Sunday, September 11, 2011

Rembering 9/11

This year, maybe because of the 10th anniversary, maybe because of the floods and the fires and natural disasters, I sheltered myself of all images of 9/11, save the gorgeous New York Times magazine piece on the iron-working, sky-walking men who are working on the rebuild. 

Today, I share something I wrote on my bravebethany blog in 2005, four years after that day. That ten years have passed is mind boggling.

I am never quite sure what to do with myself on 9/11.

I was there--across the street in 1 WFC. I was sitting at my reception desk, about to sip my coffee, eat my yogurt from home and orange I bought from the vendor right in front of the WTC before crossing into the bridge that led into my building. I evacuated my floor, screaming when the first plane hit. (I was a fire searcher and the last one off the top floor of the 1WFC both times we evacuated.) I hit the staircase with the rest of the people in my building, and when no news came on the intercom system, my boss who was the fire warden and I got out of the stairwell so she could call downstairs. We were in a brokerage firm which had no cubicle or office dividers. It was one big, huge, open space.

I had friends working in the WTC. The one that was hit first. I went to the window. Was pulled to the window. I wish I hadn't have looked. I still wish I hadn't have looked.

With no news, and people jumping from the burning building, we thought it best to stay where we were. We went back upstairs--I worked on the 31st floor, in the elevator. I tried to call my parents in Georgia. I didn't get them. I got my aunt who saw it on the Today show. An airplane pilot had a heart attack, I was told. I wanted to believe it. My shaking hands wanted to believe it. I called my brother who had no idea why I was borderline hysterical, while he stood in line in a parking lot in Georgia at the DMV. I called an actor friend, so she could spread the word that I was ok. I woke her. She had no idea what was happening. Not long after the second plane roared over our building--so close it roared in our ears--it hit the WTC, the tower diagonal to us, across the street. I screamed. Threw down the phone and took to the staircase again.

This time, the staircase was silent. No one brought their coffee or morning bagel. Everyone, at least in their heart, knew we were under attack. There were whispers that there was a bomb in our building. I tried to recite my favorite prayer, "The Prayer for Protection" that strangely enough I say every time I am on a plane, before take off and landing. I could not remember the words. My body prayed them for me.

Out on the street, crowds stood and stared. I wouldn't look up. Couldn't look up.

My boss had had a premature baby that almost died. We were concerned with getting her home. Getting her home to her son. We headed for the ferry by the Wintergarden. So much glass. Glass everywhere. I kept my head down. Tripped over my feet. My legs carrying all my fear. We pushed on to one of the last ferries going across. People were standing in line for tickets. We weren't buying any. "They aren't charging us," I said.

Out on the water, I looked up. Two huge holes. Smoke, heavy smoke, billowing into the blue, blue sky.

Once we got to Hoboken, I got on a PATH train to Jersey City, where I was living. We sat and sat and sat on the train. I was mute. I didn't say a word. No one knew I had been there. Other people talked. I listened. I learned about the Pentagon. I worried about my friends at the UN. I looked at people's faces, memorizing them, but feeling, looking, I am sure, so blank. Just blank.

When the Path train came up, a tall thin man said, "They're gone. The towers are gone." I didn't believe him. I couldn't see the two buildings that were my touchstone. Since moving to NYC I lived in many apartments but I held only one job. The towers were my home. They were reminders of how far I had come. I looked at them every night from NJ thinking I work there. I moved from Georgia and I work there. There.

There was gone. 

For my old roommate Nicole, who lost her dad that day, and for all the other lives lost, for NYC, for our country, I offer this prayer.

The Prayer of Protection

The light of God surrounds us;
The love of God enfolds us;
The power of God protects us;
The presence of God watches over us;
Wherever we are, God is, and all is well. Amen.


  1. Bethany, I had no idea. You moved me to tears this morning. I am so very sorry for all of it. I wish you didn't hurt and I wish I had better words to express it. (((hugs)))

  2. Thank you, Kimberly (and everyone who commented on facebook.) Yesterday was more difficult than I had prepared myself for it to be.

  3. Bethany...I remember. I remember sobbing from fear over you being there. I didn't sleep except for one hour that night from worry for you. Do you remember, I'll never forget. I was chatting with you in a chat room at that moment that everything happened. You said, "turn on your TV...find out what is happening." I remember you telling me bomb threat, I remember you leaving then coming back and saying that they were telling you it was ok...then silence...nothing for days after that. All phone lines jammed, I couldn't get calls in to you. That afternoon, I got on my hands and knees and started digging, digging and planting flowers for you and for everyone at the WTC...praying with each spade turned, planting bulb after bulb and sobbing with each turn of the earth. I kept bargaining with God, saying please keep Bethany safe. When it bloomed the following spring, I thought of it as my memorial garden for 911.

    When I finally heard that you were ok, I just sat down and sobbed...again. I remember hearing that shock in your voice and that grief...9/11 touched so many lives, we will never forget.

    I know life happens, I know we have gone on to full lives, but I do remember, I shall never forget. I am so happy to see your successes and that you are happy and sharing your life with someone you love. Blessings to you Dear Bethany...