This story is in response to a special request from a close friend who lost three family members in the North Tower.
I can honestly say it’s the most difficult one I have ever written as there were several times I had tears in my eyes.
September 11, 2001
Gordon Cahill rolled over and looked at his clock then looked again; sitting up quickly he swore saying, “I forgot to set the alarm again! I’ve got to get moving or I’ll be late for my client meeting this morning.”
He’d never showered and shaved so fast in his life and pulling on his suit he hit the door running.
His doorman saw him coming and signaled for a cab, he held the door saying, “Good morning Mr. Cahill, I’ve got a cab waiting.”
“Thanks Isaac, maybe I can get to work on time, see you later.” He slid into the back of the cab saying, “North Tower, they’ll be a nice tip for you if you can get me there by 8:30.”
“We’ll make it.”
At 8:28 the cab screeched to a halt and a shaken Gordon climbed out asking, “Ever thought about driving race cars son?”
Walking into the office at 7:15 he immediately started the coffee brewing before hanging up his hat and checking the messages on his phone; he wrote down what he needed to follow up on and was pleased the only urgent matter was a meeting with the Captain at 7:45. A few minutes later the door opened and he looked up to see his partner walk in. “Morning Trivette, you look like you didn’t get much sleep last night.”
“For your information Erica tossed and turned for hours; she couldn’t get comfortable. Was Alex like that when she was pregnant?”
Smiling he replied, “I do remember threatening to sleep downstairs a couple of times, at least until she told me in no uncertain times that since it was MY fault she couldn’t sleep I had to suffer the consequences.”
Throwing up his hands his partner said, “You’re no help.”
“Just wait until she sends you out at 2AM to get her latest food craving.”
“Oh man, you can’t be serious.”
“Afraid so partner.”
Grabbing a cup Jimmy poured himself some coffee as he said, “Looks like I better learn to like this stuff, sounds like I’m going to need it.”
Picking up his own cup he walked over and slapped his younger partner on the back as he answered, “You could be right.”
The two of them were quiet for the next few minutes as they drank their coffee, one with enjoyment and one with revulsion.
Unable to stop himself from laughing Walker said, “Just don’t make yourself sick, we have a meeting with the Captain in a few minutes.”
Sydney came in saying, “Good morning.” She inclined her head to the only empty desk asking, “Is he running late again?”
Running in Gage replied, “I heard that, I’m here.”
As the two younger rangers bickered Walker stood up saying, “That’s enough you two, Trivette and I have a meeting with the Captain, I’m sure you can find something to do until we get back.”
Walking into the Captain’s office they found him on the phone and were about to back out when he motioned for them to sit down. Hanging up he said, “Sorry about that, I received a call from the DEA yesterday and they have requested our help again.”
The three of them were in deep discussion when the door slammed open and Gage ran in saying, “I’m sorry…but it’s all over the news…a plane crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.”
Walker didn’t wait to hear any more, he hit the door running ignoring the Captain’s call from behind him.
Turning to the other two he asked, “Somebody mind telling me what that was all about?”
Sinking into a chair Jimmy said, “Gordon…Alex’s father…his office is in the North Tower.”
All of them were silent as they thought about the last few months and what she had already been through, the deaths of CD, Cliff, Betsy & Wade…the near deaths of Jimmy and Angela not to mention the very recent episode with Walker. They all knew how strong she was, but everyone had a breaking point.
The Dodge Ram careened around corners on two wheels as he sped towards home listening to the radio in growing horror at the report that the South tower had also been hit. Racing down his driveway he slammed on the brakes and putting it in park he was out and running before the truck completely stopped moving. He ran inside, shed his gun belt and went in search of his wife.
Alex sat on the couch, totally numb as she listened to the live news reports; her mind didn’t even register the fact her husband was home until he sat beside her and took her in his arms; the tears flowed down her cheeks as she buried her head in his shoulder sobbing, “Oh my God, Walker…Daddy’s gone; this can’t be happening.”
Running his hands up and down her back he said, “Honey you don’t know that for sure, there’s a chance he wasn’t there or that he’s either already out or on his way out, think positive.”
They lapsed into silence as they continued watching and heard that the Pentagon had been hit. By this time even the most feared Ranger in Texas was fighting tears and tightening his hold on his wife he asked, “What’s going to be next?”
Knowing he wasn’t expecting an answer she didn’t bother to respond; she simply tightened her hold on him as they tried desperately to comfort each other.
A few minutes later they both heard Angela crying and climbing to his feet he said, “I’ll go get her, be right back.” He took the stairs two at a time and took a minute to calm himself down before reaching for his daughter; he quickly changed her and started carrying her downstairs so Alex could feed her.
Her scream nearly caused him to lose his hold and he ran down the remaining stairs asking, “What happened?”
“The South tower…it fell…collapsed. Oh my God, all those people, the ones trapped inside and all the firemen & police who went in to try to rescue them…they’re gone.” Turning her frightened eyes to his she added, “What if the North tower goes too? What about my father??
“Alex, honey, don’t do this to yourself.” Realizing she was in no condition to even attempt to breastfeed he went into the kitchen and got a bottle of her expressed milk that he occasionally had to use at night. Rejoining his wife, he settled beside her on the couch and tuned back into the news while also keeping an eye on his daughter as she drank her bottle.
A few minutes later her worst fear came true as the North tower collapsed as well. Standing up she turned off the TV and without speaking a word started up the stairs.
“Alex?” Realizing that his voice wasn’t getting through to her he carried Angela back to her crib, turned on the baby monitor and went after his wife; she was sprawled out on their bed and after taking off his boots he sank down beside her and gently drew her into his arms.
She felt his arms go around her and closed her eyes as she tried to block out the words and images of the day; despite Walker’s reassurances she was positive that her father had perished and the pain was nearly unbearable, they had been estranged for a long time and it had only been a few years since they reconnected.
Wishing he knew what to do or what to say he just settled for running his hand up and down her back to offer comfort.
With no idea how much time had passed she eventually looked at him and saw her own anguish reflected in his eyes; she also knew he was searching for words to make her feel better and sighing she said, “There aren’t any.”
Not surprised that she had read him so easily he replied, “Whatever you need from me I’ll do it.”
“I know you will honey, but at this moment I don’t have a clue what I need; it all seems so surreal.”
“Do you want to get out of her for a while? Maybe go for a ride?”
Pulling herself together she said, “I’m going to get Angela and sit on the porch for a while.”
“Want some company?”
Giving him a kiss she answered, “Darling I know you’re worried about me and I appreciate your concern, but I know you…you want to see what else has happened. Let me get outside and then you can turn the TV back on.”
“Alex, I don’t give a damn about the news, I’m much more concerned about my wife! I love you and when something hurts you it hurts me.”
“But what if a plane hit Dallas?”
“Trivette would have called by now.”
Silencing her with a kiss he said, “Remember what you told me is the hospital a few weeks ago…the “What ifs” don’t matter. The things which happened years ago or even a second ago are in the past and we can’t change them, no matter how much we might want to; all we can do is treasure the present…you, me and that little angel down the hall, that’s what is important at this moment.”
She was speechless for a minute as his words sank in; this was definitely not the same man who once had so much trouble expressing himself. “When did you get so wise?”
Raising her left hand to his lips he said, “The day I married you.”
Looking deep into his eyes she said, “On second thought I can sit outside later, right now I need my husband’s undivided attention.”
Knowing from the tone of her voice exactly what she had in mind he replied huskily, “You have it.”
Their lips met and the rest of the world faded into oblivion as they lost themselves in each other.
Later that afternoon they were sitting on the porch with Angela when they saw a familiar car coming down the driveway; they smiled at each other knowing that their friends were checking up on them; waiting until they joined them on the porch Alex said, “Thanks for coming out you two, it means a lot to me.”
Jimmy leaned over to hug her as he said, “You know if there’s anything Erica or I can do…”
“I know.” She looked from him to her husband before saying, “We turned the TV off right after the North tower fell,” she fought back her tears, “I’m going inside so you guys can talk about what has happened since then.” Seeing Walker start to get up she motioned for him to stay seated saying, “Talk to Jimmy, I’ll be okay.”
Erica immediately said, “I’ll come in with you, these two can get into some very serious discussions and I’d rather relax.”
Both men gave her a grateful look as she turned to follow Alex inside; Jimmy sank down on the swing and Angela immediately held her arms out to him; he picked her up settled her against his chest and said, “I swear she gets bigger every time I see her; before you know it she’ll be getting married.”
He thought again of the vision he’d had a couple of months before but said, “Trivette! She’s not even a year old; besides I plan to scare off any boy that comes near her until she’s at least thirty.”
In the kitchen Erica gently put her hand on her friend’s shoulder as she asked, “Do you want to talk about it?”
“It just seems so unfair, especially to Angela, my Dad was the only real grandparent she had, now there’s just White Eagle and when he crosses the river she won’t have any except for Angus and Betty and they aren’t exactly spring chickens either.”
Placing her hand on her belly Erica replied, “You know my Dad dotes on her and even when these two are born he’ll still want to be part of her life.”
“Fred is wonderful with her, he’s become part of our family just like you have; I know I’ve said it before, but I’m so glad you and Jimmy found each other again.”
Outside Jimmy finished filling in his partner on everything he had seen and heard about the events of the day and they were both emotional as they thought of all the lives lost, the occupants of the various targets and the ones that hit even closer to home…all the law enforcement officers, the firemen, the other first responders…gone.
Taking a shaky breath Walker said, “I hope Vince is okay.”
Cursing silently to himself Jimmy wondered why he hadn’t thought about Vince Rosetti; the man had been instrumental in helping them solve a major case. “Yeah, for a New Yorker …he was an okay guy.”
Having come back outside Alex heard them and responded, “I was so concerned about my Dad that I never thought about Vince.”
Seeing her suddenly turn pale Walker caught her as she started to fall asking, “Are you okay?”
“It just dawned on me…if all of us had been there today…” pointing at her husband she said, “You would have been the first one inside and Jimmy would have been the second, don’t even think about denying it because you know it’s true.”
All of them were silent as the truth of her words caused them to reflect on what could have happened.
Finding strength she didn’t know she had she took Angela from Jimmy she said, “It’s almost time to feed her, then I should probably start working on dinner.”
Erica spoke up saying, “I’m getting hungry myself…Jimmy, I’ll wait in the car while you say good-night to Walker.”
“Okay baby, I’ll be there in a minute.”
The two men watched her go and shaking his head Walker asked, “Unbelievable isn’t it?”
“You can say that again; the two of us both married, you with a baby and me about to have two of my own.”
“The big difference being that Alex and I were exclusive for years, but I never thought you would settle down; I gave up trying to keep track of your multiple girlfriends.”
“I’ll tell you what I told Alex when you were in the hospital…I wanted a love like you and she had…no woman ever came close to making me feel that way until Erica came along.”
“Well you deserve it partner.”
“So I guess I won’t be seeing you tomorrow?”
“Probably not, until I’m sure Alex is going to be okay I’ll be sticking close to home.”
They clasped hands and went their separate ways, Jimmy to his car and Walker inside his house to check on his wife and daughter.
She stood at the crib looking down at Angela and quietly said, “I guess there’s part of me thankful you won’t remember any of this, I would forget it if I could…when you’re older and we’re going through all the photo albums I’ll tell you all about the pictures of the people you won’t recognize. Your daddy’s parents that I never got to meet, my Mom that he never met, your “grandpa” CD, your “brother” Lucas, and…,” her tears started to fall again.
Moving to stand beside her he slipped his arm around her waist and as she leaned into him he said, “We’ll also tell you about your Grandpa Gordon, how thankful he was when your Mom forgave him for the years he missed because of his alcohol addiction, how he got help and recovered, how he fought and won when your Mom was convicted of a crime she didn’t commit, how he helped others that got a raw deal because of the flaws in the judicial system, how he got hurt just before your Mom and I got married but made the doctor bring him to the ceremony so he could give the bride away, how excited he was when you were born and how he stayed with you and your Mom when I was fighting for my life.”
Misty eyed she turned to face him and after a thorough kiss she whispered, “You said it perfectly darling.”
They stayed in each other’s arms as they watched their daughter sleep and didn’t move until she began to make the sounds they knew indicated hunger. Alex picked her up, carried her over to the rocking chair and let her nurse. Looking up into her husband’s eyes she smiled saying, “I do believe you’re jealous of your own daughter.”
With a grin and a wink he replied, “So what if I am?”
“I might have to do something to make it up to you later.”
Laughing out loud he said, “I’ll hold you to that.” He knew exactly what she was doing, trying not to dwell on the tragedy of the day, but whatever she needed he would do his best to supply and if what she needed was his body…well that he would gladly give her over and over.
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