My husband and I had a few experiences when we were living in NY that brought 9/11 to the forefront of our minds even though we weren't living there in 2001. We were on the Upper East side when the small plane belonging to a Yankee pitcher accidentally flew into an apartment building. Our Blackberries were rendered useless as we looked straight up the Avenue toward 72nd Street but we knew something bad had happened because we saw the billowing smoke. Everyone was running and we kept hearing that a plane had flown into a building. I would be lying if I didn't admit that it was frightening.
In July of 2007, Greg was at work and I was heading home after a day of soaking up the city. I came up out of the subway to make one last stop only to walk into the middle of another chaotic scene - people running, sirens blaring. There had been an explosion near Grand Central; fear and panic again and this time during the evening rush hour. The reality was that this explosion was a steam pipe explosion and not an act of terrorism, but this didn't dissuade people from running and panicking until officials had spoken their calming words.
A few days later, I was heading to LaGuardia and as is common for me, I struck up a conversation with my cab driver. I asked him if he had been anywhere near the explosion. I had no idea what I was unleashing when I asked him this question. He had been in the area; he heard the explosion and saw the cloud of steam which was reminiscent of the smoke on 9/11. His story very quickly started to unfold but he rolled the calendar back to 9/11. My cab driver had been a stock broker working in the World Trade Center on 9/11. I was being driven to the airport by one of the people whose fate was changed because they were late to work that day. He told me that he was one of only a few survivors from his company. He was so grief stricken and traumatized, he couldn't go back to Wall Street after 9/11 so he gave up his career and chose to drive a taxi instead. His marriage had fallen apart and his wife and child had returned to India to live with her parents. The steam pipe explosion had brought all of the pain and heartache of 9/11 back to him as if it were yesterday and as we neared the airport and my drop off point, I felt guilty for getting out of the cab and leaving him alone. I encouraged him to see a counselor; he promised he would but we exchanged emails and telephone numbers in case he needed to talk some more. He looked at my card and said, "You're a counselor. I knew there was something special about you." I felt so honored.
We communicated several times over the next year or so and I spent most of those times lending an ear and encouraging him to see his counselor. He was broken-hearted about so much and his emotional issues were way beyond what a phone call or email here and there could do to help. He told me several times that he wanted to take my husband and me out for dinner as a thank you but it never worked out. Somewhere along the way, we lost track of each other. I tried checking in on him recently but his phone number now belongs to someone else and his email is not valid. I hope he has found peace and happiness and was able to reconnect with his family in India. I'm choosing to think this. Nonetheless, I prayed for him today at mass, where ever he is. We all need a little extra grace today, even my granddaughter.