It was Cailyn’s birthday, though I had to start off the day as I normally would. Drop off Cailyn at my sister’s apartment, take the subway from Queens to lower Manhattan and then grab a quick coffee before heading to the office.
“But daddy, it’s my birthday,” she had said with her big green eyes when we were in front of Vicky’s apartment complex. It was a beautiful day, moderate in weather & the leaves on the leaves were turning colors, slowly.
“I know, sweetheart, I’m sorry but I couldn’t get off from work today.” I wanted nothing more than to spend the day with my 2 year old daughter but I had a presentation to do and I knew she would be in good hands at Vicky’s.
Cailyn just looked at her new pink shoes and frowned. “But what about Mommy?”
“Mommy’s coming home today, remember? When I pick you up from Aunt Vicky’s she’ll be with me, I promise. Isn’t that exciting?” She smiled and threw her arms around my leg. “I love you, Daddy.”
“I love you too, Cailyn.”
Cailyn was adopted. She came into Sharon and I’s life when she was only a few months old. And let me tell you, Cailyn was the light of our lives. She had always been a happy baby and I loved my daughter more than anything I could ever imagine. It pulled at my heartstrings to know that today her mother wouldn’t be here to celebrate the day and I wouldn’t either.
Sharon was flying in from Colorado. Her flight was scheduled to arrive at the airport at 9 in the evening. We both agreed to pick up Cailyn a bit later than usual so she could see her mother right away.
I was turning into the subway station, about to take the route I always toke to work. But I realized immediately something was wrong. The air was full of tension. Several people were in tears, and other had just stopped whatever they were doing and prayed. Reluctantly I boarded the subway – I couldn’t think of anything but of the fact that I was late for work. I was called in at 8:00 but now it was almost 9. I had spent the hour taking Cailyn for a small birthday breakfast before dropping her off at Vicky’s.
As the subway started to move, I noticed several people were on their phones and many people were swiping at their eyes. I leaned over the man beside me, who was wearing a sleek black business suit but despite his professional, no-nonsense demeanor, his eyes were puffy.
“Excuse me sir, but could you please tell me what’s going on?”
He looked at me with eyes so filled with heartbreak that I prepared myself for the worst.
“Son, did you not hear? The North tower of the World Trade Center was hit, and as we speak, thousands of people are dying.”
But although I prepared myself for the worst, nothing could’ve prepared me for this.
“Hit? Hit by what?”
“Hit by a plane. It hit the all the top floors. The people were probably never able to escape, with their offices so high.”
“Thank you sir, I appreciate it.”
I put my head in my hands, not sure what to do. I was shocked and confused. My office was on the 83rd floor. I thought of all the people I knew that worked there – my friends, my co workers, my boss. The man that pushed the buttons on the elevator. The secretary, the front desk clerk. The janitor, the interns – heck – there could’ve been children in the building. Children visiting their fathers or their mothers. Children just going to visit their parents, not even knowing… My mind switched back to my daughter. If I had gone to work at my regular time today, Cailyn would not have a father.
The subway halted at my stop, and as I walked out, the business man I had talked to said, “God bless you.”
I gave him a polite nod and braced myself to see what disaster lay ahead of me. Immediately thick smoke slithered into my lungs and crowded my vision.
Once my eyes focused, what I saw made everything go fuzzy and it seems as though everything happened in slow motion. Both towers, now, were engulfed in flames, one with a plane jutting from the top of the building. Papers, documents and clothing fell from the sky as if it were raining. Broken glass, wood, shoes and countless other things littered the streets of Manhattan. But despite the shouts of the firemen yelling orders, or the alarms blaring in the distance or the crackling of the flames nearby, the loudest sound of all were the people. Hundreds of people were wailing or crying, all at once like a big, depressing symphony.
My ears were muting everything slightly – as if they were filled with water. It was only until later that I heard shouting, directed to me this time.
“WALKMAN!” Screamed a voice.
I swiveled around at the sound of my last name. I was relieved to see Ted Kingsley, one of my co-workers who worked on the 15th floor, was limping towards me, sweat dripping everywhere, clothes tattered and blood mixed with soot on his forehead.
He choked out the four words that changed my life.
“I have a message.”
But he didn’t answer. Instead, he fished his hand into his pocket and pulled out a partly scorched folded up piece of paper. While eyeing him fearfully, I unfolded the piece of paper. It was a note filled with my wife’s curly but skinny cursive handwriting.
I took a flight home early to see you. I wanted to be there for Cailyn’s birthday. I missed you & her so much while I was gone. This note is just to inform you that I went up to see Harvey’s wife b/c I brought something back. Come up to see me when you arrive, will you? Remem – “
What is it?! What did you want me to remember?! Inside I was screaming. My world had been taken away from me. All I could focus on was Sharon. Sharon, who had came home early to surprise Cailyn. Sharon, who visited Diane, who worked on the top floor. And the planes. The planes that crashed into the towers.
It seemed that in this whole mess, people were only trying to get away from the towers, and I was the only one trying to go towards it. Gingerly I folded the note safely into my pocket. No way was I going to lose her. I ran, faster than a 37 year old man should have been able to run, to the north tower.
I didn’t care about the people who were shouting at me, or the firemen who were trying to stop me. I wanted to go into that building and climb to the top floor and see my wife. I wanted to take her home and pick up Cailyn and go out to eat, just like we used to. I wanted everything to be ok. The firemen around me were struggling to hold me back.
Then I felt a blow to my face. A firewoman in full uniform took me by the shoulders and looked me straight in the eye.
“Sir. You cannot go into that building. I’m sorry if someone you know was killed,” at the next part her voice broke. “Go home, go home to safety. Go to your kids.”
And I did. I went home. I walked all the way back to Vicky’s house, just for the fact that there was nothing else I could do.
Standing on the doorsteps, waiting for Vicky to answer the door and thinking about how to break the news to my child – was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my entire life.
Vicky opened the door, and I handed Sharon’s note to her. She broke down in tears and sat collapsed on the couch.
Cailyn wobbled over to me, and I picked her up. “Daddy! Daddy, you’re home.”
The world went fuzzy again. “Yes, yes, sweetheart. I’m home. I’m here.”
“But where’s Mommy?”
“Mommy . . . isn’t here right now.”
“Where is she?” She stuck her thumb in her mouth.
“She’s gone, sweetheart.” After saying those words, I felt as if someone shot me in the heart. It sounded too official, too quick and too odd in my mouth to be real. Sharon had not died quickly. She was trapped inside a building with no way out with smoke and fire and fumes everywhere. My wife was dead. It sounded too horrible to be true.
“But you promised Daddy! You promised she be home!”
I set her down on the couch, and put my face in my hands. I felt Cailyn’s little hand slip into mine.
“It’s ok, Daddy. Don’t cry.”
At that moment, looking at my beautiful daughter, with her soft green dress, blonde, wispy hair in pigtails, and big emerald eyes – I realized maybe everything will be ok. Maybe everything will be fine after all.
10 years later
“Cailyn, you’re up next,” said my teacher, Ms. Francy.
Normally I would be nervous, speaking in front of the whole class, but today I wasn’t, not even a drop of anxiety in me at all.
I pulled out my essay and started reading.
“What is a hero, really? A hero is someone that is loyal, someone that is brave, and someone that grows up to be an amazing person. Today we commemorate the hundreds of thousands of lives lost in the tragedy of 9-11.
Hundreds of lives were lost, and although we see their deaths all as one, we must look at them individually because the death of every person who was lost that day affected many, many people. These heroes that died never got a chance to live out their lives fully, and many of them never got to say goodbye. Maybe their last words were spoken over the phone, or by email, or passed along by a note. But the tragedy of this situation was that most of those last words were not tailored to say goodbye. Most of them were probably, “Pick up the mail,” or “Go to bed early,” or even, “I hate you.”
Any one of these people could’ve been the President of the US, or a teacher, or a fireman or woman, or part of the police force. Any one of them could’ve dedicated their lives to serving other people. Any one of them could have been a mother, or a father. It saddens me to know that innocent people were killed and that their parents, children, friends, and family are all still mourning because of their deaths. But today, as we mourn over this ordeal, each and every one of us should know that these people are heroes.
My hat goes off to those who sacrificed their lives for others, and for those that risked theirs to save this country.
Ten years ago today my mother sacrificed herself to see me on my 2nd birthday. Although I only knew her for two years, she is the bravest person I know.
Ten years ago today everything changed, but our nation grew closer. On that day everybody became one, and they only had one mindset – terrorists had attacked our country. On that day enemies became allies. We all worked together, as a nation, to rebuild the ruins of our country and put them back together. Today, we are stronger than ever. Through the darkness we pinpointed light. And I have to say that I am very proud of our country. I am very proud of the heroes lost, but most of all, I am proud of my father and mother.”
Hi everyone :) I hope you enjoyed my 9-11 tribute. I thought the least I could do today was to commemorate the lives lost ten years ago by writing a short story. I hope we can all pause a moment and think about all the lives lost this day, 10 years ago.
I actually have a story of my own. My cousin Erika used to work at the Twin Towers, and she was scheduled in for work that day. Thankfully, her alarm clock didn’t go off and she didn’t wake up until after the planes crashed into the towers. Things like that don’t happen coincidentally – I’m glad God decided to spare her life that day! I hope this short story will help you see how important this was. That’s all for now! Thank you for reading and may God bless you! ♥
ONEWORD OF THE DAY: DISTINGUISHED
She was wearing neon colored leg warmers and cowboy boots, with a super high pony tail tied up in a flower elastic headband. She was wearing a long owl necklace with a bright yellow clock face where the tummy was supposed to be, and a electric blue vest over an orange long sleeve sweater. She had some dirt smudged on her face and candy pink lips that were always curled into a smile. I fell in love with her instantly.
(hint, hint! the girl above may be a future character for Film!)
SONG OF THE DAY:
To tone it down a bit, here’s Jack Johnson’s Banana Pancakes!! :) My friend ‘Churro’ (lol) and I love Jack Johnson! She’s crazy about him :) This was the very first song I heard from him, and I really liked it because of the title (PANCAKES ARE MY LOVE) and it’s a great song too! Hope you enjoy it! :)
PS – Please visit my tumblr :)