700 Lost on 9/11/2001

Looking south from Top of the Rock, New York City

Image via Wikipedia

Dear Suicide Bombers,

For years the devastation, tragedy, crisis and eventual war on America has been something that I’ve experienced as a historical moment in my life. An event that forever changed my life and has forever etched memories in my mind that I can’t shake and don’t need to see rerun every year on the commemoration of that awful day. I lived in Colorado and watched with horror as New York City seemed to be crumbling to the ground. At that point in my life I’d never even been to New York City and had no context for the true devastation or the impact this tragedy would have upon New York City as a community.

Then I moved to New York City and now I’ve been living here three years and have been to the memorial for 9/11. Have been by there many times, ran a marathon right past it and am present to some of the impact 9/11 had on New Yorkers and on the city but nothing like I am now after the conversation I had with one of my parents tonight. I begged her to be able to share her story as I know you will be just as inspired as I am.

She was an investment firm on the trading floor of a company that occupied the 101st through 104th floors of the World Trade Center. She was the fire warden for her floor and every time they did a drill she and her best friend, who was the other fire warden, would joke during the clearing announcements,

“I’m happy to wear this little hat and blow this whistle and I am a Christian but if an actual fire ever breaks out it’ every man for himself so y’all better pay just as close attention on what to do as we are.” They would slap hands and laugh as they all returned to their jobs.

In July of that year Ms. G made a request to be moved from the 7am shift to the 9am shift. They were possibly going to acquire Tokyo and she would be required to work later hours so the balance was that she would come into work later.

On September 10, 2011 100 people were laid off from her company due to a shift in online trading that made some people’s jobs obsolete. Managers came into work to work and left that day with a box and a severance check. All through the day her and her best friend checked in on one another from their separate desks making sure they still had their jobs. Her best friend was a single mother with a daughter in college, she couldn’t afford to lose her job. By 4:00 that day when neither her or her best friend had been cut Ms. G assured her that they had at least made it through the first round of layoffs. Three hours later the two women walked out of the building, waving their good-byes.

“See you tomorrow.” Someone shouted to them as they passed by.

“God-willing but the way things are going around here, there’s no guarantee I’ll be here tomorrow.”

Her best friend convinced her to go on a run with her to Costco that night and as they stood looking at the Cheerios deciding between Honey Nut and Regular Ms. G turned to her best friend and told her,

“I took a pregnancy test this morning.”

Her best friend barely glanced at her before saying, “I was wondering when you were going to tell me. You’ve had a gut for weeks now and you know your skinny behind never has a gut.”

They grinned at one another as Ms. G excitedly rubbed her hand over the beginning of who would eventually be my student.  She went to bed that night with nothing but thoughts of the future on her mind. She slept peacefully and woke 20 minutes before she needed to be at work to the shrill ringing of her mother on the phone.

“Baby, don’t go to work today. A plane crashed into your building, and they won’t be running the trains thi morning anyway.”

Just that calm her mother announced to Ms. G the devastation that would tear into her life and even to this day she acknowledges the loss she suffered that day has never gotten any easier. She turned on the television to see the same sight so many of us have witnessed repeatedly in the aftermath of 9/11. The difference was she knew the bodies that jumped from the 101st floor in hopes of saving their lives. She wept as she watched the building crumble in on itself knowing that her co-workers and close friends would be making their way down the back stairs the same way they had so many times in their fire drills. Knowing they wouldn’t make it as the building that had once pierced the blue skies of New York crumbled into a heap of rubble, knocked over as easily as a child’s lego building.

700 people Ms. G lost on 9/11, the only survivors those who had been laid off the day previous and Ms. G, who had made a choice in July to change her schedule so she could keep her 12 hour day and still be able to communicate with the newly acquired Tokyo office.

On the phone with her best friend’s daughter Ms. G pledged they would find the body of her mother. The Lord took angels that fateful day in September but He would give them this one thing so they could have a proper burial.  Up to a year later people were getting bones in the mail of their loved ones, most still grieving at a memorial site with no real body or body part to place into a casket. A year later, on the day the Fire Department declared as their last day of searching the wreckage for bodies the body of Ms. G’s best friend was recovered and flown to South Carolina where they had a proper burial and memorial service for the Godmother of her daughter.

Today as I hugged Ms. G and pulled her daughter, my student, into our embrace 9/11 struck me in a way that it never has before. Today, for the first time, I understand the impact of 9/11 and the tragedy and loss New York City suffered at the hands of the infamous suicide bombers.

Do you have a story? I would love to hear what your experience with 9/11 have been and if you know anyone who narrowly escaped the fate of so many who lost their lives that day.

Love Always,



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