Just those numbers give me a visceral reaction.
Our son was in Dallas on business and visiting us when the news broke on television. He and his wife had been married only six months, and she was right there, a new associate at a law firm whose office was in one of the buildings adjacent to the twin towers.
She was so close! It all happened just outside their windows, and before being evacuated down to the basement, they saw and heard much more than they wanted to. Crowded underground, they didn’t know what was happening and when (or if) they would be able to leave. In the meantime, our son—like thousands of others—was trying (and failing) to reach her by telephone and email.
Hours later, they were allowed to leave, and she took off her high heels and started the long walk through the dust and debris, going uptown, seeking refuge in a friend’s apartment nearer than theirs on the upper east side. Finally, late in the afternoon, the two made contact.
Their story duplicates that of many others, but what made it so vivid to me was her reaction. I have never known a calmer, more logical and reasonable young woman. She had lived all over the world and had a variety of rich experiences—but nothing like this. The depth of her reaction shocked me. It was extreme for such a rational and level-headed person. She wasn’t emotional in the “hand-wringing” and hysterical style, but she was clearly deeply disturbed. Her demeanor made me realize more than even the pictures how devastating this event was.
9-11 turned their lives upside down. They reversed their plans to stay in New York and came home almost immediately. She resigned her job and took an offer in Dallas; our son turned his back on his career and came back to Texas with her. Their experience was frightening and disturbing, but nothing like as devastating as the experience of many others. Nevertheless, the reaction of this brilliant, rational young woman linked me to the overwhelming enormity of this catastrophe.