September 11, 2001 – Within The Dark Void of Loss for One Last Brief Flicker of Light


September 11, 2001 – I was watching the 13″ TV on my kitchen counter while feeding breakfast to my then 18 month old Lizzie Rose. She had just started attending “Center Base” class for special needs infants and toddlers at the nearby county MR/DD school. It was an incredible morning, my doors and windows open to the warm sunny breeze. The sky was that remarkable Northeast Ohio sapphire blue that hints at the approaching cooler temperatures waiting in the wings. A trace of autumn hung in the air. My two older daughters toiling away with their first classes of the day at middle and high school(s), I had planned to run errands after dropping off my littlest girl at her school that glorious morning … but that was about to change. Lizzie Rose sipped on her cup of juice …

FOX and Friends was getting breaking information about a plane crashing into WTC1, but had no details as their cameras on the roof from their own building across the city keyed-in on the thick dark smoke reaching up from the upper floors of the building. A small private aircraft? New York City was enjoying the same fantastic weather conditions I was hundreds of miles west of them. A small private aircraft? Some fool that had been taking advantage of the beautiful viability to sightsee the busy metropolis of ant-sized New Yorkers below had gotten too close to the WTC? The pilot had a major medical episode (heart attack or stroke) and had lost control? These were things roaming through my mind and even being repeated as speculation on the various alphabet and cable networks that I was zapping back and forth between for any solid facts. It was at this time they were informing the viewers that the WTC was set up with a system where the people inside wouldn’t necessarily be evacuated … someone even suggesting it might even be safer just to remain in the unaffected offices. I shook my head … Are you kidding me? I’d be out of there.

At this point Lizzie Rose and I were running late. I just couldn’t leave the news. I scooped a handful of Cheerios onto her highchair tray and she nibbled. All the networks now had tighter camera shots of the smoldering WTC1 from the roofs of other NYC buildings, and it was the only scene streaming across the television channels. Even the Weather Channel and other cable stations not news related would soon be covering this day of infamy. And then I saw it …

From the right side of my 13″ TV screen I saw the large passenger jet enter the psyche of this nation, and the world, to change us all forever. It banked it’s massive wingspan and glided with ease into WTC2 peeping out from behind the smoke-billowing WTC1 at center screen. Before the second plane even hit the second Tower and a monstrous ball of thick flame and debris shot out from the hidden building’s left side, I knew exactly what was going on. Exactly … and I also knew the day’s events were far from over. Two more planes would dive down from the sky that beautiful morning in massive death and destruction. As emergency/first responders swarmed to the WTC section of NYC I could not shake the feeling that we were all helplessly watching a massive asteroid making its approach … and then it hit. First one, and then the other, the two tall buildings that had reached into the brilliant September morning sky cascaded down to Earth like a merciless tsunami, plumes of liquidated materials rolling through the streets of the city like an apocalyptic plague chasing and threatening those souls who had not been crushed.

As the days, weeks, and months unfolded we all sat on the narrow edge of hope that the remaining FDNY, NYPD, Port Authority, EMS, and volunteers from across the country filing into Ground Zero would find somebody … anybody alive under the mountain of terror. It was during the following days I could not help but ponder what the victims had said or thought in their last moments…

And then came the audio tapes of phone calls from inside the WTC. Some were able to spend their last “Lucky Star” on actually speaking with a loved one. Some could only leave a message of condensed fear and love laced with soulful regret, and even empathy for those they were leaving behind, on an answering machine for a loved one to discover within the dark void of loss for one last brief flicker of light. And some, ironically, offered their last words and breath to a 9-11 operator … or to their batalion command.

And ten years later more last moments are reaching our ears and eyes.

There literally are millions of individual “moments” within those last moments on September 11, 2001 … Whether you were there, or knew somebody in the attacks, or were just watching from a safe distance in complete shock and disbelief. Some of us recall those moments more vividly than others do. Some foolishly choose to forget … and some insist we must forget, or even hide the images/memories … and others are more than willing to appease them.


Me? I’ll never forget those moments on the opposite side of a television screen, and leaning across a highchair tray of an innocent baby girl nibbling on Cheerios clenched between her tiny fingers, and the moments her older sisters came in from school looking for answers and a sense of security from me. I knew the world they would grow up and live in would not be the world they had imagined before they headed off to school earlier that morning. I knew some of their friends would be removing their graduation caps and gowns, and putting on military uniforms, arming themselves with what they refused to forget about those dark moments of September 11, 2001 … and I thank God every day for them. They are preserving millions of future moments for all of us at the expense of their own…

Dave Astan

Cross-posted @ Chandler’s Watch