I remember my husband's calmness as he struggled to to get information, any information, on his coworkers. They had had email and phone contact with them while they were in the Towers, after the first plan had hit. In those first few days, we all clung to the hope that they were still alive, though smoke had already been pouring in when they'd last made contact. At 5:00AM on 9/12 I walked downtown with my husband to a makeshift information center so we could pore over the lists of people who had been confirmed dead or admitted to local hospitals. The streets were as quiet and deserted as I had ever seen them. I didn't see a cab, car, or bus anywhere, and that's saying a lot for New York. That morning the city was silent in its initial shock and grief.
I remember my husband's calmness in the early days after 9/11, and I held my breath, waiting. And I remember how he finally broke down, at the Union Square vigil. He sobbed and struggled for breath because, as he later told me, all he could think about was how scared they'd been, how much pain they'd suffered, as the heat and smoke surrounded them. Their company was a small start-up at the time, so they were more like family than coworkers.
He was supposed to be there that day, and he had been there only the night before, helping one of his coworkers bring over some things for the conference. Chantal had never been in the WTC before, and she marveled at the view of the city it offered. Could anyone have known that she would die there the next day?
My husband was supposed to attend a conference at the WTC on 9/11, but because his company only had a limited number of passes, people were switching off. He was supposed to switch off with Raj, who at the last minute opted to attend the conference in the morning and give his pass to my husband in the afternoon. Now Raj, an only child, is dead.
But my husband is alive, and I'm not ashamed that I'm relieved he wasn't there that morning two years ago.
We watched the memorial service on tv for a few minutes this morning, but we both left the room when the little boy with dark hair, dressed in a dark suit, began to talk about his father. My husband finished getting ready for work, and I went to get the drycleaning. I came back and we kissed goodbye. He asked me if I wanted to join him and his coworkers this evening when they get together to remember their late colleagues and friends. I told him I would think about it; I don't want to intrude.
He left, and as I went back to the tv and watched as children recited the names of those who had died two years ago today, I finally let the tears I had been holding back all morning fall.