My September 11th Story – 20 Years Later

Well, this wasn’t the plan for today. The plan was to produce two posts. This one, and one purely interior design, in case some of you aren’t interested in my September 11th story.

However, as per usual, it’s all taking way longer than it should. I am working on Mrs. F’s guest bathroom. And, I think you’re going to enjoy it. While it’s fun for me, it’s a lot more time-consuming to design AND then write about it.

So far, I’ve done several versions of the sink/toilet wall. It’s not a large bathroom, but not super tiny, either at 7′-7″ x 8′-1″.


Anyway, it’s probably for the best because it’ll give me a chance to run the boards past Mrs. F. first.

Some of the bathrooms have wallpaper, and some don’t. But, I used a few bathrooms as inspiration for the design. It’s something I talk about a lot in other posts.


Mélanie Cherrier of Blanc Marine Living - dark green bathroom via Canadian House & Home

Mélanie Cherrier of Blanc Marine Living – dark green bathroom via Canadian House & Home


dark green wall with moulding white vanity Mrs. F
And, the board that I did. I can’t wait to share the rest of them with you and here which ones, if any, you like the best.


There’s going to be a lot more to see on Wednesday.


Now, it’s time to tell you my September 11th story.

Like many readers, I was directly affected by the attack in New York City. But, in a way, I never could’ve imagined.


This is how September 11th unfolded for my family and me.


The morning of the 11th, I woke up already sad because it was the 14th anniversary of the passing of my beautiful older and only brother, Donald.

He was only 38 and died of arrhythmia. A driven marathon runner, his heart stopped beating, and he was home alone.

But, that was September 11, 1987, when I was only 31 and living in New York City with my then-boyfriend, soon-to-be husband.

However, on September 11, 2001, now married for 13 years and with two children, we had moved up to northern Westchester County 10 years earlier.


Above is almost the entire county, just north of New York City, the Bronx, to be specific.  We’ll see some more maps shortly. Ack, Goldens Bridge isn’t even on this map. It’s such a tiny place. It’s actually a small hamlet tucked in between Katonah and Waccabuc on the map.

My kids were in school, of course, and my wasband, at work in midtown Manhattan. However, as a COBOL mainframe programmer, he had frequently worked in the Trade towers; both of them.


And, he was always on a high floor and always got to work by 8:00 AM.



However, not at that time, thank God!

Shortly after 9:00 AM, I was on the phone with a delivery company in New Jersey. I got out a sentence or two, and then he said, “Did you hear what happened?”

“No, what?” I said.

“Well, a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center.”

Of course, I’m sure I said, “Oh, no!”


However, in my mind, it was a small plane, like a single-engine Cessna. Maybe the pilot had a heart attack, and the rogue plane crashed into the building—something like that.


And, then came the news that a second plane had hit. That was no accident.


Goldens Bridge to One World Trade Center


I was still on the phone, but then, I turned on the TV, and there it was…


As the crow flies, we lived only about 45 miles away from the twin towers. (see the map above) However, we had a close friend that was in her apartment that morning, only one block away from the north tower. She saw and heard things that no person should ever see or hear. She ran for her life, out of her apartment, barefoot.

And never returned. After a brief time, she moved to Los Angeles.

I tried to reach my husband, but all of the lines were tied up. There was so much confusion.


How many planes were there? I was on the phone with a client whose husband also worked in Manhattan.


I hung out with a neighbor friend. All day long, fighter jets were roaring overhead. Were these more terrorists or our airforce protecting us?

Around 2:30, my son Cale who was only 11, called me from school. The secretary checked in with me first before handing the phone to him. By then, I had spoken to my husband, who was on his way home, but it took him four + hours what was normally a 90-minute trip.

Cale asked me in a voice so small and weak; I didn’t recognize it as belonging to my son. It hurt my heart to hear him so frightened.


“Is Dad okay?”


I assured him that he was. But, in truth, none of us were okay. But, at least we were alive. I guess that constitutes being okay on that day.


My husband walked outside his building in Rockefeller Center, in midtown Manhattan with a straight shot down 6th Ave.


Rockefeller Center 6th Ave - View of Towers September 11, 2001


Although nearly 4 miles away, normally, you could see the 100+ stories twin towers. But, by then, the towers had fallen.


I recall him telling me that he was in a daze, just shaking his head in disbelief. I’m sure there was a lot of head shaking in New York City that day.

Of course, the entire world was in a state of shock. However, some people lost dozens of colleagues, friends, and family members. Even if you didn’t live close by, we’ve all been affected.



Now, the surprising twist to my September 11th story.


September 11, 2001, was on a Tuesday.

But, coincidentally, my husband and I were in Boston for a Bar Mitzvah the previous weekend.

And, since my wasband enjoyed staying at the finest hotels, he booked us a room at the swanky HoJo’s adjacent to Fenway Stadium.


Boston, MA 120313 Howard Johnson Hotel on Boylston Street in the Fenway, Tuesday, December 3 2013. (Globe Staff/Wendy Maeda) section: Business slug: 04hojos reporter: Casey RossBoston, MA Howard Johnson Hotel on Boylston Street in the Fenway, Tuesday, December 3, 2013. (via Boston Globe Staff/Wendy Maeda)


Boston-5-25-99--Howard Johnson on Boylston Street

Howard Johnson on Boylston Street via the Boston Globe

Sweet, ain’t it?

But, frankly, I didn’t care. It was rare that we were able to get away without the kids. It shouldn’t have been rare, but that’s another story.

By the way, the hotel closed several years ago.


Meaghan Murray - The-Eliot-Hotel-Boston-Back BayVia Meaghan Murray – The Eliot Hotel-Boston-Back Bay 370 Commonwealth Ave.


Oh well, I guess we’ll have to make do with The Eliot Hotel. ;]


So, why am I telling you about our stay in Boston the previous weekend?


This is why.

Several weeks after September 11th, the phone rang.

“Hello, are you Laurel Bern?”

Something told me not to give a glib answer as I might to a telemarketer.

“Yes, I’m Laurel.”


I don’t remember the exact words, but I do remember hearing these five words,


“The Federal Bureau of Investigation.”


Apparently, some of the terrorists enjoyed fine hotels too as they were staying at the same place!

And, no. We didn’t see or hear anything whatsoever. But, of course, the very thought creeps the crap outta me!

Now, I looked this up. And I did find an article that stated that two terrorists stayed at two other places not too far away but in Cambridge. Neither of them is there any longer, either. And, sometimes newspapers don’t have their facts straight.


The point is, the FBI had investigated everyone at that HoJo’s that September 11th weekend, including my husband and me.


I’m sure they investigated thousands of people in the coming months and years.

Yesterday, I read a chilling article that gave some startling statistics.
About September 11th and the aftermath.

I had no idea.


Well, that’s my story.


The only thing good thing was how truly UNITED we all were in the following days. I loved seeing all of the American flags on the cars, and I put one on, too.

I do wish it could’ve lasted…

Blessings to all of you!

Much Love,


Donald Irving Bern 911Dedicated to my brother Donald Irving Bern February 13, 1949 – September 11, 1987.

Nine years ago, I was helping my mom after she had just done her first massive downsizing. We were going through a box of photos. But, my blood went cold when I saw the house number. This photo above was taken about a year before he died while on vacation in Australia and New Zealand.

And yes, I know. I’m the female version of him. Same.

Like me, my brother loved art and classical music. Unlike me, he played tennis, golf and, as I said before, ran 70-80 miles a WEEK!  That, he had no business doing. But, he loved to run!


Donald was also a natural-born salesman.


Of course, he sold shoes. But, he also sold furniture for our step-dad, and in the years before his passing, he sold advertising for a classical music radio station in Carmel, California.

Donald adored technology too. I fondly recalled in 1987, him tell me about something called a “fax machine.”  You can send documents via the telephone! How cool is that!

And with that, Don is not-so-gently nudging me to remind you to check out the HOT SALES. Lots of great things to see this weekend!


Welcome To Laurel Home!


Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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