a cloud of smoke hovering over its southern end, the endless sound of sirens racing to a tragedy, the large dump trucks filled with debris. We’ve lost so much. Our trust in the fortitude of our borders, our loved ones. But not our will to survive. They can’t take that away. Never. Never.


The Return Home

On Thursday evening—two nights after the tragedy—I began to cough. It was slight at first, then became hacking. For weeks I coughed awful stuff. My mother, who I spent a week with after our return, asked about it but I just shook my head.

I knew what it was. I wrote about it in my journal:

I inhaled so much debris. I didn’t think about it at the time... you just breathe in, breathe out, naturally. Now, I think about it. I think about the things incinerated in the explosions. Desks. Files. Office machines. Humans. And I realize. I inhaled all this. I inhaled what is now gone but not forgotten.

For weeks I told myself I was okay. But then, one day while taking a walk, I heard a rumble overhead. I craned my neck to see a jet, soaring toward OIA, sleek and silver against the blue sky. Without warning my heart raced. I clenched my eyes shut, and sweat broke out across my forehead. Then, just as quickly as my reaction had come, it left.