Monday, September 12, 2011

September 11, 2001: 911

Yesterday was a day of remembrance and prayers. In my family, it was a day to give thanks to God for sparing my uncle and my cousin—his nephew.

On September 11, 2001, my cousin Alex, a twenty-five years old accountant was cursing himself for staying up late the night before, ignoring his alarm while still dozing and missing his train from Long Island to Manhattan. His Mom had just arrived the night before and the whole family was celebrating her visit with a special dinner.

Alex took the next train and worried during the whole trip about what his boss would say. It was his first job after graduating with an MBA, a nice position as accountant in a firm on the 18th floor of the World Trade Center.

The train stopped for 20 minutes at the previous station and then zoomed without stopping for the next four stations. Alex and the passengers couldn’t understand why. They were told to evacuate the train and walk. While walking toward the World Trade Center, Alex saw the smoke and fumes darkening the sky. People were running in all directions. Someone told him about the attack. He tried to walk away, toward his home. From 9:30 am to 5 pm he roamed in the streets, not knowing how to find transportation and reach home. By 4 pm he finally found someone who agreed to let him use a cellular phone and he called home.

His mother had seen the attack on TV and collapsed thinking her son dead. The whole family gathered around her, supporting and comforting her with words of hope, as she screamed, prayed, cried for hours, until she heard my cousin’s voice on the phone.

That same day, my uncle, a VP in a contracting firm was meeting with important clients in the company’s office on the 80th floor of the World Trade Center. A man in his sixties, he often had health problems.

While driving at 8:30 on the Expressway, he felt sick and had to stop at a fast food restaurant to use the restroom. At 8:45 he called the office, talked to the administrative assistant and to the owner’s son and informed them that he would be fifteen minutes late for the meeting with the clients. A moment later, he raced on the highway. But at 9:15, his wife called him and said to make a U-turn. His office was no more. Later he learned that his boss’s son, a young man in his early thirties, ran down the 80 floors, but their administrative assistant and the old client waited for the elevator and never made it.

Yesterday was a sad day for many. We will never forget 911.
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Jill James said...

Mona, so glad your family was spared. Your cousin's mother must have been beside herself, thinking her son was gone.

Josie said...

Poignant, heart-felt blog, Mona. Thanks for sharing.

Mary Ricksen said...

Thank God your family was spared the anguish of loss that day.
It wasn't their time and your family was so very lucky!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I'm glad for your family. It was sad day for so many.

Celia Yeary said...

Mona--really??? My gracious, it gives me cold chills. I cannot imagine the horror they all felt, especially thinking a loved one was in the tower.
I'm sure you and your family have thanked God many times over.
We never know, do we, why some things happen. Like your uncle feeling sick and stopping, causing him a delay getting to work.
Amazing. Celia

StephB said...

Mona, like Celia, I had chills. Just think about the timing and how many people were spared by most mundane things - sleeping in or stopping to visit a Starbucks. A very poignant post.

I was hired by LAPD in FEB 2000 as a 911 dispatcher so I was still considered a "newbie" on the job. At 6ish, I woke up, went downstairs, turned on the computer and learned of the tragedy. I sat there stunned. In 1997 I had just gotten out of the army and things were settling down for me. I had a good job, I just bought a house, I'd been married for 10 years and I was 3 months pregnant. I will never forget the fear I had in that moment wondering what kind of world I was bringing my child into.

Keena Kincaid said...

What harrowing stories, Mona. I had a friend who lived in the apartments at the edge of the WT complex with a bird's eye view of the towers. Many of her neighbors worked in the WTC.

She had put her cat down the night before and was running late, groggy and sad. She was on the last train out of the center and knew nothing about the attack until she reached her office. Interestingly, she never went back to that apartment. For weeks she wasn't allowed back in, and when finally permission was granted to get her stuff, she just hired movers to go in and get it. It was a year before she went back downtown.

LaVerne Clark said...

Mona, the stories of The World Trade Center never fail to bring a lump to my throat. Thank you for sharing. Even from so far away, we mourn with you all in America.

I'm so very glad your family were spared the horror. My thoughts are still with everyone who has been touched by this awful event in our history.

As we say in New Zealand - Kia Kaha - Stand Strong.

Mona Risk said...

Thank you all for stopping by. 911 is a terrible day we will never forget.
My husband and I were crossing the Tenessee mountains. We left Florida the night before and slept in a motel. We were going back to our home in Cincinnati.
At 9:15 the car cell phone rang. It was my son. “Mom, do you know America is under attack?” I didn’t understand what he was saying. He explained. We were petrified. I thought about my daughter, a resident at George Washington Hospital in DC and called her. She’s been mobilized in her hospital and requested to spend the whole week there. Then we called my aunts and uncles in New York and learned about the drama of my missing cousin who worked on the 18th floor at the Trade World Center, and the story of my uncle. One of my uncles apologized for hanging too fast. When the phone rang they thought it was my cousin Alex.
Another we worried about was my brother-in-law who often worked at the Pentagon, but this day he was not there.
Alex still lives in NY but left his company for another.
My uncle said that his weak health was a blessing and that he will never complain about his health problems. He is in his late seventies and still works.

But too many died in the WTC. We should never forget and keep protecting America. Danger lurks even if things look peaceful.

Lilly Gayle said...

Reading this gave me chills. I watched one of the specials last night. I posted a blog listing facts. But I had no close connection to the tragedy.

I guess the moral of this true story is this: The next time you have a flat, or your engine blows or something else you feel is a disaster happens and makes you late, it could be God's way of saving you from an even greater tragedy.

Autumn Jordon said...

Mona, Thank God your family was spared, so many lost. Yesterday, I watched CNN the entire morning. I cried listening to the children who lost thier mothers and fathers.

It harding seems possible that ten years have passed. None of us will forget where were when the attacks happened and we surely will not forget the victims and heroes.

Judy said...

Mona, So glad your family members were spared such a horrible death. Reading your story brought back so many feelings... Thanks for sharing.

Ilona Fridl said...

Mona, such an amazing post! You kind of wonder if it was divine intervention in those cases. I'm so happy your nephew was safe. A sad tragic day for this country.

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Mona,

I'm thankful to you for sharing your 9/11 stories. No matter how old we get, we always worry about our family. I know your family must have been so relieved that these two family members were spared.

Hugs, Maggie

Mona Risk said...

Lilly, you said it so well. Never hate a mishap it may be a blessing.

Mona Risk said...

Autumn, our life has changed so much since 911. Just remember what we have to go through when we travel now. Tale off shoes, belt, jackets, coats, watches,...stand in front of an x-ray machine legs apart.

Mona Risk said...

Thank you Judy for sharing the feelings.

Mona Risk said...

Hi Ilona, I am sure it was a miracle that my uncle and cousin were safe. Or maybe their times hadn't come as some people say.

Mona Risk said...

Hi Maggie, when my aunt knew her son was safe, she said thanks God, but started to cry for the others. You can't help but share the sorrow of other mothers.