I Can’t Get a Hold of Your Father

I was in the AM kindergarten class, my mother a stay-at-home mom. Just months earlier, we’d left the cushy, New Jersey suburbs of New York City for a smaller, quieter town in upstate New York, following my parents’ divorce.

My father worked in Manhattan, just a couple blocks from the World Trade Center. The school bus dropped me off, as it did every day, in front of my house. The front door was open, but the glass door in front of it was not; I knew my mom was home because that was how she’d leave it when she was expecting me home at any minute from school. All I could hear was the sound of the television as I entered the house. Mom was sitting on the ottoman of her ugly, brown armchair. She looked frazzled, an uncommon state of being for her. She called me over to her and wrapped me in her arms before sitting me down on the couch. She tried to explain to me that the twin towers, which I’d seen more times than I could count even in my first five years of life, had been hit by airplanes. The television screen showed the towers and the pillars of smoke emanating from them. She tripped over her own words trying to explain to me that she hadn’t been able to get a hold of my father, himself only a few hours into his day as a consultant. When my sister came home, we sat by the TV and waited. We spent the entire night waiting, hearing from my father only once it had been dark for some time.

In the years following the September 11th attacks, my father spoke very little of his experiences that day. He didn’t stop working in New York until about a decade had passed, when his new job with the State Department took him to Washington, DC. But every once in a while, especially after I began my journey into Fire and EMS, he’d mention the suit he was wearing that day, wrapped up in a garment bag, and still covered in the thick, grey dust that filled the streets.


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