Recap: Libby is listening to the news and hears that a plane hit the World Trade Center. The announcer is crying when he says a second plane hit the World Trade Center. Libby realizes that Avi was going to take the girls there. She tries calling his phone but there is no answer.
I began davening frantically. “Hashem, please let Avi and the girls be all right.” I davened for the people in the World Trade Center.
We walked into the apartment, and I turned on the radio. Coverage of the disaster was on every station.
There was a loud knock at the door. Daniella stood there, her eyes red. “Have you heard from Avi? Did he call?”
I shook my head. I was here but I felt like I wasn’t. It was too frightening to speak or think.
The announcer on the radio’s voice reached a high pitch. “A third plane – American Flight 77 – was hijacked by terrorists. It crashed into the western side of the Pentagon!”
We sat glued to the radio. I was davening over and over. I pulled out my T’hilim and cried as I davened.
The house phone rang.
Daniella was on the phone, frantic. “I’m coming over. Have you heard from Avi? Is he okay?”
I answered automatically. “I can’t reach him.” I burst into tears.
“I’ll be there in a few minutes. My parents are coming, too.”
The announcer’s voice came on in a burst of shock. “A fourth plane – United Flight 93 – headed for California, was hijacked about 40 minutes after leaving Newark International Airport.”
Oh, no. Now what? I was shaking.
“It looks like from what we can gather, the four hijackers may have attacked the cockpit with a fire extinguisher. We don’t have a full report yet. The plane flipped over and sped towards the ground at more than 500 miles per hour. It crashed in rural Shanksville, western Pennsylvania, at 10:10 a.m. More information is coming in.”
Just then, there was a loud knock and Daniella, along with Mom and Dad, filed into the apartment. Mom rushed over to me and flung her arms around me. “Has he called? We can’t reach him.”
“Cell phones aren’t working,” Grandma Bea answered for me.
I was too distraught to realize that my in-laws were here again, not acting angry and distant.
Mom sat down on the couch next to me. I was still saying T’hilim. Grandma Bea asked, “Can I get you some drinks of water?”
All three of them shook their heads. Dad paced by the window and Daniella plopped down on the couch next to Mom and me.
The announcer on the radio continued speaking.
The phone rang and all of us jumped up. Dad picked up the receiver and handed it to me. “Hello?” I braced myself for something horrible.
“Libby?” Avi’s voice was like the most beautiful melody that washed over me.
“Are you okay?” I croaked.
“Baruch Hashem, we’re just making it towards the 59th Street Bridge. It took time to find an available payphone. I’m sorry that it took so long to call.”
“Are the girls all right?”
“Baruch Hashem, we are all fine. You won’t believe what happened.”
“Avi, your parents and Daniella are here.”
I turned to all four pairs of eyes who were glued on me.
“He’s fine, baruch Hashem, and the girls are fine, too.”
His parents both had tears rolling down their cheeks.
I went over and hugged my mother-in-law. Grandma Bea hugged her and then we both hugged Daniella. There were no words to express how we felt at that moment. No words.
Avi told me the whole story, and it was truly unbelievable and a huge hashgachah. He and the girls had arrived at the World Trade Center South a little before 9:00 a.m. He called Mr. Morgenstern and told him he was from Yeshivas Ohr Torah and would be happy to come upstairs to get the check. Mr. Morgenstern said, “Absolutely not. You came all the way here. I will come down to bring the check to you. It’s the least I can do.”
He stepped off the elevator and handed Avi the check. Then he suggested they go outside so he could give them a proper view of the World Trade Center. They were outside when the plane hit the South Tower and, baruch Hashem, tz’dakah saves from death. He and the girls, along with Mr. Morgenstern, headed out of the downtown area and they were directed by police towards the 59th Street Bridge.
From there, they were able to catch a bus to his cousin’s house in Queens.
Mrs. Lerner called, frantic. I filled her in on what had happened. “They are at Avi’s cousin, and the girls will call you soon,” I told her.
My in-laws and Grandma Bea were all suddenly like best friends. It was amazing to see how what had happened changed their whole dynamic.
Much later, after they all left with plenty of hugs and more tears, Grandma Bea motioned for me to sit next to her on the couch. “There’s something I need to tell you, Libby. It’s something I should have revealed a long time ago; but now, with all that’s happened, I think it’s only right that I tell you now.”
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of the newly released historical fiction novel, Flight of the Doves (Menucha Publishers, 2023), Please Be Polite (Menucha Publishers, 2022), A Bridge in Time (Menucha Publishers, 2021), Secrets in Disguise (Menucha Publishers, 2020), Denver Dreams, a novel (Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials and features in Binah Magazine and Binyan Magazine, and “Moon Song” in Binyan (2021-2022).