I was trying to convince Stephen that he needed to buy a new suit for the occasion, rather than wear the one he already had. A wedding, I thought, called for that. We had seen one at Century 21 and we were going to go down there later in the morning to try it on before Stephen headed out to Queens to teach his course at St. John’s University.
We woke up probably around 8am, because Stephen had to go move the car. It was one of those alternate side of the street days. It was a brilliant September day, full of blue sky and puffy white clouds. I remember that.
“Did you hear the news?” the doorman said on Stephen’s way back in from moving the car. “A plane just flew into the World Trade Center.”
I was still in bed when he came back to the apartment and turned on the TV. “Come see this,” he said. I was pretty comfortable in bed, and only listened for a few minutes as the television anchors tried to make sense of what was happening.
When I got up, the TV images showed smoke billowing out of one tower. It was an eerie sight, but we still had no idea what was going on. As we watched, a second plane raced through the other tower, right in front of our eyes. Like millions around the world, we watched the whole thing unfold on a television screen, although it was taking place just miles from where we were.
The phone lines were pretty much jammed most of the day, but we managed to speak to some key people: my brother, who had taken the PATH train to work on 33rd Street that morning just minutes before the first plane made impact; my mother and father, who wanted us to come to their house in New Jersey immediately; and our wedding caterer, who had gone to work because she had no idea what else to do with herself that day.
“If you want to cancel or postpone, that’s totally fine with us,” she said. The thought had not even crossed my mind. The wedding had taken so much time, energy and emotional investment to prepare, that the idea of delaying it for even 30 minutes was too much to consider.
“No, we’ll go ahead with it as planned,” I told her.
When my brother arrived at our apartment later in the day – I have no idea how much later – he told us how he had seen the second plane make impact from the windows of his office tower. He had walked through the streets, seeing what he could do to help, and had the idea that we might all want to donate some blood in case there was a need.
Together, we all walked to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt, but there was nobody there who could help answer our questions about blood donations. By this time, the streets were all deserted and there was an acrid smell and a pall of smoke hanging in the air even where we were at West 66th Street.
I checked in with my friend who worked on Wall Street to find that she had made it home safely by taking the bus and then walking the rest of the way. She gave me updates on other friends, near misses, the guy who was supposed to start a new job in one of the towers next week, the other person who had a brother who was now missing.
We looked for a restaurant to eat dinner – the ones that were still open were pretty much packed. Mark Messier was at a table in an Upper West Side sushi restaurant. Bernadette Peters walked out of the diner where we finally ended up. We saw Howard Stern crossing Columbus Avenue. Funny how the celebrity faces still stand out in my mind, while a lot of the other details have now faded away.
Everyone has their story. We try not to think of it too often, though every year on our anniversary it’s hard not to remember the circumstances under which we got married. We’ve moved on now – far, far away – and, remarkably, life seems so much simpler, better, clearer, than it did at that point.