Sunday, September 11, 2011 By Bob Sparrow
I was awakened by a phone call at around 6:20 a.m. on September 11, 2001. It was my mother-in-law from Minnesota; she asked, “Is Stephanie alright?” I said something like, “I guess so, why?” She said, “Turn on the TV, there’s been a bombing in New York.” My heart sank. My daughter, Stephanie was living in New York for the past several years; she had recently graduated from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and was pursuing a Broadway career.
After turning on the TV and trying to comprehend what was happening, I immediately tried to call Stephanie on her cell phone. Of course, there was no cell phone service available in New York at that time. I called her apartment several times and finally got through and was able to talk with her roommate. She told me that Stephanie had gone into Manhattan that morning for an acting class, but assured me not to worry, that the class was in ‘mid-town’, not ‘down town’ where the bombing had taken place. I wasn’t assured. All kinds of scenarios raced through my head placing Stephanie ‘down town’. As it turned out, she was indeed on a subway to her class in Greenwich Village, which is ‘down town’!
I continued to call Stephanie’s cell phone even though I realized there was little to no hope of getting through – I just had to do something! I called her roommate about every 20-30 minutes to ask if she’d heard from her. She had not. I was experiencing this American tragedy in a very personal way. While I was shocked at what I was hearing and watching on television, my overriding concerns were not about who did this to us and why, but rather where is my daughter and is she alright?
Five agonizingly long hours pass; at 11:30 our phone finally rings. At that time we didn’t have ‘Caller ID’, so we didn’t know if it was Stephanie or someone calling us to tell us some news we didn’t want to hear. When that familiar, though audibly shaken, voice came on the phone and said, “Hi Dad, I’m OK”, I cried and found something to be happy about on that tragic day. She later related her experience to me. She was on a subway heading to Greenwich Village that morning, but the subway stopped prior to getting there and she was stuck underground for about a half an hour before it came to a station and she got out. She came up from the subway and saw people standing in the middle of the street staring at the towers of the World Trade Center which were engulfed in smoke. Soon after she joined them she saw the first (north) tower collapse. She hurried over to where her acting class was meeting and ended up sitting with the class for several hours, listening to the news and trying to figure out what was going on. She then decided to try to get home. She was fortunate enough to find a cab that would take her only as far as mid-town, where she got out and went to Houston’s, the restaurant where she worked, looking for a familiar face, but found that it was closed. An eerie feeling pervaded mid-town, but it had not turned to panic. She was determined to get back to her apartment in Queens, but with no public transportation operating, she joined the throngs of people walking out of Manhattan across the Queensboro Bridge. On her way home she saw thousands of people already queuing up to give blood.
She was understandably shaken by her proximity to this horrific event, and when she came home to California for Christmas three months later, she decided to stay. She has returned to New York several times over the last ten years and enjoys all that the ‘Big Apple’ has to offer, but will never forget that day ten years ago when she witnessed history.