My mother was to fly in from Hawaii the next morning. She was coming for the month to help take care of my family while I babied myself on the couch with trashy paperback novels and Sees candies.
Tuesday, September 11th, just before 6, our phone rang.
Kristin, a plane just crashed into the WTC. I don't think your mother is going to be able to come.
It was my father, and I remember wondering how this could be a problem. I assumed it was a small private plane.
I turned on the TV just in time to see the second plane hit.
I ran screaming for Hugh to get out of the shower.
Like the rest of the world, we sat that day, and for many days after, in front of our television. We called our loved ones. We made lists and plans to try and keep our family safe. I couldn't bear for any of us not to be together. We moved as a pack.
I knew some people who were killed that day. Not well, but I knew them. There was the boy who was a broker for Merrill Lynch and who represented one of the worst dates of my life. There was a man, a friend of a friend of mine... a man who had found out only the day before that his wife was pregnant with twins. His last call was to my friend's brother asking him to watch out for his family. There was the fireman, an aquaintance's husband, trapped on the roof of the Marriott. Hugh had worked with a woman on American Airlines Flight 11. The plane which struck the North Tower.
It haunts me to this day. To think of the phone calls made to say, "I love you". To think of people jumping off roofs, saving others before themselves, seeing a plane headed for their office. Haunts me.
Like everyone else I put a flag on my car. I donated to the Red Cross. I applauded Giuliani. I worried about Bush. I prayed that our government could help reestablish our feeling of safety and security. That somehow things would be ok.
That October I flew to New York. I wanted to see for myself just what had happened. How naked the city looked without the Towers, symbols from my childhood when my father was a young attorney on the 71st floor of the North Tower, to anchor it in place. As the plane took off the Captain came on the intercom. He thanked us for our faith in flying with him today and proceed to tell us what to do, as a group, if we saw someone rushing the cockpit. We were to trip the assailant and cover him with a blanket and pound on him, with our shoes, our handbags, our laptops, until he was subdued. Then we were to take turns sitting on him, 2 or 3 at a time, until the plane safely landed.
As we approached La Guardia we flew up the island. It was a perfect fall day. The sky was so clear you could see details in the homes, the brilliant burst of color of autumn leaves, the deep blue of the water... and the perfect stream of smoke. Thick, dark, cloying, smoke, pouring forth from the what we knew was a wound that ran stories deep.
The plane was silent. One of the flight attendants began to cry. And someone else began to pray. And the business man next to me kindly took my hand as tears began to leak down my face.
We heard the stories of the many near misses. Like our friend, Phillip, who decided to stay another day in Boston and therefore missed his scheduled seat on United's Flight 175.
Our life would eventually regain some semblance of what is the new normal.
For the family and friends of Clarin Shellie Schwartz, life would never be normal again.
Clarin was only 51 on the day the terrorists flew a plane into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. As Senior VP for the Aon Corporation, an insurance group where she headed up the acquistion and merger department, it was only natural that her days would start early and that at 9:03 am she would be hard at work behind her desk. The Aon Group occupied the 98th - 105th floors of the second tower. Above the impact zone of United Flight 175.
Clarin was trapped. Unable to get down past the smoke and the flames and the fireball which quickly overtook her building.
She is remembered as being a "fixer" a person who would always help you out of a tough situation. The woman who would host your baby shower, the woman who shared her recipes (chicken with grapes), the woman who would show you around the city she loved so much...the woman who, with her husband, Jon, entertained and opened her home and her heart to friends and extended family.
Her friend, Richard of Austin, TX, said:
Clarin was willing to listen. Really listen. No looking over your shoulder or glancing at her watch, even when she was going through trying times herself.
I can't help but think that, on that last day, in those final moments of confusion and chaos and fear, that Clarin stood as a calm presence with those around her. And I can't help but realize what a special woman the world lost that day. A loss that can never be made whole.
Please take time today to remember not only Clarin but also all the other victims of September 11, 2001.
Take the time to say a prayer of peace for our world.
* Thank you for the 2996 for organizing this tribute. Without you I would not have had the opportunity to be touched by this lovely woman. I encourage you to follow the link and read more.