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In Memoriam

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I’m excited and happy today because my sister is coming to visit. Last time I saw her, she was hugely pregnant with her second baby. Today she is flying in from Boston out of Logan airport. Her carry-on luggage consists of Max, age 3, and her new 5 month-old baby, Sam. Their plane took off about 20 minutes ago. In a few minutes I have to rouse Alex from bed to get ready to catch the bus for another day of 5th grade. I’ve already showered, and I’m pouring my coffee when the phone rings. “Hello?? •Did you see the news?? my mom asks. •Turn on the TV.? I click it on and struggle to focus. When I do, the world as I know it comes to a screeching halt. My family is from •back east?. I went to college in Albany - just a couple hours drive from the Big Apple. Another sister lived in Yonkers and worked in Manhattan, as did many of her friends and husband•s relatives. A couple of my friends were working in Manhattan too. “What the hell? It’s the Twin Towers!? •They don’t know what happened yet.? •Geez, it looks really bad! What time are you and dad leaving to pick up Deanne from Denver?? •In about half an hour. Their plane doesn’t get in until this afternoon.? •OK. Have a safe trip.? We used to go to New York at least once a year. Never went to the Statue of Liberty, though. Too touristy. We hung out at Rockefeller Center, went to Little Italy for real cannolis, cruised Chinatown, stood in line for cheap tickets to Broadway plays, avoided Times Square and taking the subway. I dial my parent•s phone number. “Hey! They think somebody flew a plane into the building! Oh my God! Did you see that? One just went in to the other tower!? •Oh my God! Oh my God!? •I’m gonna call the newsroom to see if they know anything.? My heart is beating so fast. I can•t breathe. My hands are shaking so badly I have trouble dialing the number. “Hey Kathy. It’s Lynn. Do you guys know what’s going on? My sister is flying in from Boston this morning with her babies.? This can•t be happening, I think. This doesn’t happen to us. Not stuff like this. “OK,? she says slowly, deliberately. •Do you know what airlines she was on?? My stomach lurches. Why would that be important? Why is she asking me that? Think, damn it, think. •I think it was United.? I will always admire and be grateful for the way Kathy sensed my mounting hysteria and struggled with answering my question. I will never forget what she said next. •They think some planes were hijacked by terrorists. They’re not sure which airlines, but one of them left out of Boston at about 9:15.? About the time Deanne•s plane left. I hang up and stand in the middle of my bedroom. I am numb. Almost paralyzed. “This can’t be happening,? I repeat over and over. My sister. Her babies. In the few minutes it takes to get Alex to the bus, the news is coming fast and furious. We had a vague idea of what happened. Two planes, two towers. Another plane crashed into a field somewhere. •Mom, did you try and call Deanne?? •I tried her cell phone. There’s no service. What did they say at the Sentinel?? How do you find the words to say it? If you say it will it make it real? How do you wrap your mind around believing you just saw your sister and your two nephews blown into tiny pieces across the Manhattan skyline? •I’m coming over.? Somebody please! What the hell is happening? My mom calls and says she•s going to a neighbor’s. I meet her there. She and dad are dressed and ready to leave for Denver to meet the plane. “Oh my God! The tower just collapsed! Oh my God! What is happening? Where are my babies? Those words came out of my mother’s mouth. They were ripped out of the mouths and hearts of more than 3,000 mothers that day. Where are my babies? Many, too many, left behind babies they never saw, didn’t even know they were going to have. By the grace of God, my sister and her babies were not on that plane. They had seats on the next one out, scheduled to leave twenty minutes later. She finally got a call out to say they were safe. The kids were okay. Max was eating pizza. Twenty minutes. A few days later the e-mails started coming. The first college classmate missing. The second, a third, then a fourth. The messages kept coming. Then they got worse. Remains identified. Bodies recovered. Funerals pending. The chaplain at my college and the chaplain then for the F.D.N.Y., Father Mychal Judge, the first to die when he was struck by debris. The best man at my sister’s wedding, Lt. Joseph Leavey, from Ladder 15, F.D.N.Y., the first unit on the scene. The World Trade Center. The Pentagon. American Flight 11. American Flight 77. United Flight 175. United Flight 93. “Mom, is the outside light on?? •No, honey, why?? "I just think you should turn the light on.•€? It will help him. To have the light on. Those bastards robbed him, robbed us all, of so much. Of feeling safe. Ever. Again. I will never forgive. Some things are beyond the capacity of human forgiveness. And I will never, ever forget.

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