One Single Day
“One Single Day”
I was 17 and he was 20 when we met on a campus sidewalk. It was a clear blue September afternoon, the 11th or 12th , 1981. I soliloquized, “what a nice day”. “Yes it is,” replied a baritone voice from behind. Despite my initial personal abashment, I was impressed by his bold move and carefree friendly manner and agreed to exchange phone numbers and addresses. This is how we began. In November of 1982, David began to show less interest in the relationship, he stopped answering phone calls and we officially broke up. I was heartbroken in a way I had never been, however I knew that I had to keep faith in whatever was meant to be. In the early Spring of 1983, Dave called, apologizing with remorse for how he had dropped me without explanation when things seemed to be going just fine. He invited me to attend a semi-formal party the following evening at the Kappa house, where he lived, so we could talk about it more. When I arrived to his room, we sat across from each other, he put his head in his hands and began to sob.
“I’m so sorry. You didn’t deserve to be treated so harshly. I got nervous because I’ve never dated any one for long and I felt that if we went beyond a year, it would be too serious. I love you and I did not want to hurt you, so I had to end it. I usually break up with girls before I have a chance to get emotional in a relationship.”
“Well, I don’t understand David, how did breaking up with me, keep me from getting hurt?”
“Because I’m going to die when I am forty.”
“I’ve been told that I’m supposed to be completely blind by the time I’m forty, so I planned to end my own life by then,” he cried through inconsolable tears. With both of us flooding the room in tearful treason he continued, “But I can’t stop thinking about you.”
“David, your vision is not an impediment to creating a great life and achieving your goals.” We can take this one day at a time, there’s no way of telling how or when our lives will end, but I am willing to risk it all and take that journey with you, we can have a good life, it’ll be alright, as long as we love each other,” I implored. David took my two hands in his and declared, “I Love you very much and I want us to continue if you still want to. This is really a big deal now, no more messing around, it’s just you and me,” he stated with assurance and a slight smile. We sighed deeply and embraced, and we went to the dance with renewed promise of what lied ahead for us.
Tuesday morning broke with a startle as the sun blazed through the bedroom window prying open our eyes in simultaneous arresting arousal. The alarm clock had been working sporadically and did not go off. “Oh my God, this stupid alarm didn’t go off, it’s almost 7:00!” David exclaimed. He sprang out of bed to wake 8 year old Davin and bound into the shower, yelling, “put my clothes out and throw some sandwich meat and fruit in a bag for me please Dear!” When re-entering the room to dress I suggested, “Well, it’s OK, why don’t you slow down and just make the next train. We can finish where we left off last night.” “No, I’ve gotta be in by 9. I’ve gotta go to the post office to overnight the disability papers and I’ve got meetings! “Just get my lunch together and I’ll grab a roll in the bakery in the trade center,” he implored.
Amid the early morning commotion, four year old Dylan got himself up and dressed, excited for his very first day of pre-K and the school bus. After performing his morning routines in a quickened pace, David joined Davin for a bowl of cereal and the two raced up the stairs to brush their teeth.
At 7:10 am, they both hurriedly raced down the old narrow pine staircase and grabbed briefcase and backpack just as the school bus pulled up to the front of the house. David picked up Dylan who was standing at the front door with me, hugged and kissed him goodbye, “Have a good first day of school buddy. Have a good day dear,” he beckoned as he briskly pecked my cheek. With an engorged attaché draped diagonally across his shoulder and chest, he and Davin bounded out of the door together. “Bye Davin, have a good day, see you later!” “Bye Daddy, you too.” I made a motion to step out and shout, “I Love You Dear,” but he had already run half-way up Morris Street towards the bus stop just around the corner. I watched him diminish into the distance. It was 7:12am.
He was hoping to get the 7:15 N64 bus to the train station or to have the fortune of one of his commuter pals pass by to give him a lift to the station. He might then catch the 7:31 AM train to Penn. (arriving at 8:17), if not, then the 7:47 (arriving at 8:32). Then another 20 minutes to walk to and ride the subway to the WTC. No leg of the mass transit system from the Freeport LIRR commuter train to the WTC elevator system was ever timely nor in unison. His goal was to make it downtown by 9 AM. He had another 10 to 15 minute walk up to the lobby and ride in the elevators of WTC One in the ascent to his 97th floor office at Marsh & McLennan. I was certain that he was stopping at the post office and the bakery in the mall below the main concourse prior to ascending to his office, since it could take up to 15 minutes to make that commute each way, using up a good portion of his lunch hour.
At 8:30 AM, with watery eyes, I put our four year old on the school bus for his first day of school. He was excited to go off without me, as a big boy going to a big school. I felt a strong desire to call Dave and share Dylan’s first school day experience and shed my emotions with him but looking at my watch I said to myself, “I’ll wait until our usual check-in time at 9:00 when he gets to his office rather than cause him to stop in the lobby to take my call on the cell. I know he has to get to the Post Office and the bakery first as well.” On my 200 ft. walk from the corner to 15 Morris Str., I looked up to take notice of the brilliant cloudless blue sky, and felt the warm yellow sun on my skin. I smiled and soliloquized, “what a perfectly beautiful day.” I returned to my living room in peaceful reprieve to where Ernie and Bert were counting socks on PBS and the Newsday laid open on the coffee table. Not more than a few minutes had passed while I skimmed the Real Estate ads, when at 8:48, a special news bulletin replaced the innocence of Sesame Street, and I watched my husband disappear. I immediately tried to call Dave on his desk phone and cell phones, but there were no signals. It was 8:55. At 9:03 I watched in muted silence and screamed, as a jet careened into the upper section of the second tower. In my panicked state of mind, I became confused as to which tower and what floor he worked on and with my index finger pressed to the convex glass viewing window, began counting floors in ascension to the blackened holes relinquishing thick grey plumes. I knew at that moment this was no accident, it was an act of war! I called my sister and a good friend who live in town and they came running over. By 9:15 I had to call his parents, who were on their way to the hospital in Poughkeepsie for my father-in-law to have a biopsy done. I caught her just as she was approaching her door.
I sat paralyzed with fear as reports of more unauthorized planes heading towards the capitol were reported, not knowing if my son whose school is just miles from JFK Airport, was safe and certain that our lives would never be the same. I made several attempts to call the school, however high volume caller traffic shut down all channels of phone service.
For the next hour, I was transfixed to the box airing the same drama unfolding on every TV station. The mood was one of disbelief, overwhelming anxiety, and hope that one of the tens of thousands of people racing through the streets of lower Manhattan and over the Brooklyn Bridge on foot, were wearing L.L. Bean green khakis and a striped oxford shirt with my husband’s face of determination. I fell to the floor in horror at 9:59 as I witnessed Tower 2 falling, screaming at the 32” glass box, “Run David, Run! You don’t have to be a hero, RUN! The city was in utter chaos, camera crews were fleeing and Tom Brokaw and Diane Sawyer were weeping from their midtown news desks, choking for words. Live aerial footage displayed the frantic flight of thousands through city streets and over bridges as all modern modes of transit were halted. White dust masked individual identities. All were one, in two contrails stretching North and Eastward from the Gotham precipice. Suddenly, Tower 1 quaked with a tremulous chill and collapsed into itself in slow motion, floor by floor, to the ground, as did my life.
As I gasped for breath, Wendy and Barb led me to take in fresh air on the front stoop. At 11:00 Sis walked up. “Oh no Debbie, please don’t say it. I could do no more than to tilt up my chin and glance in her direction through burning eyes…. She moaned, “Oh dear God, if there is a God, he will bring him home safe. You know I think David is as good as they come. He has to be alright.” The four of us sat on the stoop, rather quietly, for thirty minutes until a yellow school bus paused at the corner.
“Hi Mommy! I had a good first day of school.”
“That’s good Dylan. Did you make new friends?”
“Yes I did. There are lots of kids. Dasani is my best friend. Can I go to his house?”
“Sure you can, we will talk to his Mommy and make a playdate. What did you do today?” “We had circle time, I got my name on my cubby and my chair and we made pictures. I had fun in school today.”
“That’s very good Dylan.
At 4:10, Davin hopped out of the school bus, bounding through the front door with his “fantastical” news.
“Hi Mom, did you hear about the plane that flew into one of the World Trade Center buildings? I think it’s stuck there! Mrs. Sorensen said everything is alright though. Did Daddy call you?”
“Then you should call him.”
“I tried to but I can’t, the phones aren’t working right now.”
“Oh well maybe we can see it on TV!”
“The TV stations aren’t working right now, we can’t watch TV today.”
“Because the antennas for the TV stations are on top of the World Trade Center and they are not working because of the plane hitting the buildings.”
Every so often, Davin asked me if David had called, growing increasingly agitated that I had not been able to make a successful attempt to contact him. Throughout the afternoon and evening, with every ring of the bell, the boys raced desperately to the door. When David’s usual return time came around, between 6:30-7 PM, the boys became highly distressed. Dylan built a Lego tower and a helicopter he played with on the 2nd floor. “The helicopter is rescuing Daddy and people from the roof Mommy.” That’s good Dylan. With all of the foot traffic and drama in the house, I realized that I had not noticed Davin around for a length of time. “Where’s Davin?” “I don’t know,” each person replied, throughout the 800 sq. ft. of first floor living space. I looked all around the house, in the rooms upstairs, in the basement, in the yard. I called out to him, to no avail. Nearly twenty minutes had passed when I made my third round to discover him in the further most corner of the basement, slumped over the dryer, silent with a demeanor of consternation. I placed my hand on his shoulder. He uttered, “I’m worried about Dad. I want him to come home. I still need him.”
“I know,” I replied. “Me too.”
9/13/2001 – Davin (Age 8) Email– dear uncle rich, you heard about the plane crash in N.Y. city, rite? If you did I want to say our dad was in the bilding. I hope he is alrite. Love, Davin.
10/7/02 – Dylan (Age 5) (In bunk beds) – “Davin, do you know when Daddy died?” Davin – “Yes Dylan (sigh)…Everybody knows that! He died September 11th, 2001 at 8:48 am.”
5/22/03 – Dylan – (at the dinner) “Why can’t my Dad be here?” Mom – “I don’t know, I think you should ask God that question when you get there.” D – “How do we get to Heaven? I know, we take an airplane!” M – “No, the souls of the people who love you who are already in Heaven come and get you.” D – “So Daddy is an angel. I know we can’t see angels so that means Daddy is sitting next to me right now. Is Daddy sitting next to me mommy?” M – “Maybe.” D – “He is!” (He’s sitting in Daddy’s chair at the dining table). D – “Why can’t God send him back to Earth again? Why can’t God just throw him down so I can see my Dad again? I’d rather kill the people that killed our Dad. I’d rather sue the person that killed our Dad. Even though it’s not just one person, it’s 100.” “I don’t get how you jump on a skateboard, though.”
9/12/01, 9:07 PM – (Email to family and friends) – No word about David yet, but the word is out in a central registry list with an ID number assigned to him by the Chief Medical Examiner’s office, thanks to John, who took the time and risk to train it into Manhattan this morning to NYU Medical Center collecting all data, physical and medical. After recovering from my lows and a nap this afternoon, I’m feeling hopeful and proactive for the moment. It seems only remotely possible that he even made it to the elevator by the time the tragedy first struck, based on the time he caught the train, at 7:30 or 7:40. He had to stop at the bakery and the post office in the bottom of the Trade Center first. They hear people down there. We had our own triage in the house here from 7:00 AM until 7 PM today. Friends and family, came together like a well-orchestrated team; doing wash, bringing food, watering plants, handling kids, calling help and hospital lines, coordinating phone chains with employment people, fire rescue friends, family, hospitals, recovery centers, the governor’s office and the Chief Medical Examiner’s office…and giving me space when I needed it. WE will bring him home, safe. I hold his photograph to my heart and speak to him as he looks back at me. I’ve figured out all of the answers to the questions and anxieties that I’ve/we’ve been having re: work, relocation, family, etc., that I thought were soooo important, not knowing which way to go with each thing. Now he just needs to come home so we can go on, fulfilled. This horrible experience has brought us all together again, I got the message God, now please send him home.
On September 22, 2001, the 107th Congress enacted Public Law 107-42, the “AIR TRANSPORTATION SAFETY AND SYSTEM STABILIZATION ACT.” In addition to requiring the President to compensate the air carriers for losses incurred as a result of the September 11th attacks, the Act establishes the “September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001.” On November 26, the Attorney General named Kenneth Feinberg as Special Master to administer the program. The Interim Final Rule that will govern administration of the program and the Special Master’s Presumed Loss Calculation Tables Before any Collateral Offsets have now been published on this site. (What is Life Worth, Kenneth R. Feinberg, 2005)
What is a life worth? The VCF has a formula for that…Did he mow the lawn himself or did you use a landscaping service? How many sq.ft. is your property?…that’s worth $20/wk. How many hours did he babysit the kids? What do you mean? My husband did not BABYSIT his sons. How many hours did he spend with them each week?…That’s worth $10.00/hr. How much was your life insurance policy for?…that will be offset from your “award”.
Perhaps Mr. Feinberg should have invited the children to the actuarial table.
10/26/03 – (Davin doing homework in the evening, after a baseball practice) Davin – He was sitting at the dining table and began sobbing. When I asked what’s wrong he replied; “The coach pitches terrible. Daddy used to pitch perfect balls and then I could hit better.”
10/29/02 – Dylan – (Dylan in my lap looking at my gold charm with David’s photo imprinted on it): “I wish Daddy was still here.” Mom: “Me too.” Dylan: “Daddy’s not on this side”, (turning the charm over to find black Onyx). “I guess there’s a real Daddy and an invisible Daddy…But he can see us…he can see us wherever we go.
In Memory of David Garcia, my Soulmate, WTC 1, 97th Flr, Age: 40.