You could say this is one the saddest 9/11 stories, or maybe the weirdest. But, when I look back to that day 19 years back, I think of how my life had turned upside down on that day. When I started telling my story, it was one of the most pathetic 9/11 victim stories. But the twist in my tale could leave you speechless or even mortified.
How My 9/11 Nightmare Started
My husband Matt had his office in one of the Twin Towers. That morning when he left for work we had our cursory fight that had actually become a ritual. I was suffering from morning sickness, and I had called in sick at work and was lying in bed. We lived in a small apartment in New York.
My pregnancy had been confirmed only a week back and Matt felt we were still not ready for a baby and we should think before we brought it to this world. Our one-bedroom apartment was too small to start a family he felt, and he wanted to have a big home before the baby arrived.
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“Nadia, we just don’t have the money, time or space to have a baby now,” Matt always shouted.
I couldn’t imagine doing away with the life that was already thriving in my belly. I felt since the news of my pregnancy, our already troubled relationship had hit the depths. We didn’t see eye-to-eye and we were fighting whenever we opened our mouths.
The naïve me had no idea that there was an altogether different reason for that.
When he left for work that day I didn’t know I was seeing him for the last time. I didn’t know I would become part of the 9/11 victims stories after he was gone.
That last 9/11 phone call to the family
The Twin Towers were visible from my apartment window. I saw it all from there. It was harrowing seeing the planes hitting the towers and the whole scene unfolding on TV.
I made repeated phone calls to Matt, but his phone was switched off. Then his mother called and said that he had called to say he was stuck in his office on the 10th floor and the flames were gutting it. He didn’t know if he would be able to get out alive.
That was his last 9/11 phone call to the family. I wished he had called me. I wished I had told him sorry after our morning fight. I wished a thousand things, but those stayed hanging in the air since Matt wasn’t found.
9/11 rescue workers couldn’t find my husband
The next few days were really harrowing as the rescue workers searched for my husband. Some of his colleagues said they had seen him going down the stairs when the plane hit.
I still had hopes that we would find Matt, but as the days went by my hopes were dashed. Matt wasn’t found alive or dead and my 9/11 experiences were written about in all newspapers; television journalists interviewed me, but my ordeal never came to an end.
Almost a month later I accepted that my husband would never come back.
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I was left penny-less
After getting over the initial shock of losing Matt, I had to take stock of my life because I had a baby on the way. That’s when I realised that Matt had withdrawn all the money from our joint-bank account only days back and he had changed the nomination for his life insurance policy from my name to his mother’s name.
That was another shock I had to deal with. I couldn’t understand why Matt did something like that. His mother didn’t give me a penny from the money she got from his life insurance, so I was left penny-less. My job didn’t pay me so much to afford an apartment in New York all alone.
So I moved with my parents who lived in the suburbs and started taking the train to New York to get to work in the mornings.
My son was born
As the days went by and my pregnancy progressed, I started having mixed feelings about Matt. I did miss him a lot and felt traumatized every time I thought that he might have been burnt alive, but I also often felt angry at him for taking away all the money and changing the nomination.
I sat with my baby on my lap for hours in the garden and kept thinking what could have been the reason for his strange behavior, but couldn’t find an answer.
Three years back I got my answer
I coped alone without my husband and if it hadn’t been the support of my parents – financial, physical and mental – I would have lost myself to depression.
It was because of his grandparents that my son grew up into a secure, loving, kind person. I had met a few people after 9/11 who wanted to marry me, but my transformed relationship with Matt and what happened on 9/11 left such a scar in my mind, that I didn’t want to get entangled in a relationship all over again.
My son had gone to Texas on a school trip and they were taken to a farm to understand the farming life. When he came back and showed me his photos with the owner of the farm, I was in shock.
He had recognized his father from the photos he had seen in my wedding album, but he didn’t tell him anything till I confirmed it was him.
There wasn’t any doubt it was him although he had aged, had grey streaks in his balding pate.
Mine is the saddest 9/11 story
I flew down to Texas with my attorney and my son. Matt admitted that he was having an affair with a colleague and was planning to leave me anyway. But when the planes hit the Twin Towers he got the idea to take the ferry and go over to his friend’s place and stay there for some time till no one searched for him.
Then he went down to Texas and bought the farm with money from the insurance his mother gave him and settled down there. He had married his girlfriend and had kids with her now.
I broke down thinking of all those years I tried to cope with the grief of losing him and here he was having all the fun in his life.
I could have got him jailed, but I thought of his children and couldn’t go to that extent. But I did get my attorney to ensure that he paid up money to secure my son’s future.
9/11 books written by survivors
There are 9/11 books written by survivors where they have spoken about the trauma they went through after 9/11. There are accounts of 9/11 widows, 9/11 babies who lost a parent to the disastrous event. Mine could have featured in those stories, because for years I also thought of myself to be a 9/11 widow.
I know what Matt did to us was unpardonable, but I have got myself closure. Not knowing how exactly he died was more torturous than knowing how he duped me.
I have moved on. When I look back, I feel living my life with my baby and my parents was a far more enriching experience. I dread to think what would have happened if Matt had come home after 9/11 – unscathed.
*Names changed to protect identities
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