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On a sunny fall Tuesday 20 years ago, I was working in New York two short blocks from the Empire State Building. I learned of the first plane — and then the second plane — via a TV in our conference room. All of the office phones went out, including cellphones. I tried to send emails to my husband, parents and clients.

After lunch, I started my 20-mile journey home to Westchester County. The trains had shut down, and I was pregnant, so I borrowed some quarters to ride a bus, but every northbound bus from lower Manhattan was overflowing with people. I decided to walk home.

After my first mile, I heard police yelling that local trains were starting up on Metro North. My fellow passengers were wearing suits covered with ashes. One man next to me had been 15 minutes late for work in the World Trade Center because it was the first day of school.

For months, the air in Manhattan smelled like burning plastic. Every day, in Grand Central Station and through the city, I passed notice boards plastered with the faces of hundreds of missing loved ones from countries all over the world.

Linda Stephen


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