Two Who Survived|
We originally saw this very special
tale in our rescue group's (GRREAT)
were thrilled when permission was gained to add it to our
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 & Darwin in New York City, 9-11-01: A Personal Story
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.
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 take 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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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 themvery 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.
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
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.
Check below for updates
from Nan. up