I published this on Sept 11, 2006. It’s still the strongest memory, and the biggest regret.
By B.L. Ochman
The time from when the first plane hit, until the first building fell is clear to me as if it happened this morning. But, besides my sensory memory, I don’t remember anything about the hours between the collapse of the first building and the time I was brought to a hospital in New Jersey.
At the end of the day, I had a woman’s slip, and no idea how I got it.
I was sick with pneumonia and mercury poisoning, and still dazed when, a couple of weeks later, I threw the slip away, still not sure how it ended up in my backpack.
Then one day, came the memory of reaching up to catch a slip – silk, I think – that floated right into my upstretched hands after it was blown off a woman as she jumped from the flaming tower three blocks north.
But it occurred to me yesterday, when I saw this plaque on a bench on Central Park, that, maybe, if I’d saved that slip, one of the families would have had something that belonged to their dead sister, wife, or daughter.
I apologize to that woman’s family.
Fragments of my lost memory have returned in flashbacks brought on by certain sounds, or smells, or days with a bright blue cloudless sky, like today. Five years later, I still have the World Trade Center cough to remind me, as if ever I’d forget. And I don’t really want the rest of that morning’s memories back. But, oh, how I wish I’d saved that slip.