On September 9th, 2001 my mother showed me a list of flights from Boston to Los Angeles.
“You could go on the 10th or the 11th, it’s the same flight” she said.
I looked at the list.”I’d like to stay on the Cape for another day,” I replied, “but I should go on the 10th because I have to go to the DMV and deal with a moving violation I got last time I was in LA.”
“Okay, I’ll get you a ticket for the 10th.”
The moving violation happened the previous April. Easter Sunday to be exact. I’d been driving back from my friend’s dad’s house in Malibu. Her dad happens to be Tom Petty and she had invited several friends over for an Easter egg hunt. It was another surreal LA moment especially when Tom strolled through the spot we were sitting, on the rolling green hills, to greet us.
I’ve always been a fan of his music and I felt a special connection to him ever since I’d found out he shares a birthday with me…October 20th. Strangely, my daughter Cosmina was born on the same day seven years later.
On my drive back to Hollywood, I switched lanes without signaling and was promptly pulled over. He was polite and professional but unfazed by my charm and issued me a moving violation that I would be required to sort out within a designated time frame.
On the morning of Sept 10th, ticket in hand, United flight 175 Boston Logan to LAX, I noticed that the Logan looked more like a construction site than an airport. There was an air of disarray and confusion. “Yikes,” I thought but like any renovation, things get pretty messy before they improve.
The flight was uneventful – barely memorable.
The following morning, having safely arrived at my friend’s house where I’d planned to stay for a while, I set to unpacking a pile of boxes that I had shipped there earlier that month.
My friend Mike, a talented actor and infamous practical joker appeared in the doorway. “That plane you were on yesterday just crashed into the World Trade Center,” he pronounced numbly.
“Weird joke,” I replied, “not remotely funny”.
“I’m not joking” he said.
I entered the living room and stared at the images of destruction on the television screen. It took me a while to make sense of what I was seeing. Not only had I flown on that plane 24 hours earlier but I had recently moved out of lower Manhattan after a five year stint. My band-manager-boyfriend and I had called it quits and I retreated to my mom’s place on the Cape for the Summer before deciding to give LA another shot. It seemed like a good idea since I already had a lot of friends and connections who were encouraging me to return.
My ex had recently moved into a large office space a couple of blocks away from the World Trade Center. Dozens of my friends and co workers were still living in that area. My mind raced with concern for all of them.
The rest of the day was spent on the phone assessing their whereabouts and safety. This was pre-Facebook. A person could not publicly mark themselves as “safe” on their newsfeed.
My brain boggled at the countless choices and events that had occurred which had ultimately led me to not being on that flight on September 11th. I didn’t know who to thank…Tom Petty? His daughter? My Ex? The LAPD officer who’d pulled me over in April? Or myself for instinctively choosing to fly on the 10th?
The days of aftermath that followed were a blur. The only casualty I had any personal connection to was the actress Berry Berenson who I had sat and spoken to a week before when I came back from a run and saw her on my mom’s porch. She had come over to hang with my mom, they were talking about their kids. Berry was beaming with pride as she extolled the recent accomplishments of her two sons, one an actor, the other a musician. She had the misfortune to be on the other Boston flight that had plunged though the tower.
Many months later I was leafing through a People Magazine and stumbled upon an article about Berry and how someone on the clean up crew had found her ring among the mountains of rubble and returned it to her family.
Our country was indelibly scarred after that day. Many of my friends who were there during the attack still struggle with PTSD.
Fourteen years ago my escape was narrow and multi layered.
I got lucky. Or maybe my guardian angel had been sufficiently caffeinated that day and was hyper vigilant.
Whatever the reason, it became the day I decided that I was meant to be here, on Earth. I’m still searching for the reason why. Maybe it was so that I could bring Cosmina here to spread her joy and love. Maybe it was so that I could do something significant to help others. All I know is that I’m here and I am so very thankful that I get to remember the day I didn’t die.