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Third grade is going really good. We are learning about jobs now. Tomoro my Daddy gets to talk to my class at skool about his job. He is a bisness man in a really big bilding downtown. I don’t no what it is calld. I want to be just like him when I grow up. He is big and strong and nos every thing about every thing. I can’t wait to show him off to all my frends.
I woke up to Anna’s voice. My alarm hadn’t gone off yet.
“Daddy? Daddy wake up! Wake up it’s today! Its today!” she said, talking right into my ear. I should have expected her to wake me up early. All she had talked about for the last week was how excited she was for me to present to her class for Career Day. I sat up and pulled her into my lap, trying to open my unwilling eyes. She had apparently been awake for a while; her new black and white party dress was already on. I started to fix the horribly lopsided bow tied around her ribs.
“Are you excited for Career Day?” I asked her, her eyes lighting up immediately at the mention of it.
“Yes! Daddy everyone is gonna think you’re so cool! They’re gonna think I’m so cool!” she exclaimed. “Don’t mess up though, okay?” she said. We both laughed, and I stood up to take her downstairs for breakfast
Anna was all dressed, her hair combed, her big white bow clipped into her wavy blonde hair, the left-over pancake bits were brushed out of the missing-tooth holes in her mouth. I had on as close as possible to the same thing: black dress pants and a white button up shirt. She had begged me to match her. Her lunch was packed, her backpack was ready, and after her insisting on wearing it, her pink “daddy’s girl” tank-top was hidden under her dress. She thought it was good luck. I went upstairs to kiss Karen goodbye, she was working the late shift at the hospital that night, so I wouldn’t see her until the next morning.
I buckled Annabelle into her seat, and walked around to my car door. On the way to drop her off to her elementary school, P.S. 234 Independence, I explained to her my plan for the morning, once again.
“Remember Anna, I’m going to run by my office to pick up my presentation stuff after I drop you off, and I will be back by 9:00 for Career Day, I promise.” I told her, even though she had already heard this plan many times before. I could tell hearing my promise one more time relieved any lasting nerves she had: her shoulders relaxed, and her sweet smile spread across her face.
I stopped at Starbucks after dropping off my Annabelle; I needed a coffee to try to wake myself up some more. I saw my co-worker, John, and we talked casually for a while about business, discussing the big meeting we had that afternoon.
“See you at the office, Reg!” he said, waving, bidding me a cheerful farewell.
I arrived at my building, and made my way through the big front doors towards the elevator. I pushed the button for floor 23. I planned to get some emails answered before I had to go back to Anna’s school. The elevator stopped at my floor, and I turned the corner to find the door to my office. I had one of the largest offices on my floor, with big glass windows facing the Hudson River. I gazed out at the passing ferries for a while, and then sat down in my chair to get to work.
It is free writing time in school. I am supposed to be writing my story about what I did for summer. But I want to tell you about today. Daddy is coming in a half hour. I’m so excited. I already told by bestest friends Chloe and Lola about it. They are excited for him to come too.
I should have left by 8:40, so I wouldn’t keep Anna waiting, but I was in the middle of an important email to my boss. A few more minutes wouldn’t kill me. I had promised her I would be there, so I would be there.
Tuesday, September 11, 2001
Good Morning, Mr. Keller
It is possible I will be late to our meeting today, it is Career day at my daughter’s school, and I have promised her I will present my job to her class. I will hurry back, but I would like to give you a forewarning just in case I do not make it.
Thank you for your understanding,
I finished my email, and was searching my office cabinets for the folder that held my Career Day presentation. I needed to leave now, to be at P.S. 234 by 9:00.
I was a few steps away from the door out to the hallway, when I felt a powerful jolt shake the building, and the walls start to tremble. The door shook, my cabinets rattled against each other, and the folders on top of them started to slide to the floor. I turned on the spot, looking out of the large glass windows. They were quivering, along with, it seemed, the whole tower. I ran to them and looked down at the 22 floors of World Trade Center that trembled beneath me. There was no way an earthquake this bad could be disturbing New York City.
What looked like black snow, enveloped in a massive black cloud, started to force its way through the air down the side of the tower. I looked up, to find fire that seemed to have been left over from an explosion, floating in the air. Glass, and concrete debris was showering down to the street. I thought about trying to escape, to run to the elevators, but I knew they wouldn’t work. My mind shifted to the stairs, but I wouldn’t make it down in time. I could hear floors above me crashing into each other. The building was crashing down on top of me, there was nothing I could do.
I thought of my Annabelle… how she was probably watching the clock impatiently, eager for my arrival. And how her friends and her teacher would call her over to the window to show her how they could see the smoke billowing from the top of the North Tower. She would know immediately that I was in there.
I had never broken a promise in all my life, especially to my baby Anna, and I was about to be forced to break one of the most important promises of her 8-year-old life.
The halls were filled with smoke, fire streaming out of the doors whose rooms had already been collapsed on by the floors above, and it was becoming hard to breathe. I had seen countless bodies fly past my window from the levels above me. Some on fire that I guessed had fallen from the explosion. Other bodies were accompanied by terrified screams, from those who must not have been unable to handle the fear of dying.
I was waiting for death on the floor of my office, hidden from the window and door. I didn’t want to see what was going on around me; it would be too painful to watch. I tried not to think of Annabelle or Karen, the agony was so much that I thought I might slip into insanity if I did. My death was inevitable, and I wanted to die a sane, and proud man… Even if I had to brake my promise to my innocent daughter, who wanted nothing more than for her dad to be there on Career Day.
The tower was collapsing; I heard the loud crashes above me. I thought once more of my poor Annabelle, and braced myself. I sucked in one last breath, and the ceiling above me collapsed.
I know I haven’t written in nine years, and I am truly regretful of that. It is September 11, 2010. I’m a senior in high school now, and I’ve been cleaning out the old boxes I found that hold everything from my childhood. I suppose I stopped writing after that day because I couldn’t bear to read what was written previously. So many wonderful thoughts and memories of my dad… my 8-year-old heart couldn’t handle that pain. The months following the attack of the World Trade Center were the most painful months of my life. I never talked, I never responded to anything. I was numb. As I’m sure my father was. My father, Regulus A. Crawford, was one of the 2,998 victims killed on September 11, 2001. I have blamed myself for his death countless times, but I’m sure he wouldn’t want me to hurt that way. My mother and I try to comfort each other, but our relationship has never been the same as it was when my dad was here. I think we blame each other for his death, even though I know we shouldn’t, that my dad would be disappointed in us. He would hate to see us in such despair.
I remember watching the clock, while everyone else was at the window. They kept calling me over there, but I was waiting for him. I thought he would come. I thought he would’ve gotten out of there before the plane hit. My teacher finally came over to me, tears streaming down her face, and the school phone in her hand. She told me it was my mom. I could hear her sobbing on the other line. I didn’t want, or need, to talk to my mom; I was smart enough to figure it out. He wasn’t coming. I felt my eyes sting, the tears were on their way. But that pain was nothing compared to the torment that has plagued me all my life. Every time I think about it, I feel sick. I feel betrayed.
This is the first time I’m reliving that day since it happened.
Dad? If you’re watching me, just know that I miss you. And I Love you. And, I will always be your little girl.
More Later, Hopefully,