Death knocked on the door this morning,
cold hands crumbled smoldering towers of steel,
as the candles were extinguished by bitter breath,
sorrowful clouds permeated blue skies this morning,
hopes and dreams were shattered by windows of pain.
In 1996, a few years after graduating college, I went to a headhunter in Manhattan. She sent me out for two job interviews that week. The first one was in Tower One of the World Trade Center. I cannot recall which floor it was on, but can recall how I felt when I approached the beautiful Twin Towers. They framed the city for me.
I grew up in a borough of NYC and I always got so excited whenever I saw them from the Staten Island Ferry. I will never forget that view. They showed me which way to go many times. They will always mean so much to me. They were a part of my childhood, they were romantic, and they were the setting for many television and movie scenes. But they were not to be the location of my demise, for I was sent on a different path.
My second job interview was in Midtown Manhattan. I received a job offer right away and I took it. I worked at that job as an administrative assistant until 2002.
Around the same time my husband, who I didn’t meet until 2004, was faced with a big decision. Should he take the test to become a New York City Fireman, or should he try to enroll in Nursing School? Both would have been excellent choices, and both would offer rewarding careers.
One of his best friends at the time chose to take the test and wait to be called to service. They had many discussions about it. My husband ultimately chose to enter St. Vincent’s Nursing School on Staten Island instead, after a few years and much thought.
He is here today. His brave and heroic friend Jeff from Engine Co. 10 is not.
My husband chose a path of saving lives by being a nurse, and his friend also chose a path of saving lives, and lost his in the process. His friend was a hero before September 11th, and an even bigger one after. He thinks of him often and always remembers his humor, bravery and love for the FDNY. He also thinks of what may have happened if he chose the same path and was at the World Trade Center that fateful day.
I had two possible paths toward a career and was offered a job that was thankfully not located in Tower One of the World Trade Center. My husband chose to be a registered nurse instead of a member of the FDNY who lost 343 souls on 9/11.
Our paths eventually led us to each other. We talked about September 11th soon after we met. We were both from Staten Island and the subject of the tragedy comes up often. Everyone was either there or knew somebody who was. Two hundred seventy five people with ties to Staten Island perished. Almost everyone you knew lost a relative, a neighbor or a friend. My husband told me about his great loss of one of his best friends. I told him of neighbors and acquaintances I knew of who lost their lives, and of my sister’s luck in being late for work that day. She worked in Tower One.
I told him of the extreme fear and sadness of working in Manhattan that day, and of walking home to my apartment via the FDR Drive, among many ashen people. People who I did not know, but whose faces I will never forget. People who were wandering around aimlessly, some without shoes.
There are street signs and many other honors for the victims lost from Staten Island. Every time I visit there, I envision the footsteps of my neighbor’s brother, and of those lost from my hometown. You can imagine their faces and whisper their names. You can almost hear their voices on a crisp fall day.
So many people were lost in an instant, and my hometown will never fully recover from that loss. The memories are always with us, they creep back effortlessly and heartbreakingly especially this time of year.
My husband and I moved off of Staten Island in 2011. We now live in Northern Virginia, closer to the Pentagon. We will pay our respects to those 125 victims someday soon.
We are very grateful for the paths we chose. Paths which led us to each other. Paths which led us to a new life here in Virginia with two great kids. Paths which may not have intersected had we made other decisions.
We often think of his good friend and of those lost on September 11th, and of the paths they took. They were just going about their day. They were just living their lives when tragedy struck. They could have been us. They could have been anyone.
September 11th is always a sad and somber day for us. We barely put on the television for the reminders are still too close and painful. It is a day that should teach us all that every second matters and that life is short. That we must hold those we love close and dear, and cherish every single moment with them.
Our paths will lead us back to Ground Zero soon. Back to see the beautiful new memorial and museum, back to pay our respects, back to where we came from.
Our paths will always lead us home. We should honor all of the victims of September 11th by choosing kinder, gentler paths. Paths of empathy and compassion instead of anger and destruction.
Paths that lead to helping others more and making a difference. Paths that would make all the Angels proud as we salute them each and every year.
We will always remember them. We will always love them. We will spread that love to others and make this world a better place.
For when all is said and done love is all that matters.
That love will always remain, as well as the pieces of broken shattered windows of pain.