(First published on 9.11.09. Republished with original comments.)
Thinking about ‘lessons’ from 9-11 can often be heartbreaking, especially in my community where so many of us lost family, friends and co-workers in the WTC attacks. It’s almost disrespectful to bring up the idea of a “9-11” plan, but maybe thinking ahead about how we might respond to a similar event is useful and consoling.
Here’s my story about 9-11 plans …
For the first time ever one of my friends was willing to leave her kids with me for an entire day so that she could go into NYC for a ‘Girls Day Out”. That morning, she came over not only with the kids but also with a manila file folder. In the manila file folder was her 9-11 plan.
Her 9-11 plan included emergency phone numbers for her and her partner, their parents, siblings, and close friends’ phone numbers and addresses, the location of the ‘stash of cash’ and emergency supplies in their house, and the address of an extended family member’s home in rural Pennsylvania. This was their emergency ‘meet up’ place where, if separated during a terrorist attack, they would regather after fleeing the NYC area.
My friend’s partner worked in downtown NYC, was there on 9-11, and was unable to reach her by phone or email that day. My friend waited 8 hours to find out that her partner was safe. She knows she was lucky. We know moms who were not as lucky. She didn’t and doesn’t ever want to experience that again, and we pray she never will.
Just in case there is ever a national disaster or tragedy on a serious scale, when she or her partner are away from their kids and unable to protect them, she has their plan all spelled out on two sheets of paper she can give to whoever is in charge while she’s gone.
Until my friend shared her 9-11 plan with me, I thought I was the only mom who had one of these, written down for our au pair, just in case. In an odd way I appreciated discovering that someone else was similarly concerned, and that she had a plan in advance. Just in case.
In the days right after 9-11, I had several phone conversations with the frightened mom of our then-Au Pair, reassuring her that we would take care of her daughter in the event of another attack. Our 9-11 plan includes plans for caring for our au pair. Before we matched with our next au pair, we talked with her about our 9-11 plan, so that she could reassure her parents.
As the years have passed, we have talked about this less, but we still have a plan.