September 11, 2001

Today’s guest author is Janis Koike. I think you’ll be as moved by this true story as I was.

A Day That Changed America and a Few Words That Said a Thousand

By Janis Koike

The telephone rang just as I hit “Enter” to install a new database upgrade for the Mosaic company in Bartow. “This is Janis,” I said in my office voice. A familiar voice responded, “Mom.” Strange, my children never called me at work. “What’s up?” “A plane just flew into the World Trade Center.” I heard screams. The voice continued, “I gotta go.” My son Michael lived and worked across the street from the World Trade Center.

I left my office and walked down the hall. I repeated my son’s message. “A terror attack,” my co-worker responded. He ran into the conference room and turned on the TV. The next few hours mirrored the experience of many. My son was probably OK. My daughter lived just a few blocks from the Pentagon, but worked in Reston. She was probably OK, too.

Michael had just graduated from college and was a new resident of the city. Returning to his apartment was not an option. He knew no one, except the Martinez family on Park Avenue. Their son Romy had been Michael’s roommate in prep school; and throughout high school and college, Michael had spent weekends with the family. So accompanied by so many others who headed north, he spent most of the day walking the crowded streets and wondering. Late afternoon, as Michael greeted the doorman of the Park Avenue apartment building, a woman came running out. “Michael,” Mrs. Martinez cried, “We have been watching for you all day. Where have you been?” A meaningless question perhaps, but the emotion prevailed.

The rest of Michael’s story reflects that of so many. He was displaced from his apartment for about a week, but then went back to work, looking occasionally at the scraps of paper which covered the streets – pieces of people’s lives: spreadsheets, menus, memos, receipts. Did the owner make it or not?

Some years later, Michael was invited to be a groomsman and offer a toast at Romy’s wedding. He would be the last to speak. Every compliment would have already been bestowed upon the Harvard and Yale Law School graduate. Michael asked what I thought. “Short and sweet,” I responded. But then I had a better idea. Why not honor the Martinez family with the 911 story, just a few words to portray a warm, truly caring family. And he did. 

The room stood and applauded.

Flags at half staff remembering 9-11-2001 NYC


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