I was just coming back to my office at the university from teaching an 8 AM class. As I passed the department offices, I noticed a TV had been brought in and that the chair, the secretaries, and a couple of professors were gathered around it.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“A plane crashed into the World Trade Center,” someone said. “They’ve been on with coverage since about 8:30.”
I turned to go, then suddenly there was a gasp from the group. The second plane had hit the south tower. I went into the office and watched the coverage with everyone else for a stunned half-hour or so.
Then panic set in. My son Josh was a freshman at Columbia University. New York was under attack by terrorists.
I spent the rest of the morning trying to get through to my son on cell phone – the lines were so overloaded that I couldn’t get through. That left me way too much time to check the Internet for more information on the attacks – and to become more and more anxious and fearful for my son. I called my wife, his stepmother, who tried to calm me but who was too upset herself to be much help. I even bit the bullet and called my ex-wife to see if she’d heard from him. She hadn’t, but we had one of our few genuinely civil conversations in a decade.
I finally reached Josh shortly before noon. He was with friends on the roof of his dormitory. They’d watched the north tower collapse. They were heading inside because the air was beginning to thicken with smoke and “other stuff.” We talked for a few minutes about small things – music we’d been listening to, a visit his stepmom and I were planning to come and see him in November, a Broadway show he was hoping we’d go see, a new girl he’d met and liked. He ended the conversation by saying he needed to call his mom. And he told me he loved me and his stepmom and his brother….
I closed the door to my office and did two things I’m really not good at.
I said a prayer of thanks for my son’s safety and of help for all those who weren’t safe – and for their families.
And I had a good, long cry.
Out of gratitude for my son’s safety.
Out of sorrow for those lost.
Out of fear and concern for my country and what that evil deed might lead to….