Debra Ruder Communications

Writing that matters

The grandma he never met

The anniversary of Sept. 11 is around the corner, and although I didn’t lose anyone personally in the horrific collapse of the World Trade Center, I grew up in Manhattan and watched the towers being built—and remember so vividly the anguishing day they came down.

This morning I heard a moving conversation on StoryCorps, which collects the stories of Americans’ lives, between an 11-year-old boy and his mom. Their grandmother and mother, Sandra Lee Wright, died in the South Tower that day. Graham Haggett was just a baby at the time, and the last picture his grandmother saw was of him.

“Everything I know about her, it makes me glad that I had her as a grandma, even though she was only there for 10 weeks after my birth,” Graham says in the interview. “And I feel like every once in awhile I can still feel her warmth.”

What a beautiful way to ensure that his grandmother’s memory lives on.

You can listen to the conversation and see the photo that Sandra Wright enjoyed that tragic morning here.

And here’s a piece I posted on Sept. 11, 2008 that mentions our high school classmate, Susan, who miraculously escaped the trade center site that day:

Remembering Sept. 11

This is a day about goodbyes — most of them unsaid. When the hijacked planes crashed seven years ago in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, thousands of lives were cut short, and thousands more were changed forever.

As I watched the memorial services on TV this morning and saw the faces of victims on screens, placards, and T-shirts, memories came surging back. I recalled driving to work in Boston that sparkling fall day and calling my mom in New York City as soon as I heard about the first twin tower. As we spoke, the second jet roared over her apartment and slammed into the South Tower. She had a clear view from her living room window; I had watched the World Trade Center go up as a kid.

I also remembered the frantic e-mail exchange that my high-school classmates began that day amid the chaos. Susan, for example, was consulting on the 72nd floor of the North Tower when the first plane struck and was descending the stairs when the second one hit, sending smoke, heat, and flames shooting up her stairwell. Miraculously, she got out safely and e-mailed us that evening. “It is only through God’s infinite grace that I am here and relatively unscathed,” she wrote. “Please pray for those who did not make it out in time before the collapse, especially those firefighters who were on their way up as I was on my way down.”

Another classmate, Carl, wrote us two weeks later after a trauma-induced silence. He described watching the inferno from his nearby office with horror and disbelief, and then fleeing uptown with his 3-year-old daughter under his arm as the skyscrapers collapsed behind them. They were among the lucky ones.

So many people had no chance to say goodbye to their loved ones that day, and many survivors are still struggling with their grief. May September 11 remind us to appreciate each day, say “I love you” to those we cherish, work to make this a more tolerant and peaceful world, and, especially, to never forget.