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Ten Years Ago: Sailing the NY Harbor: Missing the Beacons

I will always remember sailing home from our annual two-week trip up the Long Island sound. Our silly son had re-named the twin towers Bob and Mark, for some reason that only 10-year-olds can explain, and he used to watch them disappear from the horizon as we headed east on the sound every summer. We’d sail up the CT. shore stopping at towns along the way so he could get off the boat and run around. We’d anchor in little harbors, make our way out to Stonington, CT., sometimes the tip of Rhode Island, and turn around and sail back west. Sooner or later, Bob and Mark would appear on the horizon and we knew we were almost home.

That one summer the weather was spectacularly beautiful. We had decided to take a mooring at the 79th St. boat basin for a month instead of sailing the boat all the way up the Hudson to Nyack, so we could take friends sailing each weekend and get a little more use out of the boat before the cold weather.

Dick was working in the Federal building downtown at the time, I was still home, having gotten Matt off to school. I was due  to leave for work a little later when Dick called to tell me to turn on the radio (always a radio girl) or TV, something terrible had happened. I watched in horror along with the rest of the country as events unfolded but even worse, I wasn’t able to reach my husband again.

News came that the bridges and roads were closed, there was no way of getting into the city to work. I was stuck at home in total isolation, far away from the center of the story, where  I was used to being. There was no twitter, no Facebook, no way to really share info, though I do recall AIM was working, and could at some point text. I called and called Dick’s cell phone, but he never answered.

My friend and co-worked Cherry called me. She had worked the overnight shift at ABC and for obvious reasons, couldn’t leave. It was her son’s first day of Kindergarten. She asked if I could go to her house and get him and take him to school. I was so delighted to have a purpose, to be able to do something useful, to take my mind of where my husband might be. I knew the subways had shut down, transportation had stopped, there were reports of people walking the length of the city, just to get out.

When I returned from school and called Cherry to tell her about her son’s first morning, I also confessed I was worried sick about my husband. She told me he was sitting in a studio at ABC helping to produce live coverage, a job he had held years earlier. They were in desperate need of people, he needed a purpose, and they put him to work. We joke now that he was doing my job that day since I couldn’t get in.

When she transferred me to him, I was too grateful that he was alive to be angry that he hadn’t called me. Turns out his fellow co-workers all ran to a window to see what was going on, and watched as the second plane came in and hit the tower. They ran down the stairs and out of their building without going back for wallets, cell phones, keys, anything. He went to my office hoping to find me, or someone who lives near us, so he could get home. Instead, he spent the entire day, into the night, blocking everything out by instead focusing on producing the news coverage.

So many people lost loved ones that day, I consider our family to be exceptionally blessed. Our son worried, of course, since both his Mom and Dad worked in the city, but we made it just fine. Our little town didn’t fare as well. We lost so many people who worked in the Twin Towers.

For us, the loss was about something else.  We lost Bob and Mark, the beacons that guided us home each summer, that welcomed me home to my city each time I flew into the airport, and we all lost a little innocence. We’re still here, and will always remember those who aren’t, and weep for their loss.