Finding Your Way Home

It is the day that won't go away.

Events inconceivable to imagine yesterday are impossible to stop reliving today.

Tuesday, September 11, didn't even begin normally enough; 8 o'clock I was doubled over with an inexplicable stomachache. I went back to bed with a shivery fever. Completely covered with a down comforter, I had finally stopped chattering when my husband, David, woke me. He pulled the covers from me head to find my face and say, "You have got to come downstairs. A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center."

Then the phone calls started. First, David's mother called to tell us that Brian, my brother-in-law, who works across the street from the World Trade Center, had seen another plane crash into the second tower. This seemed impossible to digest before I fully awoke or realized what my husband had told me a minute before. We were disconnected before she was able to tell me whether Brian was safe, or if anyone had talked to Heather, his wife, who works close to Penn Station in mid-town Manhattan.

For the next hour I tried to call my sister Andrea, who lives in Greenwich Village. I knew she was far enough from the fires to assume they couldn't hurt her, but I wanted her to stay home. According to Heather, the streets were packed and I was afraid that if Andrea left her apartment, something awful would happen to her. I had the idea that she would try to go to work, but if I could just talk to her I could convince her to stay home. Finally I reached her. We talked for a few minutes while we kept repeating ourselves, "Stay home" I said.

"I can't," she said.

She watched the burning towers from her kitchen window as we talked. "Oh, my God, Oh, my God," she whispered. "The whole thing just fell." I couldn't understand what she meant, "What fell?" "The whole tower just disappeared." We talked for another minute in quiet tones and she agreed that she would stay home and if she could, call me in a few hours.

Meanwhile, no one had heard from Brian. Heather decided to walk home to their apartment in Soho to wait for him there as the phone lines were all either down or strained to capacity. She waited at home, frantically calling his cell phone and office. Two hours after he saw the second plane hit the building, he arrived home, covered in dust and looking slightly stunned with his entire staff in tow. While it took them a long time, they were able to make their way safely to the apartment where they all called family and friends to report their well being.

Later, the more ghastly calls from people more distantly related began to come. Our friend Monica's brother was on the 105th floor of tower one. He called his wife of one month moments after the plane hit to say, "There's a lot of smoke. We don't know what happened but we are going down now. I'll call you when we get down." No one has talked to him since.

Family friend Patrick Murphy worked on the 87th floor of tower one. He left home on his usual train which puts him into the World Trade Center at 8:45. He could have conceivably been kept from harm's way; if his train was even minutes late, if he had stopped for coffee or to chat with someone, but he has contacted no one and it doesn't seem likely at this point that he will be found alive.

Through the day, I just kept wishing that everyone I knew who was missing would find their way home, and that those who had already made it there would stay put. I later realized that had been the focus of everything I said this day - home, home is safe. I subsequently realized that is, sadly, not true.

People died today in their "homes" for the first time in over one hundred years - our home - this country.

Politicians and newscasters keep saying, "Life will never be the same again," and, "Life goes on." Neither is completely true or untrue. We, as a people, are who we are. Our way of life can hardly said to be different because it takes longer to board a plane. But even as life does go on, babies are born, people move, buy groceries and go back to work, our sense of safety, at least in the short term, is lost.

For me and for many in this country, it is going to be very difficult as the grim truth dawns on us - bad things can happen, even at home.

If you have a unique or interesting house for sale contact Lissa Sims at lsims@aceweekly.com.