On Thursday, September 27th I went to my barber’s at lunchtime for a haircut. I live and work in Central New Jersey. My barber has a salon in downtown New Brunswick. I call it a salon because he has a separate waiting room for customers, but while he is cutting your hair you are the only person in the “barbering” room with him.
I get my hair cut about once a month, and I think this was my third appointment with JC, the barber, whom I had only recently started going to. After I settled in the chair and we exchanged pleasantries, he asked me, naturally, if I knew anyone affected by the terrible events in NYC 16 days ago.
I told him that there was one person from my church who was killed, and that the funeral was Saturday. Although I did not know this man well, as a [then] trustee I was planning on attending the service on Saturday, which due to the circumstances was going to be held at another church so as to accommodate the expected overflow crowd. Then I asked JC if he knew anyone affected by the tragedy.
Well, he said, my son worked in the WTC. We were really worried about him. We didn’t hear from him until around 5:00 that Tuesday. Thank God he got home safe and sound.
From JC’s tone and matter-of-factness I assumed this was another instance of a loved one who worked in the area but was either not in the Towers during impact or not that close to the destruction. Of course, anyone who worked in that area scared the beejeebers out of their loved ones because it wasn’t possible to get home or call until late afternoon.
There were a few moments of silence as we both reflected on the devastating events. Suddently, we heard a car horn honking outside of the salon window (which opens to the street). JC went over and looked out the window.
There’s my son, he said. Well I’ll be, he must have gone and got that Porsche. He said he was gonna get one.
A minute later JC’s son (Mark) burst breathlessly into the salon.
Dad, he said. I got the Porsche. Come on, let me give you ride.
Still working on my hair, JC smiled and told his son he couldn’t leave the salon while he had customers with appointments. Maybe later.
Come on Dad, just a few minutes. But JC firmly repeated, maybe later.
At this lull, JC introduced me to Mark. I took the opportunity to ask him about his 9/11 experience.
I heard you got home okay, to your family’s relief. How did you get home?
I went to the river, and ferries carried us over to Jersey.
Were you actually in the Towers when they were hit?
I work for Fiduciary Trust. My office was on the 91st floor of the South Tower (One WTC). It was God’s plan that I got out alive.
When the North Tower got hit, I left.
I heard that they made announcements in the South Tower for everyone to stay there and remain calm, among other reasons because the evacuation plans did not include evacuating both Towers simultaneously.
Yeah, but I left anyway. I was there in 1993. When that first plane hit, I grabbed my brief case and was gone. I was running uptown so fast I didn’t even hear the second plane hit the South Tower.
Like I said, it was God’s plan that I got out.
Did you just buy a Porsche because of that experience?
You could say that. I told my wife, why wait for a moment that might never come.
On Saturday the 29th the funeral/memorial service for the church member was surreal. About 350 people showed up in a church that held 250 (our building, which holds 150 was out of the question). It was strange to see the Pastor navigating a strange church.
After the service, there was an elegant meal in a meeting room adjacent to the church building. (The man’s widow seemed to be supervising things. She had always seemed a classy individual, and she brought great dignity to the day, dealing with her heavy heart with steady comportment. Several close friends of her husband broke down during the service, including a military man bedecked in medals who started crying while attempting to give a eulogy.)
While eating, a group of us listened as the Pastor told us a few details about how the man died. Are you ready for this: He worked for Fiduciary Trust, on the 92nd floor. When the plane hit the North Tower, he called his wife and assured her that everyone in the South Tower was okay. That was the last contact she ever had with him.