September 11, 2001, I got up before five, showered, dressed, and drove over to Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena. I was supposed to be in a deposition that day downtown, but canceled it the previous Sunday when my dad had chest pains and went to the hospital. He had had a heart scare in '95, and had angioplasties twice and a stent once. I had been worried about his heath for a few months — when he came with us to Seoul to pick up our son Evan, I thought he looked gray and tired, especially when we walked a lot. On September 9, when he went into the hospital, they told him he needed a triple bypass.
He had the earliest surgery slot on September 11 — a 6 a.m. surgery, California time. Prep started at 5. I got to the hospital at 515 or so and sat with him and talked. He was in decent spirits — we joked about the condom catheter — but he was sobered by the prospects. So was I. We talked about my mom, who had been gone three years then. We talked Evan, his first grandchild, and our first child. We didn't talk directly about how he would do. We killed time until they took him from prep back to surgery at about 615 or 620.
As they took him back, I noticed that two of the nurses seemed agitated, and two docs rushed past. I didn't think anything of it then. I walked towards the nearby surgical waiting area with three other families who had been sitting in prep with their loved ones. We walked into the waiting room.
The TV was already on. We watched the world change.
We watched, about eight of us. More people trickled in as more family members arrived for surgery — thought that stopped when non-essential surgeries were canceled. All morning we watched. I don't remember the sequence terribly well. I remember seeing the second tower collapse, and the robotic way the anchor noted it. I remember the wild speculations about how many planes were missing. My blackberry chirped as my firm closed; it was in twin towers in downtown LA. I called Katrina to tell her to turn on the TV, and was glad that Evan was far too young to understand what was going on.
People called family members on cells and watched, and waited. The tension was crippling — loved ones were in surgery nearby while this was unfolding on TV. One man didn't survive surgery; his wife and daughter were numb, blasted, dead-eyed.
Dad came through surgery OK, and I got to get in and see him. He had a tube down his throat, but took my hand and wrote with his finger — NY? DC? He had heard docs talking about it. I told him. He closed his eyes, still woozy from the drugs, perhaps not understanding or believing. He didn't have to learn the details for a few more innocent hours.
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