January 03, 2005

Pieces Come and Pieces Go ...

I’m not always this depressing … honest. Some things just need to be written and due to their nature, I have put them off way too long.

Imagining myself as a complex jigsaw puzzle, I sit here wondering if I’ll ever get the missing pieces back.

Moving through life and experiencing people, jobs, adventures, traumas and thrills, this puzzle has taken on new shape almost every moment. From a distance it appears almost complete but get a little closer and the missing bits start to jump out at you. If I look upon each new piece that makes up who I am, I see that where some have left me, others have been squeezed in somehow to tidy things up a bit. I don’t plan it this way ~ couldn’t if I tried ~ yet it happens, over and over and over again.

Anne was one of the first pieces that started my whole puzzle. We grew up together in a small, tightly knit neighborhood back in good old New York. She and I lived two houses apart and by the time we were seven or eight years old, we were the best of buddies. Tony, her twin brother used to tell us we were attached at the hip. Sometimes it felt that way.

By the time we were teens, hanging out at the park, or the courtyard, Annie and I were the only two females readily accepted amongst the ten or so guys in our ‘hood. We were a part of the crew. Anne was the tomboy and I was the lady. We played integral roles as members of this little society. We were the great advisors to the guys… the mother-hens… and I might add, the brunt of many a practical joke! I learned so much growing up in the old neighborhood; stuff you cannot find in books.
I learned that you don’t shit where you live. You respect one another’s privacy but are ready on a moment’s notice to jump in and defend whoever needed any type of defending, for any reason whatsoever. Your friends were your lifeline. You never talked crap on them and you just knew they were only a phone call away. Their families became your family and you took on many of their characteristics and quirks… like it or not… that’s just the way it was.
I learned that, even if you weren’t feeling well… you made the effort to touch base with them every single day, or they’d come calling on you to see what’s the matter. I learned that you could be completely pissed off at any one of them and still find yourself craving their company. They were my buds. Nothing but nothing was going to shake that. It’s still very much the way I feel about my friends today.

Annie and I grew into adults together. She dropped some of her tomboy-traits about the same time I let go some of my flower-petal softness. We were quick witted and sharp as a tack. We were not to be gotten over on. We had the world at our feet and couldn’t wait to pounce on it. Over time, we mellowed ~ took a step back and realized there’s such a thing as tact and diplomacy. We fought this at first, then caved in and actually started to be comfortable in the adult world.

We were both ready to face Manhattan at the same time ~ me at 16 and Anne at 17. It was time to get real jobs and make some serious cash. Into the city we headed, side by side … to the same employment agency. We both landed jobs within a block from each other … me on Wall Street and Annie on Broad just at the corner of Wall. We ate lunch together damned near every day and waited up for one another for the hike back down to the ferry at the end of the workday. Both of us were in awe as we watched the construction crews building floor upon floor of the Twin Towers. We knew some of the contractors working on the electrical stuff so we got front row seats when we were invited up there during lunchtime breaks. I recall so vividly sitting on the unfinished floor of the 108th floor and looking out the skinny windows down at clouds below us! Both of us commented that we would never work so high up… never. Still, we were in awe of the structures. Who wouldn’t be?

Through the years, Anne and I lost touch with one another. We’d always send the obligatory Christmas card with a catch-up note… and we’d usually try to connect via telephone every couple of years. It always felt like coming home. We could be apart for three full years and pick up conversation like it was yesterday. Eventually, we both were married and living our separate lives. Contact had just about stopped… until the Internet.

I had found Anne on the Internet through a classmate site, and we were writing rather frequently and catching up on all our time apart. It was 2000… and we couldn’t believe how quickly time had passed. We decided to have a little reunion and try to contact some of the guys from the old neighborhood to join us. We were so excited about this. We would head up to Pal Joey’s … our favorite pizzeria on Staten Island. Plans were talked about but not set in stone yet. We were both so busy.

On September 11th, 2001 … hell broke loose. I sat at my job in Connecticut as a coworker ran up to me to tell me to turn on my radio. Reception was poor in our building, but we both sat there listening to what seemed like a terribly written horror story. My heart and my thoughts raced as I gathered up as much information as possible from the static radio station and from what few news websites as I could gain access to. I felt sick. I mean physically sick. I knew that Annie and several other friends now worked in those buildings … I knew it couldn’t be good.
When I ever saw the first images sent out on the Net, I trembled uncontrollably … the World Trade Center was ablaze. “How the fuck could this be happening” I said allowed, not caring much who was within earshot.
I was sent home almost immediately but not before shooting out a few emails to my working friends in New York City. Every email that came bouncing back to me was like a hard strike to the face. I truly felt desperate and wanted to go there… knowing full well it would make no sense.

The two days that followed were insane. My sister worked for NYPD at the time and I could not reach her via telephone. Oh I knew she was okay because she was a clerk, not a cop. Still, every time the sound of a busy circuit interrupted my calls to her, my heart skipped a beat. I sat at my computer and wrote emails to the Fiduciary corporate website in hopes of finding someone there, anyone, who might have known Annie. Her office was located on the 90th floor of Tower Two (the second one hit, first to come down). I finally heard back from someone who said Anne’s name was on the missing list. I was heartbroken, but still not without hope.

After finally reaching my sister, we did nothing more than cry through the phone lines to one another for about ten straight minutes… there were no words that could possibly have meant anything at the time. None. She too had lost so many friends and coworkers.
Once we were able to compose ourselves, we talked for a bit… going down lists of people we needed to try to reach. Everyone in NYC was either related to or knew someone who worked in the buildings or for the city services. During our pathetic attempt at conversation, a knock came at her door and it was Annie’s brother in law. He was there to spread the word that she was still missing. She was never found. No part of her was ever found.

At her Memorial service that October, after her family finally resigned themselves to the fact that she had been killed, I ran into a man who had been good friends with Anne … they had worked together and he was among the lucky few to make it out even before the plane hit their building.
He told me that he last saw her standing with her ex-husband at the elevator bay on the 90th floor. A group of fellow workers had decided that even though it was the other tower that was hit, they didn’t want to be in their building any longer. He prodded Annie to come with them as they headed for the stairway, but she said she needed to meet up with someone else on 92 first. He said she looked shaken but together.

Annie called her mother at some point shortly after the first plane hit the North Tower. Her mother had been doing dishes at home on the Island and hadn’t turned on the television that morning. Annie told her mother she knew she would be so worried, but to turn on the television … that she could see for herself that the South Tower was unaffected. Her mother turned on the set while Annie was assuring her that she was fine and heading out of the building shortly. Not one minute after turning on the set, her mother witnessed the second plane hit the South Tower (Tower Two) and the phone line went dead instantly. Annie was gone. No parent should have to go through that kind of hell. In essence, the woman witnessed her daughter being killed. Annie’s brother told me at the Memorial service that they couldn’t pry the phone from their mother’s hand for an hour as she sat in shock.

We were all at the service. All the guys who lived within driving distance showed up. We were so much older, so much wiser and so terribly sad. One of ours was lost forever. The service was held at the same church where we all made our Communion, Confirmation and graduated from elementary school. The same church where most of us later got married and many of our children were baptized. Tony (Annie’s twin) looked lonelier than I’ve ever seen anyone look in my life. It was difficult to talk with him and not blubber all over myself. He kept it together though … at least while we were all there he did.

I miss Anne tons. Sure we had gone our own ways and hadn’t seen one another for a number of years, but we always remained a part of one another’s lives somehow. I can still see her smile and hear her laughter. I choose not to imagine the last moments of her life.

One of the few regrets I have in my life is that we put off our reunion for so long. It wouldn’t have changed things, but I would have felt so refreshed. She was one of the first people to shape my life. My puzzle is quite different without her in it.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is one hell of sad story. It certainly puts my life into perspective. It's made me realise I'm just a measly , crummy fucking whinger.

11:44 AM  
Blogger Weary Hag said...

To the Anonymous commentor ... Though unsure what a "whinger" is, I doubt it's quite true. The only message, if there is one at all, that one might take away from this sad story, is that we cannot, even for a day, take those we care about for granted. They could be gone completely in a New York minute.

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yes, you do know what a whinger is. You just don't realise it. But yes, all death should instruct us not to take our loved ones for granted. But sadly, that's how we operate. A moments thought should tell us that it's part and parcel of how we operate as human beings. 'Not taking for granted' is, ufortunately, time consuming.

2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You'll find a definition of whinge here:-

http://www.freesearch.co.uk/dictionary/whinge

3:35 PM  
Blogger The Lioness said...

I am so sorry.

8:22 PM  
Blogger kenju said...

Carol, what a terribly sad story this is. I feel your loss and you probably feel a little guilt because you had not kept up getting together with her. I did not know anyone who died, but my daughter has a good frined who lost both her Dad and her brother. They were firemen. Also her old boss in DC lost his brother.

I just heard on the news that Trump wants to build 2 towers in the spot that are 1 floor taller than the old ones were. How do you feel about that? I think it is giving the finger (so to speak) to the terrorists - and providing them with another heavily peopled target, but in another way, it would show the determination of the US not to let them get us down.

5:59 PM  
Anonymous SilverMoon said...

Dear Carol,
I confess to having read this moving account when I first discovered your blog back when I was only green-eyed, not also silver. IT was so moving to me then, that I couldn't type a response. Then, my tears poured out like they did that horrid morning. I still can't write personally about what happened that day, in a way for the net.

I read this today again to remember your friend Anne from the link in your poetic tribute. The tears haven't lessened, but she (and anyone) deserves for us to read about her life. I still don't have the words. You're missing a part of yourself. I'm so sorry, dear internet friend. (((Hugs))

6:40 PM  
Blogger Alisa said...

What a tragic a moment in time for you, your friends, your family and your friends families.

6:58 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

There really aren't words for a day like Sept. 11. I am so sorry that you lost your good friend. And sorry for all of those who lost someone they loved. We all lost something that day ....

12:39 AM  

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