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  • Claudia Steele

September 11th (9,11)

Today started off early! I woke with anxiety over my first day of classes and had to meditate so my heart would slow. By the time I got Maxx to the bus stop and headed to school I was feeling a bit better. After a few short minutes with my teacher I was greatly relieved and as I left class, I was over joyed. It was so fantastic and I was so excited! As I walked down hallways, filled with students, on my way to the bookstore for a far to expensive text book; my phone buzzed. Absentmindedly I picked it up and checked my text. It was a text from my husband, like so many texts that I get everyday. Texts I often take for granted will always be there. I replied, smiled at his comment and carried on. I clicked my phone screen off and was about to put away my phone, when the thought to check my email struck me! As I placed my finger on the home button, the screen lit up. A picture of my beautiful little girl shone back at me along with the date: Tuesday September, 11. I had been so busy being worried about class I hadn’t thought about the date. 


In that moment my brain flashed back to 17 years ago! I was in class then too. A cooking lab to be exact. Cooking labs have no windows and the doors were locked; so no way to know if anything was happening outside our bubble. I remembered running to meet the head of our department. We had a meeting and I was running late. As I ran into his office, big smile on my face I said “So, you ready to plan this event?”. However, it didn’t take long to realize something wasn’t right. He sat there, staring at his computer screen, in what I can only describe as shock. “Is everything ok?” I asked guessing the answer was no. It took a bit but he finally answered, “There has been an attack in New York. Planes flew into the twin towers. So far several planes have been highjacked and I’m not sure about details. Everything is a mess the news is trying to report things accurately but there are still to many questions.”. My first feeling was horror and dread, those poor people and, oh my god, their families. However, those feelings quickly changed. As the head of the department said “can we reschedule this meeting for another day?”, my mind flashed to a few days earlier; when a gentleman that I was dating called. He told me he wouldn’t be arriving in Toronto on Monday night as he usually did. There had been an issue at work and they were sending him away to another location. He would be heading out Tuesday morning, leaving from his home in....New York! 


My heart sank, then as if with super speed, felt as if it were in my throat. I wasn’t sure if I was going to throw up or pass out. What flight number was he on? Did he say? Was he flying direct? Was there a lay over?....Why the hell, didn’t I pay closer attention that day? I always did, always listened so intently, but that day I was distracted. A touch brought me back to reality. "Claudia? Are you ok? you don't look so good!" The head of the department looked concerned as he held my shoulder. "Um yeah, another day is fine, I have to go. I have to make a call." I replied. "Wait, do you have someone out there?....In New York?...Oh my God...On the planes?" he fired back. "Maybe!...I'm not sure." was the last I said to him as I walked out the door.


I got into the hallway and grabbed my phone. After dialling the number with a New York area code, I held the phone to my ear only to hear a busy signal. redial after redial led to more of the same, busy signals turned to odd sounding tones on the other end. I drove home redialling the whole way. The radio station played no music and focused only on up to the minute updates of what was currently happening. an announcer came on and advised that anyone trying to reach a New York number wouldn't be able to get through as the lines weren't working properly, overwhelmed with all the calls coming in and out at the same time. By the time I got home the anxiety I felt mixed with fear and dread had become to hard to bare. I sat helpless not knowing what to do unable to help and that is when one last shred of hope hit. I grabbed my cell and scrolled through the recent callers finding John's Toronto work number. I didn't use it often and therefor had never saved it, but by a stroke of luck he had called me from there the week before and it was the last number on my list of recent callers.


I dialled the number and after two rings the admin assistant answered. "Hello, how can I hep you?". I held my breath in fear of what she might say to the question I was about to ask. "I'm so sorry to bother you, but would John happen to be in?" I heard myself say the words but to be honest I had no idea where they came from. I was so numb and over whelmed that I never felt them leave my body. It was as if I was so anxious and scared that I actual felt nothing. In a way it was like my mind had blocked everything out as a means of self preservation. It may have been less then a second wait for a reply but until I heard her voice again it felt like an eternity. "No, he's not here....They just stepped out to grab lunch." she replied. I released what felt like a breath I had been holding all morning and as I did I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. "Is this Claudia?", I heard her say . "Yes, it is" I answered softly, trying to hide the tears of relief. "Oh goodness, You must have been so worried. They changed his flights and he ended up here really late last night. I'm sure he forgot to call you. I will make sure he does the minute he returns." "Thank you kindly." was all I could muster out before we both hung up.


The emotions the filled me next were...joy, then guilt for feeling joy when so many others weren't so lucky, followed by a bit of anger at the lack of a call. However, all was soon answered. My phone rang and I saw an all to familiar number. "Hello?" I answered softly trying to hide my emotions. "Hey," a voice so soft and deep it didn't seem like his at all. "I cant express how sorry I am right now for not calling you." he continued. "I meant to surprise you today with a text to get together but then THIS happened and I spent every moment that I wasn't in meetings trying to reach everyone back home and I hadn't gotten a chance to call you. I'm sorry my head just isn't all here .". There was so much I could have said but at times like those thoughts are fleeting and to be honest I couldn't be mad! I understood, after all I wasn't his wife or even steady girl we were dating for a while but had promised it wouldn't be serious; something that made sense since our lives were crazy and we lived in different countries, even if we did work in the same city most of the time. Here is the thing with non-commitment dating or friends with benefits, just because its not serious doesn't mean you don't have feelings and after knowing each other for almost a year I genuinely cared for this man. One could say even loved him regardless of our relationship status. "It's ok, I understand, I'm just so relieved that you are alright." I said tears under control for the time being. "I still want to see you tonight, can we meet after work?" He asked. I happily agreed and we hung up the phone.


later that night like so many other times, we met up. It was different this time. When he opened the door I had no time to say anything before he grabbed me, sweeping me into the tightest hug I had ever felt. I wrapped my arms around him and held on tight hiding the tears that filled my eyes. We kissed as if we might never kiss again and we talked for the better part of the night. he told me all about how he had to change his flights monday night in a hurry and had the dire situation in Toronto not come up he might not have been so lucky as to be there in my arms. He had worked in the towers and still had a great deal of friends that worked there everyday. Some were lost and some confirmed dead. He even told me about a friend, whose wife had called from her flight to say her good byes. Her flight was one of the four and she never made it home. It was one of the toughest and most emotional nights I have ever had and when we fell asleep it was the kind of sleep so heavy with emotional exhaustion that you awaken feeling hung over.


That Day will for ever be etched in my mind and though so many years have come and gone the memories are vivid. It took a long time before I got on a plane or looked at a sky line without the thought of that day and all those lost coming to mind. John and I ended up going our separate ways, amicably and I am now a happily married woman but every year on this day I remember. I remember those lost, those who survived, The hero's and the families. I feel every emotion again and even good days like today, feel heavy and sad. It also allows me to be reminded that this world is capable of great evil, but also hope, love and compassion. That day was dark, but in the darkness we found light! Light in all the hero's and all those who helped so others might live. Light in every happy ending and tale of loved ones found and those who gave there lives in those terrible moments to save others. Today always reminds me to hug my husband and baby girl extra tight because life is fleeting and tomorrow is never promised to anyone.


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