There are a lot of things I remember from 9/11/2001. I can tell you about how nice the day was, how I found out about each plane crash, or how they let us leave work that day at around 11 because nobody was getting anything done.
It was weird driving home on Route 287 North. Drivers were on their best behavior and kept their cars and trucks spaced out like nobody wanted to cause an accident that would take resources from Manhattan. I kept looking into the sky through my car’s windshield and seeing it was empty of planes. For northern New Jersey, this never happens. Except on 9/11.
I can tell you about how I stopped on the way home and topped off my car’s gas, worried that there’d be some kind of shortage.
Or about how we waited to find out if a friend, who worked for the Port Authority in one of the towers, made it out alive. He did. His boss did not.
But there’s one thing I can tell you about the day in particular that still bothers me.
In the hours during and after the planes crashed into the World Trade Center, nobody had a good idea of how many people actually died there. Everyone thought there would be more survivors. And TV reporters were all over the Tri-State area, talking to families who had loved ones who were at the towers, all still hopeful that their wife/ husband/ partner/ mom/ dad/ daughter/ son/ aunt/ uncle/ niece/ nephew/ boss/ etc. had somehow made it out, and would show up at home, traumatized and dusty but able to heal with time.
One of those families was in a New Jersey town, the name of which I don’t recall–just that it was a wealthier one. I also don’t remember the family’s name, but the person they were looking for was a husband and dad, and the reporter interviewed his daughter, who was maybe 11 or 12 or in her early teens.
She was hysterical, as you’d expect. And she was asking people if they could help find her dad. She had a picture of him that they held up to the camera. It hurt to watch, this breakdown of a kid whose dad had always come home before that day.
I don’t recall if the interview ran on a local news station or a cable news network. They replayed this girl with her desperate request at least one more time, and then it just stopped. I’d like to think it was because someone realized her dad was never was coming home. Ever. And at that point, they were just exploiting her grief by putting it into an endless, breathless loop of despair.
I wonder how she’s doing today.