Seven years and two days ago my sister-in-law called and in a fearful voice asked where Jack was. “Right here,” I said jovially. I was cleaning up his neck with a trimmer before he headed out to catch his flight. “Thank God!” she said, which I thought was weird, and then she said, “Turn on the news.”
Like the rest of the world we spent the following days in a frightened, confused blur. I functioned on autopilot trying to make sense of what had happened and what it meant for me and my children. As the days turned to weeks and the fog somewhat lifted I took my then youngest to the nearest park to shake the stink off of us. The only other people in the park when we arrived were a man and his granddaughters. Amelia was thrilled to have someone to play with and she and the two little girls took off in a game of tag. The man and I sat on a nearby bench and exchanged small talk.
His daughter and her three children were in town for a visit and he’d taken the oldest two out while their baby brother napped so that his daughter (their mother) could get some much needed rest. She hadn’t been sleeping well since the attacks, he said. Her husband had been in the Tower 2 and he hadn’t made it out. I remember that he had a difficult time keeping his voice steady, that he looked at the mulch as he talked, and then, as he finished his eyes sought out his granddaughters on the playground. “No one,” he said with a hasty swipe to his wet eyes, “should have to go through this. John was a good man, a good husband, and he loved these kids. My girl’s as strong as they come, and she’ll get through this, but she shouldn’t have to.”
I don’t ever want to forget that day, the grandfather and his confidence in his daughter’s mettle. We’ve been back to that park countless times since then and I always look for that man. I know how 9/11 turned out for me. I wonder how it turned out for his daughter.