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The Darkest Day in America’s History 9.11.01

By Judi Desiderio, Sunday, September 11, 2011
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It’s been 10 years since the world as we know it changed forever.

As the wife of a NYC fire fighter, I remember this day, and the weeks and months that followed with eerie clarity.

That morning my husband, John Tracy, was home. I was at work meeting with my Cook Pony Farm Partner, Melanie Ross, at the time. Andrew Hart, our East Hampton office manager, was the first to tell me of the initial plane hitting the Twin Towers. Melanie and I thought it must have been a terrible accident – then the second plane hit. Instantly the world knew – this was no accident.

I dropped everything and went home to John. I said to him, “we have to turn the TV on.”

Shortly thereafter the first tower fell. John turned to me and said “hundreds of firemen just died, I have to go.” While he got ready I went to pick up our boys (Drew & Jack) from school so they could say “goodbye” to Daddy.

It felt like he was a soldier going off to war.

My only request – “Please call me and let me know you’re ok.”

No one knew if this was the beginning of the attacks, with more to come, or if it was over for now.

John dutifully called when he got there and said, “Jude, it’s worse than imaginable. It’s surreal – human beings should not see such things, I gotta go now.”

All I could say was, “I love you – Please call me, let me know you’re ok.”

“Love you too – I’ll call when I can,” John said

My husband initially called daily – it felt like a transfusion of oxygenated blood each time he called.

I felt paralyzed with fear. As the days, then weeks, went on, John’s calls became less frequent. His emotions changed. He went from shock to fear, fear to anger, then anger to depression.

When I heard my husband become despondent, I knew I had to help him. How could I help him? I couldn’t even get off the sofa and unglue myself from the TV.

Fortunately for me, my dear friend Janet Hummel came over to try to peel me off the sofa – she helped my kids when I couldn’t. Drew had risen to the occasion and became an incredible big brother to Jack – exactly what he needed. Janet made me put one foot in front of the other when I didn’t want to. She was right, it was time for me to step up and take care of my family.

I called John’s captain, Bobby Fraumani, and asked for his assistance. I explained how John was unable to leave “the pile” for nearly two weeks straight because, that’s who John is…whether he was on the clock or off was superfluous. Bobby knew this about John, as he’s known him for many years, in and out of the firehouse.

I told Bobby that John needed to come home, hug his kids, kiss his wife and stick his feet in the bay for clams and make us his linguini and clam sauce – the simple pleasures in life that will remind him that life is good.

John came home for a day and a half – he found his soul again.

Then he went back to the pile. This time I asked him to make sure to come home for 24 hours every few days – “because we need you.”

Thank god there are people like John, Bobby and all the men and women who run into buildings while sending the rest of us out to safety.

I feel very blessed.