| 29 Sep 2011 | 09:25

One family’s ordeal five years later, By Jerry Goldberg It was a day no one will ever forget, especially if it impacted your family. They say everyone knows someone, a friend, a relative, an acquaintance, who was in the towers, someone who either lived or died. My son Ricky called my office at 8:45 a.m. that fateful morning to tell me something had happened at the towers, but he wasn’t sure what it was. He worked for MetLife on the 89th floor of the North Tower, as it was called. This was two floors below the impact. At 8:45, no one could imagine the events of the next few hours. He called again at 9:15 a.m. to tell me he was trapped on his floor. He sounded very calm. I still had no idea what was going on. A few minutes later my wife Linda came into my West Babylon office with one of my other sons, Brian. They told me a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. We turned on my radio and listened as we stood in my office. Another son, Richie, was there as well. We heard that another plane had crashed into the South Tower. It was clear that the United States was under attack. We listened intently as details were broadcast over the radio. There were no specifics as to what really had happened, only that downtown Manhattan was under attack by someone. Linda and I were frightened. Our son, our child, was in one of those buildings. Not long after, Tower 2, the South Tower, collapsed, and Linda and I grabbed for each other’s hands and looked at each other with tremendous foreboding going through our minds. I couldn’t recall which tower was his. I tried calling the police to find out where MetLife was, but all the phone lines were busy. It was a dumb question, anyway. How would the police know which building MetLife was in? I should have known. Years earlier, I worked construction and helped build the towers. I had taken Ricky up to the North Tower roof before it was finished. We climbed construction ladders near the top and I remember a police helicopter coming to wave us off. I waved my hard hat back and he left us alone. Now, it seemed so long ago. When the North Tower collapsed, Linda screamed and collapsed on my office floor. “Mommy, you can’t have him,” she screamed. We lost Linda’s mom to cancer in 1985. Ricky and his grandmother were very close. We felt our son was dead in the disaster. But an attack on the U.S.; that seemed impossible. How could Ricky be dead? Rick was 39 at the time, but he seemed like a baby. How could this happen? This must be a bad dream. I was petrified, didn’t know what to do, what to think, or say. I helped Linda up, looked at her and said, “We have to get home.” We had arrived at my office in two cars and so we left that way. I raced home on the Southern State Parkway doing well over 95 m.p.h. I didn’t know what I was rushing for; I just knew I wanted to get home. I kept picturing my son in a coffin. I was crying, screaming, angry and out of control. I couldn’t get that horrible picture out of my mind. I thought, no, not my baby. I got home first and turned on the TV. I was alone, watching the screen, hoping to see my son among the people scurrying around the streets in lower Manhattan. I looked carefully at all the faces hoping to see him. I switched from channel to channel thinking he’ll be on Channel 4, no I’ll see him on Channel 2. They kept on showing the planes hitting the towers over and over again while the newscasters were saying we were at war. I didn’t hear any of it. All I wanted to see was my kid. It seemed like an eternity in the quiet of our living room. Then, at about 11:15 a.m. the phone rang. I picked up the receiver thinking it was going to be my daughter Cathy when all of a sudden I heard Ricky’s voice, “Dad I’m okay.” My heart was pumping so fast I thought it would pop out of my chest. He didn’t know where he was but he said, “I’m walking home.” We later learned he got clear of the tower less than three minutes before the collapse. Two Port Authority building workers, Frank DiMartini and Pablo Ortiz, who punched through a wall to save him and a dozen others, didn’t get out. Just as I got off the phone with Ricky, my wife pulled up in the driveway. I yelled out the window, “He’s okay. He’s alive.” Linda again collapsed on the ground and was laying on the grass as my daughter Cathy and her husband Mike pulled up to the house. “He’s okay,” I yelled again. As my other sons arrived, Cathy and Mike helped Linda up and they walked slowly to the house as Cathy held her mother and hugged her at the same time. My family members, Linda, Cathy and Mike, Brian, and Richie all came in and we just hugged and cried for several minutes. We knew that God saved Ricky, and us. Now, five years later, the fear and sadness that was a part of our lives for a few hours has never completely left. When Linda and I see a program about 9/11, we tend to change the station. If we do watch it, it is just like going back and the tears, fear, and sadness come back. We grab for each other’s hand and the grasp tightens as we watch the events of that fateful day we thought we’d lost Ricky. It was a life-changing experience for Linda and me. Six months later we bought a second home just outside Milford in one of the lake communities. At first we just came up on weekends but now we live here full-time. That slogan “Wake up and smell the roses” has replaced the hustle and bustle of work. I gave up the day-to-day commotion of my business to Richie and Brian. Chasing the dollar is no longer a significant part of our lives. We realized how precious life is and how important it is to find peace. “Wait a minute, I think I see another flower opening!”