I was already hard at work at the Senior Center that morning. The location doubles as a polling site and for those who recall, it was primary day, so we had the addition of many policemen lounging around on what should have been a quiet morning at the Senior Center/Polling Site, where I would ply them with cookies and juice and admire the photos of their loved ones that every serviceman keeps tucked in the lining their caps.
Unfortunately, the scene changed very quickly. The policemen's radios began squawking and the polling site was quickly shut down. We wheeled out the big screen television as the horrors began to unfold. A co-worker's son in law worked for Cantor Fitzgerald. He frantically hailed a cab to go and be with his daughter's husband in his time of need.... (He stopped working shortly thereafter to become the full time caregiver of his orphaned grandson. He was never the same again....)
Rebbeim and teachers made their way over from the Yeshiva across the street to witness the unthinkable and receive updates.
I spoke to Avram on the phone. I reached my mother, who could see the buildings (still standing) from her office window and was describing the "birdhouse" quality (a hole straight through...) in disbelief. I was on the phone with Avram, who only a few years earlier would have been at his desk on the 17th floor, as the first tower fell and our definition of "Freedom from Fear" was forever altered.
Avram was going to attempt to make his way home on foot. The cell phone service that we had only recently come to depend on was failing us for the first time as lines were overtaxed. I busied myself with tending to my seniors, many of whom were holocaust survivors and to whom terror was not a new phenomenon. I also ran back and forth to my home, which had become a "safe house" of sorts for the out of town High School Yeshiva students in my children's class. We ordered some pizza pies and I tried to keep them feeling "safe" ("fear", "safe".... there went those words again...).
We watched sickening images - as yet unedited - as they unfolded at Ground Zero. Images that human beings should NEVER have to witness. Images that I wish I had not seen, for they can never be erased.
I will never forget the relief I felt as I watched Avram walk slowly through the doors of the Senior Center, after walking more than 7 miles. Those of you who know Avram will not be surprised to hear that he still had on his tie and suit jacket..... (he apparently wasn't going to give in to terrorists either ;) ....)
Accounts say we lost 3,000 lives that day.
We also lost one of Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms - Freedom From Fear.
We, as frum Jews, learned to draw on our Bitachon, our faith that we are merely passengers on this bus of life that Hashem is driving, in new and challenging ways.
May we all merit the Geulah Sheleimah B'karov and may we know of no more tza'ar.