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Instead, when Ms.
Fortinsky and the children reached the lobby of their building, a
retired police officer ordered them to the boiler room. As the smoke
thickened, Ms. Fortinsky soaked strips of clothing in water and put them
over her children's noses to help them breathe. Suddenly, there came a
crash followed by successive crashes. "We thought it was our building,"
Ms. Fortinsky remembered. "Rachel went limp in my arms. I thought this
was my last moment."
The second tower had just collapsed.
but uninjured, Ms. Fortinsky and her children were evacuated to Bayonne,
N.J., and then to the National Guard Station in Jersey City. From there,
they headed to Ms. Fortinsky's sister's in Englewood Cliffs. The rest of
the week passed in a blur as the Fortinskys shuttled from one relative's
house to another. Ms. Fortinsky felt overwhelmed, but there was no
privacy, and she didn't want to cry in front of the children.
Fortinskys had initially hoped to return to their old apartment, but
when they visited the apartment a week later the extent of the damage
persuaded them otherwise. The children's clothes were stiff with dust;
all the computers and television sets were damaged, and, most disturbing
of all, Rachel's crib was filled with glass.
considered moving to the Upper East Side, but unlike her husband, who
had been in his Midtown office the morning of Sept. 11 and had not
experienced the attack firsthand, Ms. Fortinsky felt uneasy about the
city. Walking along Madison Avenue, she had the same sense of being
under siege that she had felt during the two years she spent as a
student at Hebrew University in Israel. "I wanted to be someplace quiet
and forgotten," she said.
For the Fortinskys, like many New York
families, the suburbs had seemed to be somewhere in the future, an
eventual reckoning with a more settled, family-oriented way of life.
Though the couple had been thinking about relocating within the next
year or two, before Sept. 11 that year or two had felt far away. Only
after the attack, when their old way of life seemed replaced by a more
perilous one, did the suburbs symbolize both refuge and fresh
On Oct. 5, 24 days after the attack, the Fortinskys moved
into a furnished colonial-style rental house in Scarsdale, N.Y. They
took with them the few objects they could rescue from their old
apartment, including family pictures, menorahs and silverware that Ms.
Fortinsky's grandmother had salvaged from her old home in Lithuania
after surviving the Holocaust.
Shaking Off the Dust
three months, while the Galloways waited for their building to reopen,
they bounced around like refugees, first to a one-bedroom apartment
above a Greenwich Village bar, then to a two-bedroom in Chelsea. The
children attended classes at Public School 41 and St. Bernard's before
their own school building, P.S. 234, reopened in February.
Galloways had made brief trips back to their dust-caked apartment to
retrieve emotional necessities — the children's stuffed animals, their
old dog's ashes — but more than anything, they wanted to spend Christmas
at home. A worried Liam had asked his mother whether Santa Claus knew
where Chelsea was.
Shortly before the holidays, a rumor spread
that 600 Gateway Plaza wouldn't open till Dec. 28. "That's when I
started crying," Ms. Galloway remembered. "The one thing we wanted for
our kids was a normal Christmas."
On Dec. 21, the Galloways got
their wish. "It was very emotional," Ms. Galloway said of the family's
celebration of that holiday in familiar quarters. "It marked the start
of life in a normal way."
But the Galloways still had to contend
with their emotionally charged surroundings. A poster in the lobby
asked, "Have you seen this black box?" — a reminder that residents of
600 Gateway Plaza lived in the heart of an air crash and crime scene.
Going home through the maze of closed streets was a challenge. Some
evenings, Mr. Galloway went to the roof to watch the recovery efforts
and sadly watch firefighters converge in the solemn ritual that meant
that more human remains had been discovered. When the Galloways walked
out the front door, they were engulfed by a sea of tourists and
Because Ms. Galloway was still having nightmares
about the towers falling, she entered a group therapy program provided
by the Visiting Nurse Service. Liam, who had developed a fear of the
subway after seeing pictures of the damaged No. 1 train tunnel, was
enrolled in an art therapy class, where he drew pictures of Osama bin
Laden with his head ripped off or trapped in hot magma. "Everything that
could have happened to bin Laden, did," Ms. Galloway said with a
But as many of the family's neighbors returned and as
stores reopened, the Galloways could feel the neighborhood revive.
January brought the first block party, at the Garden Diner on South End
Avenue. West Street reopened in March. Soon, the community board was
arguing about a dog run that had been on the agenda before Sept. 11.
"That's when we knew things were back to normal," Mr. Galloway
The family mourns the loss of the trade center, whose
silhouette and attractions played such a large role in their lives. But
Mr. Galloway believes that much of his family's life is still
"After the attack, I realized that terrorists could attack
Des Moines just as well as New York," he said. "When I realized that, I
started thinking of all the reasons I'm here in the first place: the
family community, the closeness to work, the excitement. They still
In early October, Ms.
Fortinsky began the complex process of creating a new life for her
family in Scarsdale.
The first week was the hardest. She had to
beg for the children to be enrolled in preschool and other activities
that had started weeks earlier. After years of having a doorman, she
found it scary being alone in a house; one evening, hearing noises
outside, she called the police, who determined that the intruder was
probably a raccoon. Suburban streets seemed empty compared to bustling
Battery Park City, and she worried that her already traumatized children
would have trouble making friends.
"Here activities attract
children from 10 different towns," she said. "It's not like Battery Park
City, where there was one diner where we all gathered."
after the move, the Fortinskys held a party at Chelsea Piers to
celebrate the twins' fourth birthday, and to say goodbye to their
Gateway Plaza neighbors, many of who had also relocated to the suburbs.
As the children took rock-climbing lessons, the adults shared their
Sept. 11 stories and, with hugs and tears, traded new addresses and
As the weeks progressed, the Fortinsky children
settled in and made new friends. But their mother continued to feel
isolated and anxious. The rental house had one problem after another:
termites, flooding, electrical mishaps. Although she felt safer in the
suburbs, she was having nightmares about watching the tower fall toward
In November, Ms. Fortinsky started seeing a
psychotherapist, who diagnosed her condition as post-traumatic stress
disorder. Ms. Fortinsky also brought in Sarah for a session. A few weeks
earlier, Sarah had confessed that she often dreamed about being carried
down the Gateway Plaza stairs by Ms. Holden, the housekeeper, and
worried that her mother loved her less because she had carried the other
two children instead of her.
"When she told me that, I was
heartbroken," Ms. Fortinsky said, her voice wavering. "I started
thinking about why I had told her to run to Donna. I hadn't been
thinking anything, perhaps only that she was a little bigger than the
other two. But I still felt some guilt."
In January, the
Fortinskys signed a contract for a house in nearby Larchmont. They moved
in three weeks ago. But even in her new surroundings, Ms. Fortinsky
often thinks about her old life. "I miss their stuff more than my
stuff," she said, pointing to her children. "I miss their Thomas the
Tank Engine table. I miss the play dates down the hall."
what she liked about the suburbs, Ms. Fortinsky absentmindedly clutched
one of her children's stuffed animals and answered, "Nothing."
shouldn't say nothing," she added a moment later. "I just can't think of
Her son, Jacob, who was playing nearby, interrupted
proudly, "I know some people in shul."
Ms. Fortinsky beamed down
at him. Then her smile faded. Just last week, she said, she had taken
the children back to Battery Park City to meet some old friends. They
had eaten at the Garden Diner and played at the tire park. But something
didn't feel right.
"It isn't ours anymore," she said sadly. "Our
lives weren't lost, but it was a loss of life as we knew it."