The sky was so blue, the air so clear. My house was in shambles. The weekend wedding and family gathering was over.
The blissful bride and groom had driven back to New York City on Monday, their green Honda Accord crammed with presents, a wilted bouquet and confetti. As they pulled out the driveway, I remember thinking, this young couple has the world by the tail.
Three days before I’d watched Jennifer’s bridesmaids, wearing pink Lilly dresses, walk down the aisle of St. Martha’s Church. Chris waited at the altar sporting a blue blazer and cream slacks, surrounded by his groomsmen. My brother Robert played a trumpet fanfare as the beautiful bride entered the sunlit sanctuary. The next few days blurred with champagne toasts, happy hugs, family joy.
Now it was Tuesday, recovery day, September 11, 2001. I stood in my kitchen with my morning cup of coffee, pondering where to begin— making beds, doing laundry or finishing the Sunday crossword. On the television, a CNN announcer said something about a plane crashing into the World Trade Center. I started watching and saw the horror unfold in real time.
Everyone has a personal memory or story of that day. Many are heartbreaking. Our family was lucky.
Daughter Alex and husband Tim had already left for Logan Airport in Boston earlier that morning to board their United flight back to California. Serendipitously, a few days before the wedding, they had decided they would “sleep in” and take a later flight on 9/11. They were not aboard United Flight 175 from Boston.
In Washington, D.C., daughter Lisa’s office was located several miles from the Pentagon. She was safe.
Chris and Jennifer were in New York City — horrified, traumatized, bewildered and scared, but unharmed. They spent the first three weeks of married life attending memorial services and funerals of friends and colleagues, but they knew they were the lucky ones.
This all happened 15 years ago but my memories are still searingly alive. I’ll never forget the fearful phone calls from relatives and friends that morning. “Have you heard from Chris and Jen? Are they okay?” Or the relief when Alex and Tim walked back in the house — finally — and said, “We could have been on that plane.”
Two years ago Mr. Wonderful and I went to New York City for a three-day visit. We saw Broadway plays, ate at special restaurants, and felt compelled to visit the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
We rode the subway downtown from 51st Street. Emerging from the station, we looked up at the Freedom Tower, now known as World Trade Center One. Bathed in afternoon sunlight, seemingly climbing to the clouds, the sleek tall building was magnificent. I teared up recognizing it was also a profound symbol of our strength as a nation.
None of my grandchildren were alive on 9/11. To them it will be like Pearl Harbor was to my generation — a wrenching act of war that changed the world, something they will read about in history books. But That Day is something I will never — and can never — forget.
“If we learn nothing else from this tragedy we learn that life is short
and there is no time for hate.”
Sandy Dahl, wife of Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl, whose plane crashed
in Shanksville, Pennsylvania on 9/11.