Those of you who have known me for a while have probably heard this story…
maybe many times… but for me it’s my “never forget” story. And on this 9/11 Remembrance Day, it helps me to remember to appreciate the people in my life. After all, you never know when someone having a bad day or who is seemingly misguided in some significant way might take you, or someone you care about, out of this lifetime. Whether you are walking through a mall or department store, playing softball with your colleagues, pruning your garden in your own yard, or simply going to school, or to work in a busy city building.
This is my 9/11 story. My close call. And I’m so grateful that I have that kind of family that ends every conversation with a “love you”, because I cannot imagine being in a situation of peril, and regretting what was not said. Anyway, here’s my story…
Eighteen years ago this morning, I was preparing to check out of the Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, having had surgery the prior day. When I came out of the bathroom, my roommate had the TV on, and the second tower had just been hit. My husband was a little late picking me up, understandably, as he was riveted to the TV in his hotel room watching the same sad horror and numbing reality unfold.
Driving up toward Maine later that morning, I recall trying to reach Mike's little sister Jenifer, a Manhattan resident. With phone lines being so tied up that day it was hard to get through, but when we did, I was grateful that Jenifer had the presence of mind and consideration to leave an "I'm ok" message on her answering machine.
Shortly after that, my phone rang. I could see it was Mike's oldest daughter Mareka calling from Florida. His second daughter Athena was due to deliver their second child "any day" and I was just hoping that the baby had not come that day. I was hoping he would not have that lifelong association with his birthday celebrations. He had not... Mareka was calling to also check to see if we knew whether their Aunt Jenifer was ok. (The baby, our sweet Ian, came the next day.)
In the days to come, I learned that two of my former Keane Consulting Group colleagues had perished in the towers... Beautiful, intelligent and kind women I had worked with loosely in Chicago. Two other colleagues made it out with their lives, and yet two more (whom I had worked with regularly) were scheduled to be in the towers that morning but were thankfully not there yet when the attack occurred. Of the two that were lost, one had become separated from the two who made it out; the other had chosen to stay behind with a pregnant woman.
So why is this significant for me (beyond the obvious)? I believe that it was Divine intervention that saved MY life that day. You see, earlier that year, KCG had laid me off as part of a significant downsizing. Even that April 2001 day when they gave me "the bad news", I remember telling my employers (who were clearly having a lot of emotional difficulty in letting so many good people and close friends "go"), that there was nothing to worry about here "...this just means I'm meant to be somewhere else now..." Had they not let me go, it's highly likely that I would have been assigned to that client, with those co-workers, in that tower. And I would have stayed behind with that pregnant woman or someone else who was having difficulty making their way out (my motherly nature - I can't help it). And I would not be writing this blog today, nor have celebrated many weddings and births of within our family’s younger generation, nor have ever hugged and kissed five of my six grandchildren. And I would not be calling my grandson tomorrow to wish him a happy 18th birthday.
I am so grateful to be here, and looking forward to all that awaits me on my path! As I reflect on this event, I know that I was spared for a reason. To fulfill a purpose. Perhaps I’m fulfilling it now, or perhaps it’s yet to be revealed. But I certainly will not live with regrets – I will do my best to bring joy, empowerment, and compassion to those around me, with the intention that they extend this ripple outward. And we will see where this leads.
My hope is that by sharing this story, it will help others to reflect on how life’s valleys have lead to peaks. And if it helps even one person to remind one other person that they are loved, well then it will have been worth my time to complete this writing.