Everyone has 9/11 stories. How did you find out about the attack? Did you see the towers fall? Did you know anyone who died? I too have a story – less important than many. I didn’t lose anyone. My mother-in-law alerted me to the attack when she called me and told me to turn on the television.  As far as I went, I was just another American coping with the unimaginable, spending the day – and many days afterward — in shock and bewilderment.

But sometimes God answers prayers you don’t even know you’re going to say.

In the second week of September 2001, The Rocket Scientist had gone on the road. He intended to go to New York for meetings with engineers at a firm in lower Manhattan, and then fly to Phoenix for meetings there. That didn’t happen.

At the time the first plane hit the towers, he should have been eating breakfast in the restaurant in the Marriot at 3 World Trade Center, preparing for his morning meetings. He lucked out. The engineering firm had decided that they were not ready for his visit and so he had gone first to Arizona.

As for me, I went around in so much shock on 9/11 that I didn’t think about the alternative. He was safe in Phoenix, that’s all I knew. I worried for a friend of ours from college who had previously worked in the towers. I hadn’t talked to him in a long time. Fortunately, when I got hold of the Rocket Scientist, he knew that E. was now working in Connecticut. 

It wasn’t until later that I thought about what might have been. In all likelihood, he would have gotten out of the hotel – all but about forty of the over 900 guests did. But at what cost? What level of PTSD would he have suffered? What toxins would he have inhaled? How much more would our lives have changed, beyond the almost unbelievable ways all of our lives would be upended by the events of that horrible day?

Instead, he ended up having to get home without being able to fly. That involved its own set of troubles (such as locating a rental car and fighting with Hertz about price-gouging), but which in the end were inconsequential.

As I said in the beginning, I didn’t lose anyone. My story is not all that different than many. Sometimes when I think of 9/11, though, I am haunted by the way it could have been worse for my family.

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