The Worst Of Times Brings Out The Best In People

, , , , , , , | Hopeless | June 15, 2018

(I live in New York. It’s the evening of September 11, 2001. I am eleven years old, in middle school. The teachers let us watch the news, but my parents are working late, and the elementary school my eight-year-old brother goes to has not let the kids see. I am at a loss to explain things to him, and really worried, myself. The phone rings. I pounce, thinking it’s my mom, but it’s a very long, unfamiliar number.)

Me: “Hello?”

(I hear a voice I haven’t heard in ages, and realize why the number on the caller ID was so long. It’s my mom’s colleague, from Germany.)

Colleague: “[My Name]? You’re okay! You know about the terrorist attack, don’t you? I’m so sorry. Let me talk to your mom, all right?”

Me: “I’m fine… I don’t know where my mom is… Still at work I guess. Dad, too. I haven’t been able to reach them. And my brother doesn’t know. They haven’t told the little kids. I don’t know what’s happening.”

(I start to cry.)

Colleague: “But you and [Brother] are okay. Don’t let him turn on the TV or radio. I’m sure your mom and dad are fine, too. The phone lines are just so packed with people calling; it takes several times to get through. You’ll be okay. Hug [Dog], all right? Don’t cry… Shh, don’t cry… Give the phone to your brother, okay? I’ll explain.”

(I get my brother and turn on the speakerphone; the colleague explains in a way a kid can understand, without scaring my brother too much.)

Colleague: “Okay, I have to go to bed, but I’ll let your mother’s other colleagues know you’re all okay. You’re home alone?”

Me: *sniffling* “Yes.”

Colleague: “Don’t cry. I’ll pass the news on.”

(From then on, I ended up fielding calls from everyone my mom knows overseas; I was prepared to tell them that yes, we were all fine, but instead, people I hadn’t seen since I was a toddler just seemed to want to comfort us, since we were alone. To top it off, I realized that by the time the calls ended, it was nearly two am German time; they stayed up, just for us.)

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