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Chapter 19 - September 11, 2001

I tossed and turned all night wrestling with the many thoughts running through my head.

What do I do about Michael?

Why did I tell him I love Drew when I’m still unsure?

And knowing he’s back to using, what am I supposed to do when it comes to him and the kids?

I can’t keep them away from their father, but I refuse to let them stay around him if he’s high all the time.

Everything in me is telling me to give him some time to get through it, but he’s been here before. And even with him having kids, he’s going back to using the same drugs that landed him in rehab the first time.

I don’t know what to do…

“Still up?” Drew wrapped his arms around my neck and kissed me on the cheek before coming around the couch to sit beside me.

I let out a light laugh, “he stresses me out and we’re not even married anymore.”

“Isn’t that how it always is?” He joked.

I shrugged, “Ion know. I’ve never been divorced with kids before.”

“What’s been keeping you up?”

I sighed and shook my head, “I can’t allow my children to be around their father if he’s taking drugs.”

“Mmm,” he nodded. “Yeah…”

“It’s just tough. I don’t want to keep my kids away from their daddy… But until he gets the help he needs; I feel like that’s the best thing for them.”

“It might be. No child should ever have to grow up seeing that…”

“I’m really worried about him… I’m sorry if this makes you uncomfortable,” I looked over at him.

“No,” he shook his head. “It’s completely understandable. If my kid’s mom had something severe like this going on when they were still children, I’d be just as concerned.”

“Thanks, baby,” I sighed and looked out at the window of our penthouse suite atop of the hotel Drew owned. While Michael was all the way at The Plaza in Central Park, we were all the way in Brooklyn right on the East River at BK Heights. The sky was a beautiful hue of blue. Not a cloud in sight. And the sun shone exceptionally bright amongst the clear blue sky. The New York Skyline was breathtakingly beautiful on this Tuesday morning.

I felt a sense of peace although based on last night, I should be feeling the complete opposite.

Our flight to head home is at three p.m. and I know judging by this clear sky, it’s going to be nothing short of being smooth. But I may have to postpone our flight just to go out and get some fresh air.

“What do you want for breakfast?” Drew asked me, pulling me away from my thoughts.

“You cookin’?”

He scoffed and laughed, “no. Room service has been open for quite some time now.”

I laughed and told him what I wanted, adding in meals for the twins once they wake up.

Despite the mess that occurred last night and the lack of sleep I’ve gotten, something about the beauty of today just makes me feel so still… It’s different.

I turned on the television and flipped the channels until I finally stopped on the Today Show just as Matt Lauer was introducing Richard Hack on his latest novel “Hughes.” I have yet to read the book about Howard Hughes, but the book is on the top of my list to purchase. I looked out at the window again, the skyline captivating, tearing me away from the interview.

Drew came to sit beside me as he pulled out his iPaq. If there’s one piece of technology that he loved, it was that device. I could never get into it. I’m still stuck on my outdated PDA.

As I looked back out of the window, I took in the Twin Towers, standing in all of their glory in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan.

I looked to my right, noticing a plane flying painfully low and nudged Drew, “that plane shouldn’t be that low, right?” Just as he turned to see, the plane crashed right into the North Tower, producing a blood curdling scream.

“JESUS!” Drew shouted.

“No, no, no, no, no…” I stood up and hurried toward the window. A huge explosion emitted from the side of the tower. Fire and smoke rose high into the air covering the top of both the North and South Towers from view. My heart raced with angst thinking of all those people at the top of the North Tower and in the airplane. “Who would do such a thing?!” I covered my mouth in shock.

In 1993, a bomb was set in the parking garage beneath the North Tower. Six people were killed, and one thousand others were injured. I was on my book tour while Michael was at home in California catering to that family that ultimately ruined our lives. But hearing the news of the bombing shocked us both. Michael and I couldn’t get over the fact that one of the victims were pregnant and donated proceeds from his Heal the World Foundation to the families of the victims.

Seeing the North Tower on fire at some of the highest floors makes this far worse than the bombing of ’93…

“Mommy…” I turned around to see MJ and Mimi come out of their room rubbing their eyes. “What’s going on?”

Drew hurried to close the curtains as I pulled myself together. My scream woke them.

I bent down to pull them in for hugs, “did Mommy wake you?”

“Why were you screaming?” MJ asked me.

I shook my head and swallowed. How do I explain this to my children? I don’t want them to see that! “Are you hungry? Drew just ordered pancakes with blueberry syrup for the both of you. It should be here shortly.”

“…apparently, a plane has just crashed into the World Trade Center here in New York City. It happened just a few moments ago, apparently. We have very little information available at this point and time…” I looked behind the twins to see live video of the North Tower burning uncontrollably.

The twins must have seen the fear in my eyes, because just as they turned to look, I quickly turned them away.

“Let’s go to Mommy’s room,” I held their hands and escorted them to our room and quickly closed the curtains upon entering.

“What’s happening?” Mimi asked me.

“Breakfast is on the way. I’m gonna turn on cartoons. Don’t open the window and don’t change the channel. Understand?” I looked them in the eye to make sure they understood.

“Yes, ma’am,” they replied and nodded in unison.

Once I finished setting up the TV, I took the remote and closed the door behind me.

As Katie Couric and Matt Lauer interviewed someone who had saw the same thing Drew and I did, I opened the window to witness the burning tower firsthand. The woman on the phone that they were interviewing says she doesn’t know what it was. But Drew and I saw it. It was an airliner. And it had to be carrying a decent amount of people. What kind of pilot would do such a thing?

I was in a daze as I stared at the burning tower. The same tower Michael and I took the kids to six months ago was now on fire. A pilot recklessly crashed his plane into it not only killing himself and the passengers onboard, but everyone who was at their offices at the point of impact.

“We have to book an earlier flight,” Drew stood beside me. “We can’t stay here.”

“I know,” I swallowed. “I’ll start packing and…” A second plane came in from the right heading straight for the South Tower until it finally hit.

“SHIT!” Drew shouted.

“Oh my god…” was all I could say this time. This time feeling faint, I did my best to fan myself. Those planes hit the towers on purpose.

“We’re under attack,” I heard him say as he hurried away from the window and picked up his phone. I really wish he hadn’t been so loud.

“What’s wrong, mommy?” Mimi hurriedly opened the door. I quickly closed the curtains.

“Drew said a bad word. Is he okay?” MJ asked me.

I sighed. My throat was tight as tears threatened to fall. I can’t let my children see me cry. I’m doing my best to make sure they don’t see what’s going on. If they see me cry, they’ll know for sure something is wrong. I just witnessed maybe hundreds of people lose their lives right before my eyes. That’s unnatural. No one should ever see that. No one should ever do that to other human beings! How could someone be so heartless? And how am I supposed to shield my children from this?

“Is that what the huff is all about?” My son pointed to the television behind me.

“Oh, mommy,” Mimi began. “It’s just the news.”

That sentence alone reminded me of not only the innocence of children, but how “normal” that is for children to see on tv. So much so that they’re minds can’t comprehend how real some things can be.

I couldn’t control the tear that rolled down my cheek as I stood up to turn the television off. As I opened my mouth to explain in the best way I could, a knock came to the door. I went over and looked through the peephole to see room service and opened the door. The cart of breakfast was rolled into our room, causing the twins to jump for joy. As I tipped the server, I recognized the fear in her eyes as well. She, too, had known about the towers.

“You don’t have anyone who works there, do you?” I asked. She nodded yes. I closed my eyes exhaled slowly to calm my racing heart. “Please make sure they get to safety. Call them as soon as possible. Make sure they get to safety. Let us know if you need anything, okay?” She mouthed “thank you” and went about her way.

As I instructed the twins to go to the dining table, Drew went to our room, shutting the door behind him as he rattled off instructions to whomever was on the receiving end of the call.

Without saying a word, I got breakfast together for the twins. I need to call Katherine and Joseph to see if they’re okay and I need to call my parents so they know I’m okay. But one thing’s for certain. We have to get out of here.

“Mommy’s gonna make a call. I’ll be back. Don’t turn on the TV. Don’t open the curtains. Just eat,” I instructed them and went into their room to use the hotel phone.

I dialed Katherine’s cell phone number only for the busy signal to ring in my ear. I hung up the phone and tried again only to be met with the same thing. I went back to the living room to retrieve my cell phone. The twins were having a hearty conversation about Winnie The Pooh whilst eating their pancakes. Sometimes, I miss the obliviousness of being a child.

Once I went back to the twins’ room, I looked out the window to see both towers burning uncontrollably. Black smoke was filling the sky at an alarming rate. No. This isn’t just the news. This is happening in real time across the bridge.

I dialed Katherine’s cell phone number from my phone and the call finally went through. The phone lines must be down if I couldn’t get through on the hotel phone.

“Shayla? Are you and the twins okay?” Katherine answered immediately in a panic.

I took a deep breath and swallowed, “yes, ma’am. We’re fine. We’re still in our rooms.

“Oh, thank God! Have you gotten a hold of Michael?”

“Not yet. I just called to make sure you were okay. I was going to call him and my family to let them know I was okay.”

“Get a hold of him as soon as you can. Rebbie and I were with him last night after everything between you two happened. He said he had an appointment at the North Tower at…”

Her words fell on deaf ears as my heart sunk straight to my stomach.

No way was Michael there. No way.

“Mom, Ima call you back,” I hung up without so much as a goodbye as I immediately dialed Michael’s cell number. “God,” my throat was tight as I tried not to choke over my tears. “Now, I’ve done some things in my life that I’m not proud of and I’m sorry. I’ve been through a lot, but one thing that’ll never change is my unwavering love for Michael. We may be divorced. We may be raising our children separately, but God…” tears streamed down my cheeks at the mere thought of something bad happening to him.

The dial tone kept ringing in my ear as I impatiently waited for Michael to answer.

“Please don’t take my childrens father away from me. Not like this,” I shook my head. “Not like this. Looking back on it now, last night was the worst thing I could have ever done. It should have been a night of celebrations and congratulations. But my feelings got the best of me. I was upset for his use of drugs and I shouldn’t have gone off on him. I shouldn’t have. And to know that that could have been our last interaction…” I choked. “The last thing I would ever want is for one of us to go away from this earth without knowing we still loved one another. I’ll do anything. Anything, if you just let him answer this phone and for him to tell me he’s okay. Please…” I begged as I tried to wipe my uncontrollable tears from my cheeks.

The dial tone just kept ringing and with each and every ring, the pain in my heart grew.

“Hello?” A very groggy voice answered.

“Michael?!” I gasped. “Are you okay? Where are you?!”

He sighed nonchalantly as if the world wasn’t going crazy right now, “I’m in my room… sleeping. Are the twins okay?”

“They’re fine…” a small smile made its way across my lips. “We’re all fine. Katherine told me you had a meeting at the World Trade Center today.”

“SHOOT!” He became immediately alert. “I’m late!”

“Don’t bother…” I sighed.

“What do you mean, ‘don’t bother?’ I’ve gotta hurry up and get-”

“The twin towers are on fire,” I interrupted.

He paused, “what? Both of them?”

“Turn on the news. We’re in Brooklyn right across from it. I watched one plane hit the North Tower and about fifteen minutes later, a second plane hit the South Tower.”

“Planes?! Are we under attack?”

“I don’t know… At first, everyone was unsure, but once the second plane hit, it certaintly feels that way. We’re trying to figure out a way to get out of here. I’m just glad you’re okay. When your mother told me you had a meeting in the North tower, I freaked out. She probably hates me because I hung up on her, but I’m sure she understands.”

He was silent for a moment. We both were.

The realization began to settle in. Had he been on time for that meeting, we wouldn’t be fortunate enough to be on the phone right now.

He cleared his throat, “um… had it not been for you confronting me las night, I probably would have made that meeting on time.” Hearing him say the words started another flow of tears from me. “After you left, my mother and Rebbie came with me to make sure I’d be okay. They stayed until three thirty in the morning. I didn’t go to bed until four thirty… Had none of that happened, we wouldn’t be on the phone right now…”

It’s strange how everything happens for a reason. We may never understand the chain of events before or during an occurance, but there’s a reason for everything. Even the twin towers being hit… We may never understand why that happened.

“Kiss the twins for me,” he said.

“No,” I shook my head. “I’m going to do whatever I can to make sure I can bring them to you so you can kiss them yourself.”

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