The Balkin Buddies Blog Catherine Balkin's Facebook

The Soho couple couldn't do enough for me. They kept offering me food, water, anything they could think of. They wanted to do something to help. They let me use their telephone, and I called Catherine's office. Her secretary answered and said she wasn't there, then hesitatingly asked who I was. When I said I was her husband, she became ecstatic. She explained that Catherine had gotten off the train at Union Square and would be checking back with her in a little while. I asked her to tell Catherine that I'd meet her at her office.


After I hung up, the Soho couple asked me to sit for awhile so they could make sure I was all right. The television was on, and I saw the instant replay of my building collapsing. It was 10:00 am and I had been in that building less than half an hour ago.


I asked if I could make another telephone call, this one long distance to Chicago; I wanted to let my mother know I wasn't dead. I knew that if I was watching a replay of my building falling down, she had seen it too. The Soho couple said yes, by all means, please go ahead and make the call. I made the call. When I heard my mother's voice, I could tell she had thought I died in the building. She thanked me several times for calling her. I asked her to call my brothers and sisters to let them know I was okay because I didn't have time right then; I had to go find Catherine. After I hung up, I left, but this time I took the stairs down, not the jolting elevator. The Soho couple wished me luck. I never saw them again.


Back out in the street, I headed north towards Catherine's office. Along the way, I struck up conversations several times with perfect strangers who happened to be nearby. I just wanted to talk to people. It would usually come up that I was in WTC II when the plane hit it. *Thank God you're alive,* people would tell me. *Thank God you're alive.*


When I got to Union Square, there were thousands of people going every which way. Usually the streets were not this crowded during working hours, but this was not a usual day. Several times I called out Catherine's name. I figured I might as well try. This was where she had gotten off the train. Maybe by now her secretary would have told her that I knew she was in Union Square. It was a long shot, but I had nothing to lose.


As I approached Petco, I turned to see the WTC. I could see neither tower. Picking up bits and pieces of conversation around me, I pieced together that now both towers were down. Petco was just locking their doors as I started north again, going up Broadway.




One September morning when I was still working at HarperCollins, I went through my normal morning routine. Showering. Dressing. Preening. As usual, I was late getting out the door. My husband Charlie, as usual, was early. He had left 30 or more minutes before me.


It was a beautiful early autumn day. The sky was so blue. Even half asleep walking to the subway station, I made note of it. I always took the Q train to HarperCollins, and my commute was typically only about 40 minutes door to door. Every now and then, however, there were delays. Trains backed up, or there were switching problems, or track fires. Or the worst: a sick passenger. If a passenger got sick on a train up ahead, you could sit on the bridge or in a tunnel for half an hour or more. The last thing you wanted to hear over the intercom was the conductor saying there was a delay due to a sick passenger.


That morning, there was a delay on the Q train. At first, the conductor didn't say anything at all. I suspected there was a sick passenger on a train up ahead. It was a long delay. All we passengers could do was sit or stand, hoping whatever it was cleared up soon. I hadn't even gotten a seat that morning. All the seats were filled. So I stood in the middle of the train, holding on to the middle pole, and reading a book by one of my authors ( Brothers Below Zero by Tor Seidler). I wasn't particularly enjoying it. I didn't feel like reading. Putting my weight first on one foot, then the other, then back again, I was feeling restless and bored. Finally, the conductor decided to make an announcement. But his announcement didn't really offer any information. All he said was that there was a delay *due to an incident at the World Trade Center .* In my ignorance, I thought, *Good. At least it's not a sick passenger.* But by then, I knew I was going to be extra late getting to work. We hadn't even reached the Manhattan Bridge yet. We were stuck in the tunnel.


The train inched along at a snail's pace. The conductor kept saying the delay was *due to an incident at the World Trade Center.* I continued to try to read.


It took what felt like forever to get out of that tunnel. I was in the middle of a sentence when daylight fell across the page. We were finally on the Manhattan Bridge. I didn't look up. I just decided to keep on reading. At first no one noticed anything. We were all operating at slow speed, I guess, not unlike the Q train we were on.


But then someone noticed.