Letter to the Editor: Looking Back After Twenty Years ~ A Reflection on 9/11

~ Submitted by Andrea Cleghorn

Baby boomers will remember the phrase, ”There are 8 million stories in The Naked City. This is one of them.”

A  young man came in and announced, “A plane just hit the World Trade Center.”

I waited for the punchline.

He quickly introduced himself as an occupational therapist. It was my first day as a social work intern in the behavioral health /addictions unit at Emerson Hospital. Rounds were about to begin, but we were the first to arrive in the conference room that morning.

The news kept getting worse, of course, and the TV in the common area replayed the still-unfolding horror, but not for long. One of the nurses came in and clicked it off. “This isn’t very uplifting,” she said in a calm voice.

One psychiatrist, who looked as shell-shocked as anyone else, said in answer to a minor staff complaint,  ”This isn’t the day for that.”

Social work was new for me, as I had worked in the newspaper business since getting a journalism degree decades earlier. I wanted to do work that was less spectator-ish, but thought I might miss the drama of the Herald newsroom. There you go.

My son, daughter, and I were all college students then—though at different schools—and had planned to have dinner together that night. I picked him up, and the two of us collected her, and the three of us drove around looking for a restaurant near Wheaton College. One restaurant after another was closed, but I was desperate to sit down with them for reasons beyond nutrition.

The weekend after 9/11, a close friend came from the city to my house on Fletcher Road and tried to convince me to flee with her to someplace safe upcountry because Boston might be next. I talked her into staying and helping me plant boxwood in front of my house instead. Very soon, anthrax came along, and we were all afraid to open our mail.

In the past 20 years, cancer has come along, but here I am. My kids and I watched that house burn, but the small evergreens remained, and I soon moved down the street to a house I love. Ireland has given me a second home but has nothing to do with buying real estate. In June of 2016, my son Alex died; two months later, in San Francisco, my daughter gave birth to my grandson Sebastian Alexander.