This is something I wrote a few years ago about 9/11 and wanted to share it today. The story was based on these two pictures.
Title: The Past, Present, and Future
She held the black and white photo in her hands, doing her best to keep her fingerprints off of it. It was one of her favorite memories of her time with Andrew. That’s all she had left, were memories and photos ... and their son.
In the photo, they weren’t even married yet. She and Andy took a vacation during their summer break between their junior and senior years of college. They were driving along the coast with some friends and had stopped at this small sandy beach that was surrounded by rocks. It was so much fun. They spent the whole day there, with Andy’s friend Raj taking pictures of everything.
Cecilia could kiss Raj now, if he were still alive. Without his pictures, she wouldn’t have this momento of her and Andy's life ... of their past.
Anthony came running through the front door, his ten year old body a bundle of energy. Without stopping his momentum, he dropped his bookbag on the floor near the living room and came charging towards Cecilia.
“Mooooooom! I’m home!” He plowed into his mother’s waiting arms, who had just moments before put the picture down on the table.
“Hey sweetie,” Cecilia said, brushing a lock of hair from her son’s forehead. He looked so much like his father. “Did you have a good day at school?”
Anthony nodded and sat down on a chair next to hers at the table. “It was okay. The teachers were talking a lot about the memorial today.”
“Yeah, well, it’s important,” Cecila said softly.
“I know. Dad’s going to be on it, right?”
“Yes, he will. He and Uncle Raj are going to be listed on it together, on the same section.”
Anthony picked up the picture that Cecilia had set down. He had seen the picture many times over the years and studied the man in the picture who he never met.
“I wish I could have met him, Uncle Raj I mean ... and of course, Dad too.”
“Me too, sweetheart, me too,” Cecilia replied sadly, rubbing her son’s back.
Years after the picture was taken, Andrew and Cecilia found themselves on the east coast, living in a small bungalow in Brooklyn, far from the California coast but by a different shore near the channel. Andrew had gotten his dream job with an investment company and had just been transferred to the main office in New York City. Cecilia found a job at a nearby school and was happily teaching young minds.
By some luck, Andrew’s old college friend Raj worked at the same investment firm. The two men hadn’t seen one another for several years and they enjoyed catching up on each other’s lives. Raj and his new bride, Smita, became a frequent visitor to their home, sharing stories over dinner.
They were settling into what they deemed their perfect life. Their house was modest but fit their needs. While Andrew had his dream job, the investment industry was still volitile so they didn’t take on more than what they could easily afford. They dreamed of filling two of the three bedrooms of their home with children, and possibly a shaggy dog or two.
Andrew and Cecilia were well on their way to that goal in 2001. She was pregnant with their first child and they were pet parents to a crabby but lovable orange tabby. The cat was crabby when she didn’t want to be petted and lovable when she wanted attention. It was a source of amusement for the couple to watch the moods of their mercurial cat. As Cecilia’s pregnancy progressed, her moods became even more volitle than the cat’s. Andrew didn’t find that as humorous. They also found out that Smita was expecting as well. Cecilia and Smita grew closer, sharing the bond of impending motherhood.
Like so many other days, that September morning was like any other. Never in a million years would Cecilia have thought that the last time she’d see her husband was when he left for work that morning, heading in early for an important conference call.
She and Smita sat in a daze in her living room as they watched the news coverage on the television. Even heading outside was enough to confirm what was on the television and the radio. The skyline she had come to know and love was a smoky haze, and missing a key fixture.
For days after, weeks later even, she kept looking out her window hoping that her husband would come driving or walking up their road … but he never appeared. He was gone, only the kicking of her baby reminding Cecilia that she will always have a part of him with her.
Smita and Cecilia stayed close, mutual loss further strengthening their bond. When the nights were too rough for either woman to be alone, they would crash at each other’s homes and be there for one another. A month later, they found a support group for 9/11 widows. They always knew they weren’t alone, but finding others to lean on helped them immensely.
A few months later, Anthony was born, healthy and hale and the spitting image of his father. Cecilia was still grieving the loss of her husband and clung to her son. Smita’s bright-eyed baby girl was born a few short weeks later, named Regina in honor of her father. Both women rejoiced that their children were born without complications despite the stress of the last several months.
Time passed, the pain of Andrew’s abrupt and sudden death receeding but never going away. Tony and Reggie, as Regina came to be known, grew, learning about their fathers through their mothers and friends. The four of them made a special trip every year to the cemetery in remembrance.
As the country healed, so did Cecilia, Smita, and their children. They moved on, went on with their lives.
Which lead to the present, ten years later. Cecilia promised Tony that she would take him and Reggie to see Harry Potter this weekend. There was a special screening of all the movies on Saturday that the kids had been looking forward to for some time. Cecilia hoped that the movies would help distract them from all the 9/11 coverage. She didn’t want her son to forget, but she also didn’t think her not quite ten year old son needed to be inundated with all different shows and specials that were being aired.
“We’re still going to the Hogwarts-a-thon, right, Mom?” Tony asked, pulling Cecilia from her thoughts.
“Yes, sir,” she replied with a smile. “Smita and Reggie are going to be here at 9:30 tomorrow morning to head to the theater. I picked up the tickets a few weeks ago and I even stopped by a costume store and got you your own pair of Harry Potter glasses!”
“Really!” Cecilia said with a laugh, pulling the glasses out of a small bag on the table.
Tony eagerly grabbed the glasses and slipped them on his face, his smile from ear to ear. His excitement only faltered when he glanced at the picture of his parents on the table. Cecilia noticed his change of mood and pulled him close to her.
“Momma, I wish I was a real wizard,” Tony said softly as he gripped her shirt tightly.
“Why’s that, little man?”
“Cause I’d find a spell to bring Dad back ... and Uncle Raj and everyone else,” he whispered.
“Oh, Anthony.” Cecilia sighed and squeezed her son that much tighter. She long wished for such a thing could happen, but knew it wasn’t possible. The past couldn’t be changed. While in the present, they grieved, the future held much promise.