The redheaded boy

He had red hair.

It was the first thing I noticed about him. We redheads notice others. He was tall. Pale. He looked like he probably smiled more often than not. He looked tired, like he had just rolled out of bed and headed off to class.

He wasn't supposed to be there. We were huddled around outside our French class. It had just moved to a new location and there used to be a Spanish class in the same location. He was in the Spanish class but he hadn't know it moved.

He saw us huddled. Heard our whispers. Saw how upset everyone was. Then he heard the words "Twin Towers."

His head jerked up. "Did something happen?" he asked as he approached us.

"Yes," we offered tentatively. Words came out haltingly. Hijackers. Planes. Attack. Towers. Crash.


He turned pale. "My mother works there," he said in something that was between a whisper and a gasp. He looked like he was going to fall over.

"Go!" we said. "Get to a phone. You'll have trouble getting through but just go."

He ran.

I don't know if he got through to his mother. I don't know if she was one of the people who got to work late that day. Or who stopped for a coffee like my coworker's father. I don't know if she was there or if she got out.

I never spoke to him again. I saw him across campus once or twice but I don't know.

That is the memory that sticks with me the most of September 11, 2001. More than me uncharacteristically turning on the television that morning as I got ready only to see the first tower come down and the second one get hit and then watching that come down. More than the decision to go to French class because I needed to be around people and not huddled around a television, alone. More than coming back from class to find my ex, who hadn't yet moved out, in bed with another girl. "The world was ending," he said. More than yelling at him on the phone hours later. "Where are you?" he yelled. "We were looking for you in case there were more attacks. We'd go to the country with my sister." "Like hell," I said. More than going to work and begging to start early because I needed to do something. More than looking at an evening edition of the paper because of the day's happenings, the first I ever remember there being.

More than anything I remember the redheaded boy and hope that his mother got out.