My Divorce and 9/11

09/11/2011 02:20 pm ET | Updated Nov 11, 2011
  • Erica Manfred Author, He's History, You're Not: Surviving Divorce After Forty

In June 2001 my husband left me for a co-worker after fifteen years of marriage.

On September 11, 2001, I was home in the house we had shared, in Woodstock, New York, watching the TV alone, with no one to talk to about what was happening. My husband and I had shared everything, from movies, to books, to music to TV shows. We talked about everything. My first instinct was to pick up the phone and call him at work, to ask if he knew what happened. My brain froze, I had to take my hand off the phone before I dialed automatically. At that moment I remembered that I couldn't call him, but I hardly knew what to make of those planes flying into those buildings without him to bounce my thoughts and opinions off. I wasn't used to talking to anyone else about important events. I had no idea who else to call, who else to process this horrendous event with. I had no other family, my parents were gone, I had no siblings. I had a few friends but no close friends. It takes time after divorce to make new friends.

9/11 was an event that involved the nation, most particularly families who lost their loved ones. I'd lost a loved one but compared to those who saw their husbands, wives, children, jump out the window of the World Trade Center I felt I had no reason to complain. But still, watching that TV alone just exacerbated my own sense of loss--which cut deeper than what I was watching on the TV.

My neighbor, an older curmudgeonly fellow, who I usually avoided because he was a bombastic, reactionary Republican who was constantly haranguing me about the follies of liberals, saw that my door was open. I was so desperate for someone to talk to that I asked him in. The awfulness of this awful event brought us together for a morning, two people who had nothing in common except that we were both single and had no one talk to about those planes slamming into those towers, an event that almost demanded sharing. So we shared our terror, our stunned shock with each other. We sat together in my house, watching TV, as the second plane hit the second tower. We didn't say much besides expressing disbelief and confusion about what was going on. It was comforting to just be near another human being at that moment, even if it wasn't the human being I wanted there.