WE REMEMBER: Phyllis Berliner remembers 9/11

By Phyllis Berliner
   I will never forget a minute of 9/11.
   We were living on Staten Island. It was my 3-year-old daughter Sarah’s first day of preschool. It was a beautiful clear day.
   I was taking Sarah’s picture in front of the school a few minutes before 9 a.m.
   I stopped to pick up a cup of coffee after I left her at the school.
   The woman at the counter asked me, “Did you hear about the plane that went into the World Trade Center?”
   She pointed to a small TV behind her. The image was unbelievable. I decided to go back home instead of shopping as I originally had planned.
   When I pulled into my driveway, my neighbor came out to talk to me about what was happening.
   She wondered if her brother, who was a New York City firefighter, was called there. I went inside to watch the TV.
   Eventually, my cable went out. I had a small TV with an antenna that I plugged in which displayed the burning buildings. My phone rang. It was my husband. He worked in New Jersey. He was leaving work and heading home.
   I drove by my other daughter, Michelle’s, school who was in first grade. It was only 11 a.m., and there were cars abandoned in the middle of the street everywhere. I did the same thing and found parents at the school door demanding their children. I also did the same.
   As I walked down the block holding my 6-year-old daughter’s hand, she asked me why I was taking her out of school early. I told her to remember this moment, sadly stating it would be in the history books some day.
   My now 16-year-old remembers that moment still.
   Ten years ago, we then went to pick up Sarah from her school. The principal came out and told us to keep the children away from televisions. They were too young to understand. Several friends there were worried about husbands and brothers at the World Trade Center.
   I took my daughters and went home. My husband was stuck in New Jersey — since all the bridges were closed. He remained there for two days. Thank goodness his cell phone worked, by some miracle, or he would not have known how we were.
   Sadly, a few days later, we found out my neighbor’s brother was one of the many brave firemen to perish in the World Trade Center. We also learned a friend’s husband, who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, was lost on 9/11.
   The thought of being stuck on Staten Island, with no way off or on again, led us to move. We chose to relocate to East Windsor since my cousin already lived here, and we were familiar with the town. It’s a place we’re now happy to call home.
    Phyllis Berliner is a resident of East Windsor.