The best hug I ever received in my life was from my father on September 12th, 2001. You see – for about an hour or 2 the day before my father had not known whether I was alive, dead, injured, or safe. And as any of you parents out there know, believing that your child is somehow in harm’s way for a minute - even for a second - is too long.
I was at the World Trade Center on September 11th. In fact – I was at the WTC every morning as it was my gateway to the financial district. Whether I came in from Hoboken by ferry and took a shuttle bus down the West Side Highway where it would deposit us in front of WTC 1. Whether I would take the PATH to the station below the WTC. Whether I would stroll through the concourse for some early morning retail therapy. Or pause to admire some vegetables at the Farmer’s Market. I was always at the WTC. Every morning. And dad knew this because at least 2 or 3 mornings a week I would be on the phone with him while making my way from the WTC to the office on Broad Street. So when the first plane hit, and dad looked at the clock, he knew exactly where I was.
I don’t really talk about my 9/11 experience and whenever the subject of 9/11 comes up in conversation, I tend to downplay my story. For me, it’s not a badge or a label or something to be proud of. I don’t think it was that noble. Or heroic. Or brave. I just sort of feel like I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Also, there’s no short and easy way for me to describe that morning or the days that followed. Part of that is me. In general I tend to share a lot of details and a lot of back-story and I have a hard time not sharing the full context.
But especially that day. That story. I wrote about it in grand detail while it was fresh in my mind. Five and a half single-spaced pages or 4357 words to be exact. And when the subject comes up – or someone asks – that’s how I remember it. But it’s not efficient to share five and a half single-spaced pages or 4357 words on the subject – particularly in the course of normal conversation.
Back to the hug. By the time we got together, dad had already known for some time that I was ok. But it hadn’t dampened any of the fear or anxiety he had felt the day before because that first moment of seeing each other was…it was like nothing I have ever known. My father broke down and I found myself in the role of parent: comforting, holding, soothing. It was without a doubt the greatest hug I have ever received. And I suppose given. It was pure love. Nothing else.
In Memoriam: for those who lost their lives on that tragic day 8 years ago and for all of us who still grieve.
5 hours ago