Four years ago—1,457 days—our lives changed.
On 9/11/01, we stayed glued to our television sets. We saw images of absolute horror. Pictures of magnificent courage. And heard sounds of irreparable heartache.
It was like witnessing a Life magazine photo spread unveil itself before your eyes.
This is a column I wish I was not writing, and this is the hardest one I’ve ever had to write. I wish you weren’t reading this. I wish that day was just a regular one. A few ups and a few downs, with nothing really worth mentioning.
But 2,996 people dead must be mentioned and must never be forgotten.
You do not need to read this. You do not need to be reminded of Sept. 11 in any such manner. I say this because it is a day that can never be forgotten even if one tried.
In your own way, on your own terms, remember where you were, what you were doing, what you were feeling when you observed the world change forever. When you witnessed history writ large and in dark gothic script, raw and obscene and indelible.
Sept. 11 is among the most exhaustively chronicled days in human history—each person can remember where they were and what they were doing. I was getting ready to take the bus and head to the hospital for another session with the physiotherapist in Edmonton.
I turned on the television about to prepare my lunch and was astonished at what I saw.
“What the #@&*,” I said. Truthfully, I didn’t think what I was seeing was real—it couldn’t be. I started switching channels, but saw the same images on each station.
The falling bodies, the doomed towers billowing smoke like tragic volcanoes, the huge planes vanishing into walls of steel and glass like ghosts sailing through paper. Replayed over and over and over again.
I cried then and I shed a tear now. I cried as I shuffled through obituaries at www.legacy.com/Sept11/asp and got a glimpse of how horrific that day really was because of the fabulous people who were taken.
It has become nearly impossible to avoid cynical or jaded feelings about 9/11. To avoid seeing how this epic human tragedy has been cast and recast and diminished and leveraged and regurgitated as an excuse to launch more war, a justification to be suspicious of, and even hate, a whole culture, and a million “United We Stand” bumper stickers.
But there is only emotion that can be triggered after reading those obituaries—sadness.
< *c>Marie Abad
Marie Abad, a 49-year-old investment banker from Syosset, N.Y., called her husband of 26 years after the second airliner crashed into the World Trade Center, this one hitting her building.
“She said, ‘We’re on the 88th floor, we’re waiting for a fire marshal to come up and bring us down,’” Rudy Abad said. “That was the last time I’ve heard from her.”
< *c>Patrice Braut
At a company Christmas party four years ago, Patrice Braut, 31, danced with a girl named Lupe. She fled into the night before he could learn her last name.
The next day, Lupe Mendez found a note on her desk in Midtown, saying, “You left without saying goodbye.” She felt like Cinderella.
< *c>Sonia Ortiz
In her native Colombia, Sonia Ortiz was forced to work as a seamstress from an early age. After she immigrated to the United States in 1971, she landed a job as a janitor at the World Trade Center and eventually was promoted to run the freight elevator serving Windows on the World.
With her earnings, she bought a tidy two-story brick house in Flushing, Queens which she filled with fanciful knick-knacks, including placemats with pictures of cherubs, and porcelain figurines of fairy tale characters.
“Everything we have today is because of her,” said her son, Victor.
< *c>Titus Davidson
Titus Davidson’s love for his only daughter could be measured by the empty Tupperware in her cupboard. Whenever they met, he gave her a container filled with his latest creation and his daughter, Tanya Dale, 25, often took a while to return the empties.
Mr. Davidson, 55, never earned enough to buy her expensive gifts, so cooking was his way of doting. “He acted like he was the only one that ever had a child,” said his sister, Shirley White.
< *c>Rosa Julia Gonzalez
After the attack, when Rosa Julia Gonzalez telephoned her sister, Migdalia, from the offices of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on the 66th floor of 2 World Trade Center, these were here last words: “I love you.”
And then: “Promise to me that you are going to take care of my daughter.” That is because to Rosa, 32, a single mother who worked as a secretary, her 12-year-old Jennifer was everything.
Certainly, Migdalia tired to reassure Rosa. But she was never sure her words had registered. The call was cut off. Only a little while later—10, maybe 15 minutes—the building collapsed.
< *c>Prokopios Paul Zios
For Paul Zios, his children’s ball games were sacred rites—events that took precedence over practically everything. He emigrated from Greece at the age of nine and was poor; he never had time to play.
As soon as his children, Stefania and Theo, were able to toddle, he began to make up for it. He coached their soccer and basketball teams year-round. Nearly every night, after work, he went to a practice or game.
Frequently, he did not get home for dinner until 10 or 11, said his wife, Dorota.
“You should see our backyard,” she said. “We have more balls and nets than you can imagine. He would never come home without new sports socks or sports gear he had picked up in the city.”
The Friday before Sept. 11, Theo asked for a new pair of high-quality soccer shoes. The stores did not carry them so Mr. Zios, 46, ordered them from a catalogue. Meanwhile, since the soccer season was starting, he screwed new nubs into Theo’s old shoes.
On Wednesday, Sept. 12, the shoes arrived, Mrs. Zios said. Theo sat on the bed, crying and cradling them.
Four years ago—1,457 days—our lives changed.