The World Is Ending, and I Just Want a Sandwich by Kelly Reising
Everyone tells a different story of where they were on 9/11. Some people were obviously in a much more traumatic situation than I was, but considering that my parents lived in New York City, I had plenty of reasons to be concerned that day, like so many.
At the time, I was newly pregnant after suffering a miscarriage just a few months before. So, I was very aware of the fact that I was a delicate person carrying a much-wanted rainbow baby. This new life growing inside me was my primary concern above all else. I was ready to be a mother.
I’m watching the Today Show, like I did every day that I had to get up to go to work. My job was in retail cosmetics for an upscale brand in a department store in Cleveland, Ohio. I didn’t have to be at work until 10 AM, so my time in the morning was spent eating breakfast and watching a little bit of TV. When the first plane hit, I didn’t know what to think. From the looks of it, it seemed like some kind of horrible accident, but by the time the second plane hit, the news people were already speculating that this was some kind of attack.
The second plane. I was still watching the Today Show at this time getting ready to leave by 9:30. The mall was only 15 minutes away from my apartment, so at that point, there wasn’t enough information about what was going on, so it was unfortunate, but I had to go to work.
When I got there, everything was fairly quiet because it was a weekday and the department store wasn’t going to be very crowded. No one ever came in that day. I don’t remember a single customer walking through those doors. When I got to my counter, and everyone was buzzing about what was going on. We talked about finding a radio to hear what was happening since none of us had access to a television on the floor of the cosmetics department. At the time it seemed like a wasteland of unimportant things with the turn of events that were going on.
I was naturally concerned about my parents. They managed a hotel on a property right next to JFK Airport, so I knew they weren’t far from Manhattan. Dressed in my long sheer beauty advisor outfit designed in collaboration with Gucci, I felt elegant and at four months along very much in tune with the fact that I WAS PREGNANT. It’s all I could really think about, being calm for this tiny baby inside me.
The department store was eerie and quiet. We were all chatting about what was going on outside the store, and how it was affecting us. Who we knew, who had people in New York, and if anything else worse was going to happen. The management was fairly unavailable at that time, but since we were in this little bubble without any contact with the outside world, many of us wanted to leave to find out what was going on. Pretty reasonable, right?
Finally, one of the prissy managers came up to our department and announced that anyone who wanted to could leave, without penalty. I looked around at my co-workers. I’m not sure how many of us left that day, but I know that I walked out with a friend of mine, and as we were leaving, we entered the elevator with that same manager, who was a total bitch. She glared at us and made a comment that was clear she thought it was ridiculous we were leaving, even though no customers were in the store shopping because everyone was glued to their TV making sure this wasn’t the start of World War 3.
I just remember being upset that she didn’t get how serious this situation was.
I had just finally got off the phone with my parents.
The only reason I could reach them was through the landline of the hotel and the landline of the department store I was in. My cell couldn’t reach their cells due to the fact that everything was jammed up with people trying to get a hold of their loved ones in NY.
My conversation with my dad was calm. He was the helm essentially of a huge ship that was in trouble. The entire staff was in an emotional uproar with so many of them having loved ones in Manhattan or worse, directly working in the Twin Towers. My dad was a beautifully calm leader. Man, he was always great in a crisis. And this was probably the biggest crisis he’d ever faced in a leadership position running one of his hotels, other than the time that a plane crashed right next door to his hotel in Dallas, Texas many years earlier. Those survivors and loved ones of the dead set up a command point at his hotel, and I’ll never forget it. I saw the plane crash when I was on the way to the hotel during a thunderstorm with my mom and brother, from the vantage point of our car on the highway. I still don’t fly very well to this day.
Anyway, my mom on the other hand was a mess.
So, the sandwich…by the time I left the department store, it was around 1 PM. I was starving. As a newly pregnant woman, all I could think about was taking care of myself for the baby. I wanted to stay calm even in this crazy uncertain time. When I was on the phone with my mom, she was okay for a second and then started to get hysterical. Crying. They had just seen the final tower fall to the ground from the roof of the hotel. It was a lot for her to take. As she was wailing on the phone, my dad took the receiver away from her and relayed the events of what was going on in a more stable way. It was pretty amazing that I even got them on the phone. I felt lucky that I did, unsure of what was going to happen for the rest of the day, especially in New York where they were.
I was also struck by the fact that I was unsure of the type of world I was bringing an innocent little baby into. I didn’t know the sex yet, but as of right now that tiny baby inside me is 21 years old. She is a college student with two jobs and is just about the most perfect human being I know, outside of her sister, who is pretty perfect in my eyes too.
I arrived at Einstein Bagels very hungry. I entered the restaurant, which was completely empty, but I was pregnant and starving so I was ready for a sandwich before I went home. There was a teenage girl manning the sandwich station. I don’t really remember what I ordered, just the fact that when I watched her making it she put mayonnaise on it, even though I told her not to when I ordered. I asked her to make it again without mayo. Seemed like a really normal and innocent request on a day that the world might probably be ending, but she couldn’t grasp doing her job correctly and was pretty shitty to me.
Finally, I could see that she wasn’t going to make my sandwich right, so I just told her to “forget it” and I left the store in a huff, which I had never done before in my life. I felt defeated. Sad. Untethered. And I kind of felt like a failure to my unborn child. The world was ending (possibly), and I couldn't even secure her a simple bagel sandwich. What kind of mother would I be? What kind of world was I bringing her into?
A world where people flew planes into buildings? Into a field? Into the Pentagon? The entire day was nothing like I’d ever seen before in my lifetime. And I wondered how to reconcile the fact that I was going to be a parent in five months after such a horribly traumatic event where so many people lost loved ones. And the person I loved the most was still inside me waiting to be born.
Overall, that day, I just felt like I had to be calm for her. She was my everything. Still is. Her sister too. And when I think back to the world ending, and I just wanted a sandwich to take care of her, I think about how lucky I was even though the Einstein Bagel girl couldn’t make my lunch correctly, and my parents were in New York City, and worst of all… 2996 people died on that day.
12:01 AM (5 Months Later)
My rainbow baby was born.