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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Close to Home

My husband celebrates his birthday on September 7.  We had only been in our home in Chicago for a few months when this day rolled around in 2001.  I wanted to give him a special treat, so I got baseball tickets.  Our first game together at Wrigley Field!  Since you can only go to a game when one is being played, we would have to wait until the 10th.  We went to the game, we ate hot dogs and peanuts and I believe the Cubs beat the Reds.  It was a great time.

September 11, my world was going to change.  I could hardly sleep for the excitement, but knew I was also going to sleep in the next morning.  I was going to start interior design school  the next afternoon.  I would ride the Brown line to the Loop and walk over to S. Michigan Ave for my first drafting class.  Did I mention I was excited?  Morning rolled around and I was awakened earlier than planned by my mom calling.  Then I got the news: a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  I felt bad, but knew it had happened before and it was probably an accident, but then she explained there had been a second.  We all know the rest of that terrible story.

I sat glued to the television and with the phone at arm’s reach.  It became evident that the Sear’s Tower was also a potential target and that the Loop was shutting down.  For those of you unfamiliar with Chicago, this is the central business district.  I wanted my husband out of there.  He was in falling distance of that massive structure.  He happened to work for a major financial institution headquartered there and was partially responsible for getting everything locked down.  It wasn’t just buildings that crumbled on that day.

Needless to say, yet I will, I didn’t start classes until the next day.  Moving through the city was strange at the least.  We had been spared the worst of the tragedy.  Then the stories started coming and continued to come for years.  While I was not there, no one in my family or immediate circle was lost, the stories came very close to home.

A few days later, I found out from a friend that my next door neighbor was in Manhattan with her parents searching for her youngest sister.  She had worked in the tower for only 6 weeks after getting her first job after graduation.  My neighbor found this out when he saw Leslie on Good Morning America being interviewed about their search.  My heart descended and my first trip to Ground Zero included and intentional search for her name on the wall.  There it was – Katie McCloskey.

When the news came out about the Cantor Fitzgerald office we racked our brains to remember that nice man’s name from the conference that had been held at Top of the World. Where was his business card and what about the people running that conference that was again being held right then at that same location?  These are questions still unanswered for us.

Since then, I’ve become friends with people who were living and working there that day.  Emily’s husband who had just arrived late at work and not even checked voicemail when the plane hit.  They left the city because he could no longer deal with the survivor’s guilt of convincing only one person from his office to leave the building with him.  The others decided to go back up the stairs and wait when they neared the 60th or so floor.

This couple who each walked miles toward each other without any way of communicating to meet in the middle and rejoice would meet me years later.  These are the stories that came to me in Chicago. Then other stories when we moved to the NYC area of neighbors watching the smoke from the silent beaches of CT, because 4 years later it was still fresh, met me in our new home.

So on this day when we remember the loss I am met again with new pain.  Just hours ago my sister in law lost her father.  When we hope pain fades over time I realize that she will never forget what day she lost him.  September 11 has become a marker for death and life.  Through it all we realize there is one constant, one unshakeable mighty fortress to which we can run.

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.
Psalms 46:1-3 (NIV)

Did September 11 hit close to home for you?  I’d love to hear your story and pray peace and comfort for all those still dealing with the pain of that terrible day.

Linking up with Mercy (Ink).


  1. I'll never forget that day...the day my piano was delivered. the day I was to pick up my college roommate from the airport for a visit, the one I hadn't seen in 3 years because her husband was a navy pilot and they were off on assignment...Her flight snuck in safe thankfully and she stayed longer than anticipated as her husband was called to duty. So nerve-wracking as we couldn't know where they were sending him.

    (sidebar: I got the phone call not to come into work that day because our building was being shut down. fun fact: I worked in interior design at the time!)

    What a beautiful post, Amy. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I will never forget driving back into Chicago a few weeks after that horrible day and seeing the skyline perfectly and beautifully intact. It was then that the loss hit me- for those living in NYC or loving it like we love Chicago.
    Thank you for sharing the way that it has touched you~ it really DID change your life- that day- just not how you expected, right?