The sky today above New York City is clear and blue. It’s almost identical to the sky that day, eleven years ago. Like every New Yorker, I have a 9/11 story. I’ve told it before, mostly for my own benefit, just to get the words out.
I’m not telling it anymore though. I’m going to tell you someone else’s…
I had a driver yesterday taking me back into Manhattan from New Jersey and when the news radio announcer mentioned the date, he began to tell me about what he did the morning of September 11, 2001. Slowly at first, and then he got into it as though it were a week ago.
He had picked up a woman in her late 50’s from her home in Ridgefield, New Jersey. It was an early morning airport run, he’d made a million of them before and a million of them since. But this one was different for two reasons:
First, the woman was petrified of flying but was en route to her daughter’s wedding in California and had no choice.
Second, the flight she was getting on was #93, Newark to San Francisco.
The way my driver tells it, they pull up to the departures gate at Newark and his passenger starts having second thoughts.
“Maybe I can drive…or take another flight out tomorrow.”
“Look lady,” he says in an accent that’s more Brooklyn than it is Southeast Asian at this point, “You don’t have to get on the plane but I have to get my next route, so in or out of the car. It’s up to you but we can’t sit here.”
She decides to go and get on the flight. You know the rest.
The driver exhales and says out loud, partially to himself and partially to me, “Another year.” It’s as if he now measures the passage of twelve months by Nine Elevens rather than the January-December calendar.
“I never knew what happened to the daughter in San Francisco, I’ve forgotten the last name of the passenger. I’m not sure if telling her the story of her mom that morning would be a comfort or not so many years later. But every year on 9/11 I pull up in front of the house I picked her up at and I say a little prayer for that woman.”
It’s a crazy story, but one of millions from that day. We all carry our own around with us and those of us who were here always will.
That one is his.