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What I Will Tell My Children Someday

September 11, 2014

Photo courtesy of Flickr

A repost – because it is 9/11. Thinking of all those whose lives were lost that day, their families and loved ones.




Written by Marykate O’Malley, mother of 3 wonderful children, Gladwyne, PA


9/11 always brings back memories for me. Memories of being in the financial district that day, blocks from the Towers. Memories of standing in my office building and staring out into large oozing holes, where holes should never be, in the center of buildings with people inside. And then the chaos, and all that went along with that day. So much happened in a four hour block, from the moment the first plane flew past my building, causing it to shake with it’s force, then the impact again shaking my building as it hit Tower One, outrunning the tidal wave of debris as the first Tower fell, then sitting in a friend’s apartment in the South Street Seaport and experiencing the earthquake like effect from the second tower falling and then a moment later, with the delay, watching it on TV. And finally, getting out of the city to safety. It felt like a million things happened, all of them significant. Everyone knows it well, there is so much footage. It is a day that we as country collectively experienced whether you were there or not.

And of all that I saw and experienced that day, one thing that will never leave me is the true courage I witnessed. I was standing outside the Stock Exchange, trying to figure out a way out of Manhattan, watching thousands flee from the Towers, all terrified, some hurt. And then there was one man. A former Navy Seal who worked at my company – at a full sprint running towards the Towers, and all the danger there because he wanted to help, and maybe save a life. And then the relentless sirens and fire engines everywhere, streaming into lower Manhattan, fighting the crowds, trying to to get to the very place thousands were fleeing. There is no greater sacrifice, no greater valor. They did it for strangers, people they had never even met before. It’s amazing to consider.

I always think about my children, who know nothing of that day and what I want to tell them when the appropriate time comes. And what is most important to me is not the movie like surreal aspect of the day but the courage, and sacrifice I saw. The things I will never forget – evacuating my building, down 40 flights of stairs, at a fast clip, the stairwell packed and silent except for the shuffling of shoes. And watching an old friend, my manger ahead of me, petite and tiny, holding tightly onto a pregnant colleague and helping her down every step, not once letting go of her. And how once outside, almost immediately there were emergency personnel everywhere, just as confused and scared as the rest of us, and yet doing their job, and helping us. While crossing the Brooklyn Bridge there were regular citizens handing out face masks and bottles of water – they weren’t the Red Cross, they weren’t an organized group, they worked at a hospital nearby and saw a need and met it.

This is what I will tell them, what true courage, true sacrifice, true community looks like.

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  1. Cathy

      on September 11, 2012 7:35 am

    I.can’t.even.imagine. – I’m thankful you made it out as a survivor that day – and we get to read your beautiful writing today.

    One thing that has always struck me about tragedy: When experiencing the darkest side of humanity, you often also experience the most beautiful side of humanity at the same time. Courage, sacrifice, community – beautiful things you mentioned in the darkest moment.


  2. Marykate Wurster

      on September 11, 2012 7:39 am

    So true Cathy – you said it so perfectly – the darkest moments bring out the most beautiful side of people, and brings us all together. Thank you!!


  3. Heidi Farmer

      on September 11, 2012 12:53 pm

    Oh Marykate, that was so incredibly well-written and amazing. I was in the city too, but in a different part, but that’s what I remember too – the incredible generosity and outpouring of love from these hardened New Yorkers.


  4. nannypanpan

      on September 12, 2012 9:27 pm

    loved what you said..hit home


  5. Marykate Wurster

      on September 13, 2012 9:10 pm

    Thanks Nannypanpan – appreciate your comments. God bless.


  6. Brian Curran

      on September 12, 2014 8:09 am

    “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

    ― Fred Rogers


  7. Tina Bolin-Ruane

      on September 12, 2014 2:13 pm

    MK, thank you for sharing your experiences. That day made us all so much stronger. Do I remember that you were getting married around that time? I have friends that have since had babies born on 9/11 and beautiful new memories have been created on a bittersweet unforgettable day. It’s difficult to explain what happened. My daughter was 6 months old at the time and still has so many questions. May God continue to Bless America.


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