The XX Factor

Her Story, My Memory: Just Another 9/11 Loss

Alissa Torres lived down the block from me on 9/11. We both had dogs. We both had creative ambitions. She was very pregnant with her son, I had just given birth to mine. We were working on being acquaintances. We were meant to turn into friends. Her husband worked in the wrong tall building; he died , mine didn’t. There might be budding friendships that could survive that-but ours wasn’t one of them.

I went to her husband’s memorial. I wanted to reach for her, but I wanted to give her the privacy I knew she wasn’t getting from others. In those days after the towers fell, every New Yorker felt like a victim, and every New Yorker wanted to somehow help a real victim. I know we spoke. I can’t imagine what we said.

After her son was born, we sat, once, in the tiny back garden attached to my basement apartment. We didn’t talk about Eddie-much. We didn’t not talk about him, either. I know it came up. I know I tried to say-not something kind, or something helpful, but something real, and I’ll bet didn’t really succeed. And that was it. My husband and I moved, Alissa stayed. We lost touch. When I saw American Widow reviewed in the Times , I knew instantly that it was her. When I saw a link to her article this morning, I knew. I think about her more than I have a right to; her story is hers and not mine. We were all only a butterfly’s wing away from our knees that morning. We all believe that because we had a meeting in the towers the day before or took a plane from Boston once, that we could have been-and somehow were-the victims. Alissa remains my touchstone for the huge gulf between what could have been, and what was.