Saturday, September 11, 2010


On another anniversary of 9/11, I am reminded of the Hebrew word L'Chaim, translated as "To Life!"

On that infamous day itself in 2001, I found out about 
the attacks as I was walking along a corridor in Building 3 of Folsom State Prison, on my way to my class at the vocational printing shop, where I was mostly trying to learn some computer skills. There was a shout from one of the cells, and a fellow inmate who also attended the class but had not had his cell opened for release yet, called me over as the small TV set in his cell had just shown the first plane flying into the World Trade Center. He was KW from Orange County and later would have an amazing story of miraculous escape to share. 

I continued on to the print shop and one of the computer experts had converted the antiquated large screen (we had no Internet access, of course) to a local TV channel and we watched in shock as the second plane crashed, and later as the buildings themselves came down. That period between the crashes and the unexpected collapse of the World Trade Center towers reminded me of the eye of a hurricane, with a terrible event, then reacting to it, then an even more terrible event transpired.

Of course, I was living in an isolated world back then, and the only real impact on my life was that my Jordanian friend, Abdullah, with whom I had enjoyed many heated debates over the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, disappeared from the print shop and Folsom itself. All the Arabs were taken away, I presume for their own protection. All prison inmates throughout California and probably the U.S., were put on a 24 hour lockdown that morning.

And then KW shared the story of his aunt. She was a highly regarded stockbroker for EF Hutton, working in upper floors of the World Trade Center. During visits to her daughter in Orange County, she faxed some work back to New York from a local office. The local branch offered her a job. It meant a pay cut, but her daughter was expecting her first grandchild, and she thought it would feel good to be nearby, so she accepted. 
That was just a few months before 9/11, and all her former co-workers died in the collapse of the towers.

And then, when I talked to a friend in New York, making sure she was okay, she had her own amazing tale of fortuitous escape. A friend of hers from California flew out on September 10th, on the red eye, for an important breakfast meeting at the World Trade Center. But because of jet lag, she overslept, not hearing her alarm go off. She was very upset about missing the appointment until she turned on the TV and saw how narrowly she had avoided a fiery death.

I'm sure there are lots more stories of such close calls, and in fact have thought it would make a great inspiring book.
It is unfortunate that we have to constantly be reminded how very blessed we all are to have survived the trials and tribulations and disasters all around us. Every minute of every day is deserving of our raising a glass and shouting L'Chaim!

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