The Saddest Tuesday

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
I was inspired to write this story on the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Even though some people may not remember the fateful day, including myself, we must never forget the price that must be paid for all of the freedom we have. I dedicate this story to all of the people who died in the 9/11 attacks, and their families who go through their lives with the memory of their loved ones and friends who perished on their minds.

Submitted: November 17, 2016

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Submitted: November 17, 2016

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September 11th, 2001

 

The day started off like any other day.  Mark and I stood out in front of the New-York Presbyterian Hospital in Lower Manhattan, going through our routine before we parted ways.  I worked in the hospital as a nurse in the children’s ward, while Mark worked in the World Trade Center, Tower 1, 98th floor just a few blocks away.  The usual hustle of people walked this way and that in dress shirts and khaki pants, some with suit jackets, and some carrying brief cases, going to work like they did each morning.

“What do you have planned for dinner?” Mark asked.  I actually hadn’t really thought about what we would be having for dinner that night and so said,

“I haven’t really decided yet.  Do you have any ideas?”

“We could have the leftover lasagna that you made the other day,” Mark suggested. “I could heat it up when I get home; so, it will be ready when you get home.”  Mark usually got home before me each day. He was the one who usually made dinner; but whenever I was off I made something. 

“Yeah, that sounds like a good plan,” I said, smiling. “Don’t forget; Tom has his trumpet lesson until five, but his teacher will bring him home!” 

“Okay,” Mark said, as he got ready to depart. “Well, I have to go!  I love you!”

“I love you,” I said, as I kissed him. “See you this evening!” We separated as I entered the main entrance of the hospital, and Mark motioned for a taxi to finish his journey to his work. 

When I walked in the main lobby, there was the usual trickle of people coming in and out of the hospital, some on crutches, some in wheelchairs, or walking on their own two feet.  I came across my good friend, Doctor Hamilton.  He wasn’t wearing his white doctor’s coat, nor did he have his stethoscope around his neck, which meant that he had just gotten out of surgery, and was probably hoping to go home and rest. 

“Good morning, John!” I said, smiling as he yawned.

“Good morning, Barbara!” he responded, as he stopped in order to get a quick conversation going. 

“Did you just get out of surgery?” I asked, adjusting the bag on my shoulder.

“Yeah, it was a long night,” he said, “There was a bad accident in the rough part of the city around ten, probably drunk driving or something.”  He yawned again. “Brought in three injured people who were in rough condition.  Luckily I was able to stich them up and they’re now recovering.”  He wiped a tear from his eye. “Think I’m going to go home and get a few hours of rest; it has been a long time since I’ve been able to do that.” 

“Yes, you need it,” I said. “So, I will let you go.  Have a great day!”

“Thank you,” he said, smiling. “The same to you!”  At that we went our separate ways as I made my way through the lobby and toward the elevator, where I squeezed in as the door was about to shut.  I saw my good friend, Grace, who was a nurse in the maternity ward.  “How’s it going this fine morning, Grace?” I asked when I got situated.

“Ah, pretty good, Barbara.” Grace said, looking up from the cell phone that she had in her hand.  “How about you?”

“I’m doing pretty well,” I said. “The week hasn’t been too eventful so far.”

“Yeah, same here,” Grace responded, putting her phone in her pocket. “How is Mark doing?” she asked as the elevator doors opened again and two people got off; the rest of us eased up some.

“Mark is doing well,” I said “He is enjoying his job in the World Trade Center, and says he has one stunning view of the city from his desk that looks right out the window of the 98th floor of Tower 1.  He keeps telling me I should come up there sometime to see…” I paused as the elevator doors opened again and I got ready to get off.  “We will see. Well, have a good day, Grace!” I said as I stepped out.

“You too!” she said as the elevator doors closed again.  As I walked in the children’s recovery ward, I smiled at the patients and asked them how they were doing.  Some were asleep; others were awake, and either stared at the walls, or talked with their friends.  Some responded with “Good” and had slight smiles on their faces as they said it.  One of our nurses, Victoria, was sitting at the bedside of a twelve-year-old boy who was fighting cancer.  He had just gone through a dose of chemo therapy.  “Good morning, Victoria!” I said, smiling at my coworker. “How is my George doing this fine morning?” I asked him, as his face lit up in a smile.

“I’m doing fine, Mrs. Barbara.” George said, trying to sit up as Victoria worked to position another pillow under his back.  “I’m better now that you’re here!”

“Aw, thank you, George!” I said, a bit flustered. “But surely having Miss Victoria here to take care of you brightened your day before I came!”

“Yes, I do like Miss Victoria a lot,” he looked briefly at Victoria as he continued to speak. “But it just isn’t the same without you!”

“Well thank you George,” I said, “I’m going to go check on the other patients, but I’ll be back to see you soon!”  With that, I continued walking down the aisle, offering my greetings to the other children.  “How is your leg, Mary?” I asked a nine-year-old who was wearing a cast on her right leg, because she had broken it in a soccer game. 

“It still hurts some, but I’m doing fine, Miss Barbara!” she said, perking up.

“How are you doing this morning, Miss Lizzy?” I asked another girl who had lost all of her hair due to chemotherapy. 

“I’m doing super, Miss Barbara!” she exclaimed, smiling “How are you doing?”

“I am doing quite fine; thank you for asking,” I said, amazed that someone who was so sick could be so cheerful.

That is how every morning seemed to go for me and I always loved every minute of it.  All of the children always seemed to be happy, with smiles on their faces, even when some of them could be going through the worst days of their lives.  Maybe it was my face that brought them joy.  Maybe it was the fact that they knew they would be out of here soon.  Maybe they were just happy to be alive. 

It was at 8:46 that morning that my world and the security of America turned upside down.  People scrambled to the windows when the roar of a jetliner flying just feet above the cityscape shook the building like an earthquake.  Within seconds there was the sound of a huge explosion in the close distance.  Moments later the image was plastered on the TV screens around the room as there were gasps, “Oh my God” mutterings, screams.  My heart wrenched with anger and sadness that flooded my body in that instant.  “What is happening?!” My mind screamed, “Why is this happening?!” I tried to comfort myself for a second.  Maybe Mark wasn’t in the tower, for some odd reason.  “Maybe they had him go get donuts and coffee.” I thought; a hint of hope in the back of my mind.  But then I thought “That’s a stupid thought, Barbara!  Why would they have him do that now?  He is in that tower.” 

The words of the reporter on the TV rang in my ears, “A plane has crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, around the 97th floor…”

“I need to go there!” I said to myself at first. “My husband is in there!” I said, so people around me could hear. “I need to find him!”

“You should really stay here, Barbara.” My fellow nurse, Betty tried insisting. “It could be dangerous!  I’m sure Mark will make it out okay.” 

I ignored this and started walking toward the elevator.  “I still need to attempt to find him!” I insisted as I walked away; Betty followed me to try convincing me otherwise. “He could be trapped, and I don’t want to lose him!”  I said.

“You need to stay here, Barbara!” Betty pleaded. “Please, don’t get mixed up in this mess!”  I continued ignoring Betty’s pleas, and pressed the elevator down button.  There was a rushing sound and a minute later the doors opened.  “Please Linda, don’t go!” Betty tried desperately to make me want to turn around as I stepped onto the elevator.  I wasn’t going to turn around; I was determined to find Mark; no one was going to convince me otherwise.

“I’m sorry, Betty.” I said as the door closed in front of me, “I’m going to find him!”  There was a jolt as the elevator began its descent down.  A minute later the doors once again opened and I walked out.  The lobby was alive with an extra hustle.  Confusion, fear, and sadness were felt in the air.  There was a small crowd of people gathered around the TV that hung from the ceiling above the main aisle that was showing film of black smoke and flames billowing from the sides of Tower 1 almost at the top of the tower, filling the bright blue sky.  I slowly made it through the crowd and soon out the front door.  As I stepped out into the terrorized, confusion bitten streets of New York City, there was the sound of sirens in every direction.  I looked ahead and could clearly see the burning building, high above the city, several blocks in front of me. 

If I wanted to get there quickly, I would have to get a taxi.  “Taxi!” I yelled when I saw one approaching.  I waved my arm so the driver could see me.  “Can you take me to the World Trade Center?” I asked the driver when he pulled up and I had opened the door. 

“I’m sorry ma’m,” the driver said with a thick New York accent, “but I’m afraid that it’s probably a mob scene with all of the firefighters and police officers around there now.”

“Then can you please drive me as close as possible?” I pleaded

“Ma’m, I don’t really want to try driving over there now,” the driver said, turning around, looking at me, “It could be dangerous.”

“Please!” I was starting to get frustrated “My husband’s in there and I have to find him!”

“Ma’m, I’m sure your husband will make it out safely” the driver said, looking into my eyes. “He’ll be fine.”

“But I want to find him!” I said. “I need to find him!  Tell me,” I continued, “if your wife was in that burning building, wouldn’t you want to do the same?”

“Alright, get in!” the driver said hesitantly. “I’ll drive you as far as I can, but after that you’re on your own.”

“Thank you!” I said as I got in and slammed the door.  We slowly drove off. 

It was a few minutes later that it was confirmed this tragedy wasn’t merrily a mistake; it was a direct attack against the U.S.  At exactly 9:02 there was the roar of another jet flying right over our heads.  We looked up and watched in horror as the plane crashed right into the side of Tower 2 of the World Trade Center.  “Holy shit!” My driver yelled “What is happening?!” 

“Oh my God!” I said to myself.  Outside I could hear people in the mist of screams and wailing.  I looked out the taxi window and saw a scene that was surely being repeated around the city, nation, and world as people watched in horror as this tragic scene unfolded.  A scene of people staring up at now two burning buildings, symbols of who and what was this nation. 

My driver then stopped the car and turned around, looking me in the eyes saying “I’m sorry miss, but I’m afraid I can’t keep going.  Most of the roads around the World Trade Center are now probably going to be closed off.  So, I will leave you here; I hope and pray that you’ll be able to find your husband!” 

With that I opened the door and got ready to get out.  “Okay, thank you for taking me this far,” I said. “How much do I owe you?” I pulled my wallet out of my purse.

“Nothing,” The driver said.

“Nothing?” I asked, confused.

“Yes, you don’t owe me anything; you are looking for your husband, even though it could be dangerous.  I respect that; so go find him!”

“Thank you!” I said as I got out of the taxi “Stay safe!”  With that I closed the door and started walking as the taxi drove off.  The place where I was dropped off was Fulton Street right in front of Saint Paul’s Chapel; about 7/10 of a mile from the burning buildings.  I looked at the chapel for a brief moment, and said a quick prayer.  “My God, my God!” my heart screamed. “Why have you abandoned me?!  Why have you let this happen?  Please let me find Mark!  PLEASE!!”

There was a crowd of people gathered in the middle of the street and along the sidewalks, looking up at the towers, wondering what could be happening.People were hugging each other, and crying in each other’s arms; a tear fell from my eye at the sight.  I knew I would have to make my way through this crowd in order to be able to find my husband, if ever I was to find him.  So, I started walking slowly, pushing through the crowd, saying things like “Excuse me,” “Pardon me”, “Sorry”, “Coming through” as tears began trickling down my cheeks, stinging my eyes. 

“My husband is in there!” I said as I walked; “I need to find him!”  When people heard this, they looked at me with complete sadness on their faces as they backed up to make room for me.  I soon got out of the crowd, and was able to continue down the street. 

When I got to Church Street, I found that it had been blocked off by a barricade which was being guarded by two police officers who were telling people to turn around.  It was one of the saddest scenes I had ever seen.  Dust and ashes among other debris was raining down from the sky as there was the constant wailing of sirens.  I could see many people covered in dust, sweat, and blood coming out of the towers with complete fear on their faces.  There was screaming, coughing, crying, and yelling as more firefighters ran into the towers carrying hoses and first aid kits, some never to return.

I slowly approached the two police officers, hoping to persuade them to let me past.  When they saw me, one of them spoke, “Ma’m, you need to turn around.” He said as I continued walking towards them “No one is allowed past here, it’s dangerous.”

I looked at him with tears flowing from my eyes “Please!” I pleaded “My husband is in there!  I want to find him; I need to find him!” 

However they wouldn’t give in. “I’m sorry,” the officer said in a comforting voice “We can’t let you pass; it’s too dangerous.”

“I’m sure your husband is safe,” the other officer said. “What’s his name, ma’m?”

“Mark,” I answered, trembling. “Mark Peterson.”

“Okay, we will try to find him.” The first officer said, “Please stay safe.”

“Thank you,” I said as I slowly walked off.

Hours upon hours passed like a nightmare of eternity.  I continued searching for Mark, calling his name, while breathing in the dust clogged air which brought coughing; but I could never find him.  At 9:50, the North Tower came down suddenly with a hellish rage, implanting terror into the hearts of everyone around as they ran as fast as their legs would take them from the devil-created cloud of smoke, dust, and debris that engulfed the city.  I knew I couldn’t go on, but I wanted to find my husband, even though that quickly was becoming a dreaded thought, one I was realizing was impossible to live out.  I soon found the small coffee shop Mark and I would usually go to about two blocks from the World Trade Center, which was now filled with dust and debris.  I fell down there and wept like I never had before.

 Fourteen years have passed.  That day is still burned in my memory, and the memory of my children.  We miss Mark each and every day, and wish that he could still be with us.  Life has never been the same; we shall never forget.


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