Remembering 9/11/01

In August, 2002 the suburban Chicago newspaper The Daily Herald asked readers for their thoughts on the events of September 11, 2001. On September 3, 2002 they published my letter below:

At 8:30 AM on September 11, I was two weeks into a new job at the Sears Tower. The image of a building on fire appeared on a TV monitor, then a caption came across the screen: “World Trade Center Accident.”
Then the second plane hit.
As I watched the scene with my coworkers, my disbelief grew. This had to be the result of some terrible mechanical failure somewhere. The newscaster muted his microphone and came back a few moments later. Straining to keep his composure, he said, “the State Department has just told us that this was no accident.'”
I ran to my desk and called my daughters. How do I explain to a fourth- and first-grader that some people deliberately drove airplanes into two huge buildings in New York? I told my 9-year-old that she would be hearing about something bad that happened in New York, but that no matter what she heard I was safe and I would see her after school. She asked how an accident like this could happen, and I closed my eyes and told her it wasn’t an accident.
I told her I loved her and she put her 6-year-old sister on the line. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I know I told her I loved her, too.
Our building was certainly a target. Management told us to leave. The last thing I saw on TV was the first tower falling.
I was amazed at the lack of chaos downtown. Thousands of people were on the street, yet there was no running or panic. I met a friend who’s a former flight attendant and we hugged; she was very upset. I asked how they prepare airline staff for something like this, and she said, “They can’t.”
On the way home, I thought about the victim’s families: the dads and moms who would not be coming home after a routine day working in the city. I was lucky.
I met the girls after school, and once they were in my arms I held on and couldn’t let go. I realized that day that love can last a lifetime, but sometimes a lifetime can last only one more day.