It was such a glorious day Jim Kenworthy decided to walk to work. Although both Jim and his wife, Ginger Ormiston, had jobs in the complex of buildings that made up the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, they rarely went to work together. Their two children, Beth and Billie, went to different schools in different parts of the city, and mornings sometimes resembled a fire drill as the four of them scrambled to shower, eat breakfast, dress, and get off to school or work.
As usual, Jim was the first one up that Tuesday. He headed into the kitchen to start the coffee, then went to wake the kids. Billie, who was ten, was the hardest to rouse. But he had to get ready first since he had an early school bus to catch. Billie was just starting the fifth grade at P.S. 6 on the Upper East Side. A school bus stopped at University Place, near Jim and Ginger’s apartment off Union Square, but Billie had to be there by 7:30 to catch it. He had missed the bus the previous day and Ginger had to take him to school on the subway, which in turn had made her late for work at her new job as a computer expert with Marsh & McLennan.
After getting the children up, Jim went back to the kitchen to start making breakfast for Beth and Billie. He heard the shower running and knew that Ginger was up. Once the kids were fed, Jim started his own shower while Ginger dressed. He was just getting out when he heard Ginger shout something to him and the front door close. He didn’t hear what she said, and he called out to her from the bathroom. But she was gone.
Jim had first met Ginger seventeen years earlier at the wedding of a mutual friend in Pittsburgh. No sparks flew immediately, but when they met again at another wedding two years later, Jim asked Ginger for a date. When they started going out, Ginger and Jim did not seem to have a lot in common. Jim, who was born in Baltimore but grew up in Florida, was working for a small law firm. He loved New York. Ginger, who had an electrical engineering degree from Rutgers and was taking night courses at New York University, still lived with her parents in New Jersey while working at Bell Labs. She was not all that fond of the city. Jim liked baseball and had season tickets to the Yankees, but Ginger did not care much for the game; Jim liked the ballet, while Ginger preferred the opera. But there were many things they both enjoyed. They both loved to try the food of different countries, for example, a pleasure that New York, with its many restaurants, offered. Two years later, Jim and Ginger were married.
They moved into Jim’s little one-bedroom bachelor apartment on 17th Street in Manhattan, but after Beth and Billie were born, it became clear they would have to find a bigger place to live. First, they looked for a house in the suburbs, but in the end it was Ginger who decided she did not want to leave Manhattan. The girl from the Jersey suburbs had become a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker. Eventually, they found a loft near Union Square in downtown Manhattan. It was more than they could afford, and it needed a lot of work. But it became their dream house.
After Billie was born, Ginger stopped working for a while. But when they bought the loft, she knew she would have to find a job again. She started with a big corporation, but after a time she felt she wanted more of a challenge, and over the past year Ginger had changed jobs three or four times, signing on with different start-up Internet companies that always began with great fun, fanfare, and promise but then fizzled as the enterprises ran out of money. She was hoping her new job at M & M, as the giant insurance company was known, would become permanent.
After Ginger left with Billie that morning, Jim and Beth finished dressing and started out toward Beth’s school. Beth, who was twelve, was in the eighth grade at New York City Lab School, which was only four blocks away, on 17th Street in Chelsea. Beth was still talking about her soccer match
the previous Sunday. Soccer had become a big part of the Kenworthys’ lives, and both Beth and Billie played soccer for neighborhood teams, Beth for both a girls’ and a boys’ team. After dropping Beth off at her school, Jim strolled over to Seventh Avenue and turned south. There is a subway stop at 18th Street and Seventh Avenue, and the train would take Jim directly to the World Trade Center and his job with Deloitte & Touche, an accounting firm. But it was such a beautiful day, he decided to walk the forty-odd blocks to work.
He had just reached the corner of Canal Street when, from somewhere behind and above him, Jim heard a loud noise. He turned around and looked up. It was an airplane flying perilously low over the city. In fact, the big jetliner was so low that it stopped him in his tracks, and he stood watching it from the sidewalk as it streaked south.
The plane listed slightly, then righted itself and, as Jim watched, flew straight into the side of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Fire and smoke shot out of the building. Jim immediately began counting down the floors from the top of the 110-story skyscraper to where the plane had disappeared into the building. He counted 14. The 96th floor, the same floor where Ginger worked.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from September 11, 2001 by Wilborn Hampton. Copyright © 2003 by Wilborn Hampton. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.