Tag Archives: mother


Waking Up Without My Murdered Child

My eyes open.

I see the same ceiling I’ve looked at each morning for all these years.

It doesn’t look any different.

In my peripheral vision, I see my husband curled up next to me. He has the blanket over his head.

I’m exhausted. I lay here so still. I can hear my breath. And within seconds it all starts to seep into my memory. My life is forever changed now. My life will never, ever be the same.

I try so hard to stop those visions and thoughts from coming in. They simply don’t compute. This is all a dream and soon I will reawaken and all will be exactly how life was when I woke up in this same bed with this same man lying next to me 24 hours ago.

Wow…24 hours ago. How can life actually change that much in such a short span of time. Well actually an even shorter span of time, but right now I can only see this parameter.

So now what do I do. I feel paralyzed that not one muscle can move. Like my body is sinking in to this mattress inch by inch and soon I’ll be swallowed up. Maybe that would be good…this pain that is setting in is going to be too much to bear…and I know it.

My mind cannot comprehend how a text could change my life. How a simple ‘school lockdown’ message would irrevocably move me from being a person who was out Christmas shopping one day, to a frantic, shock-laden, out-of-my-mind-with-fear woman who did not have my child at the end of the day.

A woman who dutifully brought her child to a good suburban school, nurtured and care for that child, sacrificed financially for that child, had all the hopes and wishes for a perfect future for that child and now this.

This was not happening.

This couldn’t be happening.

This must not be happening because I can’t get my head around this and just the thought of it all is too overwhelming, too shocking and moves me into a place where the world I controlled could no longer be controlled and this was too scary a place to live.

This stuff happens to other people. People out there. Wherever ‘there’ is, it’s just not here. It doesn’t happen to people I know and it definitely doesn’t happen to people like me. And it definitely doesn’t happen to people where I live. I’m safe, right? We’re safe, right? How the **** could this be happening.

I jump from bed and run down the hall. Surely she’s in bed under the covers not wanting to get up for school.

The door is open. The blankets on her bed in disarray. I can’t remember what is happening until it occurs to me the scene from overnight.

I was the one who grabbed that pillow. I was the one who wailed on her bed. I was the one who begged God to not take her and demanded he return her immediately. I was the one who wouldn’t leave her room without the loving encouragement of my husband.

My husband…

What is to become of us. He has been my rock. He has sustained us financially through all these difficult years. He was the one I waited for at the school to shore me up.

I ran from the car to the school to get as close as they would let me. I waited and waited and waited. I needed him by my side. He told me he’d get there as soon as he could.

I saw children, police, teachers, emergency workers all around. It was so chaotic. No one was sure of anything.

All I wanted was my child. That’s all I wanted.

I started to see the reunions of mothers and children, fathers and children, parents and children. I was longing for my child, but all the while keeping a hopeful attitude as I saw all these intense embraces I waited for my turn.

My turn.

My turn.

I waited for my turn.

And waited.

And my husband appeared and his love and embrace gave me further strength to wait. He was with me now. It would all be ok.

We tried to update each other on how we both learned. We held each other close in the cold with the brightness of the day glaring our view at times.

We saw the police with guns, got various reports about the gunman. It made me catch my breath. We didn’t know what to think. All we could envision was when she’d be safely in our arms again, just as we witnessed with other families all around us.

And we waited and waited and waited and waited.

But our turn didn’t come.

It didn’t come.

It just didn’t come…

She should have been out by now. She should have appeared. We should have been told something by now.

But she didn’t and we hadn’t and as nightfall came about, my hope dwindled and it became clear, very clear that she wasn’t coming back to our arms. She wasn’t going to be jumping up into her father’s arms like she always did. She wasn’t.

There was nothing left to do. The police gave us as much information as they could. The bodies needed to be identified and until then no confirmation could come.

But we knew.

We knew.

And my blood seemed to run out of my body as I stepped foot in the door of my home. I had no more energy. I had no more strength.

The tears I held back for all those hours overwhelmed me. I collapsed at my husband’s feet holding on tightly to his ankles. How could this be happening.

He sat on the floor with me and he took me in his arms and cradled me as we both wailed.


9/11: Experiences, Reflections, Changes

I spent the summer of 2001 writing my book Understanding Your Grieving Heart After a Loved One’s Death. The evening before 9/11 I was developing the press plan and rejoicing because the printer had called that Monday to say the galleys had been shipped via UPS and I should expect them in a few days. Those books didn’t arrive for over four weeks.

Since I worked through the night, it was my former husband who woke me to the words, “Mar, I think you better get up…a plane has hit the World Trade Center.”

Stunned and still trying to wake up and comprehend what he said, something inside knew this was intensely serious and I jumped from bed and ran to the living room in our Central Florida home.

I remember standing there in the middle of the room with my mouth open and my hands covering it. I never sat down. We just stood there, almost at attention, in reverence of all that was happening to my beloved city where I lived most of my life.

I thought of all the people who worked in those towers and we estimated there would be nearly 25,000 people in each of them. Just the thought of losing 50,000 people was incomprehensible.

Being the video queen that I was back then, and to some degree still am, I immediately searched for VCR tapes (back then) and popped one in. I asked my husband to continue taping and we did just that, taping all the events for nearly a week.

There were times over the last ten years when I wanted to watch that footage again, but it was just too sad. Perhaps one day I will move it to DVD and have it available for a long lost weekend.

I started to think of all the people who might be there whom I knew. There were many.

First my cousin, Peter. He had been a FDNY firefighter for many years, like his father, my Uncle Pete before him, and had taken the Lieutenant’s test. It took a while to find out he was safe, but had lost so many of his friends that day.

He would spend weeks down at the Trade Center in the recovery effort and on the next Sunday was promoted to Lieutenant since so many had perished. It was a bittersweet moment and one our family will never forget. We still have the picture of him in his dress blues with his devoted and wonderfully supportive wife, Maureen by his side as he held his first daughter, Kaitlin, only a few years old then.

Later we would talk via instant messenger usually after midnight when he couldn’t sleep and I remember how difficult it was for him. And why wouldn’t it be. He had been to dozens of funerals and being such an amazing man, his heart was always so giving and loving toward everyone he knew and even those he didn’t.

To this day, I have such great respect for him and such deep appreciation for all he’s been through during the past ten years.

As the days passed, we heard about my cousin Sharon’s husband, Mike who lost his cousin. His aunt was devastated and although I never met her, I remember sending a bunch of my books for a fundraiser they did on Staten Island. I was glad to do that.

We also heard about my cousin’s husband, Brian, who works for Port Authority and lost many friends but also almost lost his life trying to get out of the towers, walking dozens of flights to safety.

Years later, I would hear his story in person when we had a chance to reflect, ironically when I was recovering from a life-threatening accident and he graciously would pick me up and bring me to church.

Both Brian and Peter were so steadfast in their willingness to help me when I was recovering from all those broken bones, and I will never forget their love and care for me.

Then there was my brother’s former girlfriend, Nina, who lost her brother Andrew in the towers. I stayed with her a few years after the tower fell when I moved back to NYC and I remember the two of us reminiscing about Andrew and his life and work and loves. She loved and missed him so much.

I also remember meeting and exchanging books with Julia Rathey, whose husband, David was killed in the towers that day. She had written a book entitled What Children Need When They Grieve which I thoroughly enjoyed and felt was so wonderfully written, not to mention all the help it brought to suffering families in the years following 9/11.

I was so happy when she shared, years later, that she would remarry a great guy named Gregg. She deserved to be happy again.

As I stood in the living room not moving, not speaking, in total shock, one of the things I started to remember was my pictures. I frantically started to search for them in my boxes.

I knew they were there…but where were they. You see I have celebrated three milestone in my life in the towers.

The night I finished my MBA from Fordham, my parents picked me up after the last exam and we enjoyed dinner together at Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top with the most magnificent view of the entire city.

I remember taking home the empty bottle of champagne and writing on it the date and place. That bottle was kept on the top shelf of my living room hutch for many years. I often wonder if I’ll find it one day among all my memorabilia in deep storage. That would be amazing.

Another memory was when I got engaged on the Observation Deck of the Twin Towers. While we had decided many months before to get married, it was on the 4th of July that he actually presented the ring and formally asked for my hand. We went to the restaurant afterwards and had champagne.

When my 40th Birthday rolled around, there was no other place I wanted to celebrate. Funny thing…I remember being in the elevator with Michael Bloomberg that night going up to Windows on the World. I knew immediately who he was, long before he entered politics.

It was those pictures especially I wanted to find. I dug and dug. I couldn’t find them fast enough. My husband kept asking me what I was looking for and I remember just flipping through hundreds of pictures until they finally appeared.

It was then I wept.

I handed them to him. The best two pictures we had inside the trade center. He took one of me and I one of him across the table celebrating my 40th Birthday. The lambchops arranged so perfectly on the plate…my favorite.

I looked at the booths we had been sitting in. I remembered the look of the restaurant, so open and elegant. I thought about how all those booths were now disintegrated. All that steel, and all those people who probably were serving breakfast that morning.

I have been back to the World Trade Center or as it was known “Ground Zero” a few times since 9/11/2001. The first time was on the 2005 anniversary when I was then living there again.

It was a most profound experience. One I will always remember.

It took nearly four weeks for the galleys to arrive for Understanding Your Grieving Heart which were originally shipped on 9/10, the day before our nation’s tragedy.

While waiting, I informed the printer to update the dedication. It now reads:

For those who love them so deeply
Miss them so desperately
Grieve for them so despondently
The tears of a nation join you.

Remembering those who perished on
Tuesday, September 11th, 2001

We pray blessings over the survivors of these attacks,
the rescue workers for their brave service to our people,
the canine rescuers for their devotion to help, protect and love us,
and the countless volunteers who heard the call and answered it

We will not back down
We will never forget

God Bless Our Great Land
and its people

Mary M. McCambridge (Ask Mary Mac) is the Founder and President of the Foundation for Grieving Children, Inc., a Grief Coach and author of several award winning books and CD programs on bereavement. She resides in Central Florida.