Two Who Survived
We originally saw this very special tale in our rescue group's (GRREAT) newsletter, and were thrilled when permission was gained to add it to our Land of PureGold website. It tells the tale of two Goldens who survived very traumatic beginnings, and then were met again with tragedy. But, thankfully special love from some truly Golden folks continues to follow them wherever they go.

Hope and Darwin SchrammHope & Darwin in New York City, 9-11-01: A Personal Story
By Nan Schramm

September 11, 2001 began as a typical one for my husband and me at our apartment one and a half blocks south of the World Trade Center. We awoke to a beautiful, sunny, cloudless fall day and walked our two Goldens, Hope and Darwin.

Hope had been through a hair-raising rescue up near Albany New York as a puppy. She, her littermates, and their mother were found starving to death in a backyard-breeding nightmare.

All of them were rescued by Golden Rescue Operated With Love Statewide and “Hope” was christened thusly, as she was not expected to live through the night. Needless to say, she defied all odds and when we adopted her as an eight-week-old puppy, she had enough spunk for the whole litter. The View from Nan's window on 9-11

We got our Darwin from Long Island Golden Retriever Rescue. He had been found wandering Long Island, New York, with no hair. After getting his thyroid in check, he blossomed into the most beautiful male Golden I have ever seen.

On September 11th, they were given their breakfast and fresh water and off we both went to work. All the windows, which faced North into the towers, in our 17th floor apartment were left open. My husband, Eric, who often times worked from home went to his office in midtown. I usually walked to work to my office near Wall Street, but had an early client meeting in the Bronx, north of Manhattan, so off I went.

During my client meeting, a secretary ran in and said one of the Trade Towers had been hit by a plane. There was a television in the office so we immediately turned it on. It was a grisly and terrifying site and my immediate thought was that I had to get home to the dogs. The people in my meeting urged me to stay, but I felt an urgent need to get home. I tried to get Eric on the phone, but for some reason, which I would not understand until hours later, I could not get through. In my heart I knew he was on his way home too, as he would have heard the news at his office.

The subway I rode downtown suddenly stopped at 86th Street and the announcement was that there was no more Lexington Avenue train service. I left the train and went upstairs to the street. There were throngs of people milling about on the sidewalks, almost all of them on cell phones. I knew if I needed to walk all the way home, it would tBaby Hope befriends Big Brother Darwin, the Behemoth!ake hours so I stopped at a deli for a bottle of water. I asked the man at the cash register, who was listening to a radio, if he had heard anything about the plane crash down town. He looked at me and the words he uttered I will never forget as long as I live. He said, “Lady, the towers have collapsed.” I guess my reaction was rather hysterical because I remember him yelling at me “Yes, but you're alive.”

I stumbled onto the sidewalk thinking I had to find Eric. Neither of us had a cell phone and my only hope of finding him was at his office at 34th Street. Every pay phone in the city had a line around the block and by now people were walking up the center of the streets. I remember being utterly focused at the task at hand, getting through the crowds to Eric, not stopping to speak with anyone, head down, one foot in front of the other. I stopped for a brief moment at Times Square and the ticker tape repeated what the man at the deli had said, “World Trade Center Collapses”. I wouldn't put the pieces together of the second plane crash nor see the devastating images for hours. You don't know it when you are in shock; it hits you later when you say to yourself, “Oh, I must be in a state of shock.” My state of shock and that of my husband's, looking back on it, lasted for months.
The 8am view from Nan's window on 9-12
I arrived at Eric's high-rise office tower at 34th Street and went into the lobby. I never thought what I was going to do if he wasn't there. After wandering many floors with empty cubicles, I heard his voice on the phone speaking French, I knew to his mother. Never has that language sounded so like music to my ears. We spent the next few hours calling our families and letting people know that we were okay. From what little news we could piece together Manhattan Island was in “lock down” and everything below 14th street was off limits. Eric, as I knew he would, had rushed home after the first plane hit, only to be stopped by the FBI and then told to leave the area. He witnessed the horror of people jumping and ran as one of the towers came down.

The hours ticked by like seconds for us that day. All we could think of was Hope and Darwin with all the windows open and how we could get to them. At this point we were still unsure if the building was even standing. My mother told me she was sure she had seen it on CNN and that it looked unscathed. In my mind, I knew that 50,000 people worked daily in the Trade Center and that the casualties and loss, to put it in the eloquent words of then-Mayor Giuliani, could be greater than any of us could bear.

We ended up getting on a subway downtown about 7:00 to some friends who lived well east of the destruction. They fed us dinner and then we decided to see how far we could get on foot into what had not yet been coined Ground Zero. There were very few civilians out and a police officer said to us, stick together as a group, you don't know what is out here. I suppose he meant marauding looters.

The closer we got to the destruction, the thicker the ash became in the air and under foot. It got so that if a National Guard truck passed by we needed to pull our shirts up over our faces to breathe. We got into Battery Park City in the pitch black and were able to see our building across the West Side Highway. I simply couldn't look. The building two doors north of ours was badly on fire and I knew that in addition to the ash and debris that must have come in the open windows, the dogs now had thick smoke to breathe. That is, if they were still alive.

We crossed the highway and systematically tried to get to the building up the various abandoned streets. National Guardsmen, who were frankly doing their job by turning us away, thwarted all efforts. There was nothing left to do, and the sights we took in resembled that of a horror movie in which we were all extras. We went back to our friends' home in the smoky darkness and were given a comfortable bed and clean tee shirts to sleep in. I am not a religious person but I said a prayer for my babies. I prayed that they would not suffer and if they had to die, or had died, that it would be painless and quick, much like being put to sleep.

Eric and I got some sleep. I think sleep came as a result of our emotional states because I did not expect to get a wink. We were up at first light. We put back on our ash covered work clothes and set out. We went to my office on foot to get medical supplies and flashlights. Darwin had had surgery on his front leg the week before and I knew he would need to have it wrapped and be prepared to walk down 17 flights and several miles to our friends' house in a substance that might be very toxic. In my heart I knew it would be nothing short of a miracle for us to get to them. I frankly had no expectation of getting in to the building, or even being allowed close to it. An early December window view

We left my office and started towards our home. We saw one lone civilian with a big professional camera. I remember looking down at one point and seeing a dead monarch butterfly and thinking I hope this not an omen of things to come. I had never seen a butterfly in Manhattan. In the daylight absolutely everything was covered in white soot and ash. Looking back on it, the entire landscape was colorless. Everything was in shades of grey. It was almost Pompeiian. We got as far as Trinity Church and our building came into sight and from what we could see, it looked okay! It was about this time we were asked to turn back by a National Guardsman. I figured we would never get as close as we had and I was expecting this. Every time we were told to turn back, we would scoot up another street so that we wouldn't be seen. Before long we were within one block of our home. At this point I was in complete hysterics. I was overcome with so much emotion and in complete disbelief that we were almost to the building.

Looking back on that journey, I realize we moved in a pocket of luck the whole way. There was a police station right next door to our building and we had terrible fears about what might have happened to the burly men we saw outside every morning who were so affectionate with Hope and Darwin. As we approached the station we could see at the end of our block, “the pile.” All that was left of the towers sat in a smoking ten-story heap and our block was littered with burned out wrecked cars. The scene greeting the family right outside their apartment as they left with their Goldens

Eric thought my hysterics might be our ticket in, so I asked the men (they were all National Guardsmen) if our police station had suffered any losses. The gruff response was “Enough.” I begged them to let us go in for ten minutes to get our dogs. The answer was no. And then the miracle of miracles. One of them said “We don't see you, and if anything happens to you in there, we REALLY didn't see you.” As we approached the building, it was completely unrecognizable. The awnings, which had been recently installed over the entrance, had blown off the building and were lodged in the parking garage across the street.

We entered a pitch-black, smoky, ash-covered lobby. Had we not had the flashlights we would never have found the fire stair. Bizarrely, the front fire stair was locked and we had no idea where the second one was, but eventually we found it and entered. We had a very slow go of it making our ascent. It was 17 flights and we kept hyperventilating. Looking back, I know the reason was fear and emotion. We took many breaks and found some windows that could be opened so that we could breathe.

As we approached our apartment door, Eric told me to stay back. He did not want me to see the dogs if they had expired up against the door. For some reason he knocked on the door. It seemed like an eternity, but after several seconds, Darwin let out a huge WOOF. In we went, and there they were, behaving as if we were late coming home from work. Dog toys covered in debris by Nan's apartment window

Our apartment was covered with charred papers and ash, but the dogs still had water in their bowl. Neither of those dogs had relieved themselves in the apartment and they and been alone for twenty-four hours! We held them and cried. They were just as we left them—very happy and frisky. At one point they were rolling around playing in the ash on the floor. I knew we would have to travel lightly and that this might be the last time we ever got into the building as it could collapse. I took Darwin's thyroid medicine, some of their favorite toys, a few important papers and a box of dog biscuits. Oh, and Hope's baby pictures.

How did we get so lucky? Those animals were the only things in that apartment that mattered and they came out of what had to have been a horrible ordeal unscathed. We would learn many weeks later that many other tenants tried to get to their animals and were turned away and that an 8-week-old puppy was left for 4 days and almost died.

Our dogs were taken on a rush hour subway and a commuter train that next day up to my mother's house in Massachusetts. We ended up living in the New York Hilton for three and a half months trying to decide what to do while visiting the dogs every weekend. Not having them for those months was agony, but there was nothing else we could have done. We knew they were safe, if a little confused.
Now in Virginia: A Dad and his Kids
We made the move to Northern Virginia knowing that it would be a beautiful life for Hope and Darwin. Eric was able to keep his job and his commute is now about five seconds to his office, the front room of an 18th century farmhouse. We promised the dogs we would never go to work and leave them again, and we haven't.

After we got here, I realized that I needed to somehow give back to the breed that has always blessed my life. I joined Golden Retriever Rescue, Education And Training and ended up getting in touch with Diane Lanigan at the organization, who suggested I get involved with home visits. I have loved every minute of my involvement and it has been a wonderful way for me to get active again after saying goodbye to my job in New York.

I think our grieving process will never be fully over, but every day has been a good one since we moved here last December. The people of Virginia, having suffered so terribly then too, have been so kind and accepting of us. I have found that talking about our ordeal and hearing about that of others has been very helpful.





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