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Impossible Fate

By Diane E. Yates

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Chapter One
Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Beth Drake waved goodbye to nine-year-old Melissa and seven-year-old David as they climbed aboard the school bus. She picked up the
local paper and walked back into the house in time to hear the phone ring. “Hello.”
“Hi, Dear.” It was Emily, Beth’s mom. “Are you sure Phil isn’t too busy to have lunch today?”
“Yes. When you finish at the doctor, just give him a call. If he is, he’ll let you know.”
“Okay, but we’ll understand if he’s tied up at work.” “No, since you’re going to be there anyway for Dad’s nephrology appointment, Phil wants to take you to lunch. He mentioned you guys before he left for the city yesterday. He has no relationship with his family, but he
loves spending time with the two of you.”
Beth felt blessed that her husband loved her parents. After she hung up, she took a shower and dressed before cleaning the kitchen. She was hanging out clean dish towels when the phone rang again.
“Beth, are you watching TV?” Tracey, her longtime friend, was panting as if she’d been running.

“No, why?”
“Isn’t Jack’s office in the World Trade Center?” She squealed, “Turn the TV on!”
As the screen came to life, Beth saw a picture of the tall tower, smoke and flames rising into a troubled sky. She couldn’t breathe. “What is it? What happened?”
“A plane crashed into it. A huge airliner.”
Beth shook her head and watched in horror as another plane crashed into the second tower. Her heart raced.
Tracey’s voice shrieked. “Did you see that?”
Beth gasped. “Yeah, that’s a deliberate attack on the World Trade Center.”
“Where’s Phil’s office?” asked Tracey.
Beth didn’t answer. All she could think about was Jack, Phil’s best friend and attorney; the one who led their fight for custody of Melissa. “I’ve got to go.” She hung up and dialed Phil but got a busy signal. Jack’s office was on the twenty-third floor of the North Tower. Phil’s building was several blocks south, but what if he had a meeting with Jack this morning? What if Phil was in that building?
Her mind raced as she dialed and redialed, only to get a strange busy signal. She turned up the volume on the TV. Just this past weekend, Jack and his very pregnant wife, BJ, joined her and Phil and the kids for a backyard barbeque here in West Cornwall, Connecticut.
Is BJ okay? Beth felt the blood drain from her face. People were jumping to their deaths. Is BJ watching this? She must be sick with worry or worse. Beth dialed BJ’s number but heard the same weird busy signal. They owed much to BJ. She was the private investigator who uncovered evidence for their case in court. Beth and Phil

had introduced BJ to Jack, and the rest was history.
Beth kept dialing and redialing number after number as she continued to watch the television.
Tracey rushed through the front door. They hugged and watched in shock as the horrific events unfolded.
“That’s Jack’s building, isn’t it?”
Beth nodded; her eyes glued to the screen. “I can’t reach anyone on the phone. Oh, Tracey, what’s happening?”
The report they heard next confirmed the nature of the events. A plane crashed into the Pentagon. America was under attack!
Beth’s trembling fingers could no longer dial the numbers. Tracey took the phone and continued dialing, to no avail.
Beth suddenly gasped. “Oh no! My parents are in New York today.”
The words had scarcely left her mouth when the South Tower started crumbling and a white cloud of dust and debris billowed through the area and down the streets as people ran for cover. The coverage showed rescuers and those they rescued with faces and clothes covered in white.
“Why are they not answering?” Beth shrieked. “Tracey, I have to go. BJ could deliver at any minute. Mom and Dad are there. I don’t know about Jack or Phil. Somehow, I have to help.”
“You should stay here.”
Beth shouldered her purse and pulled the keys off the peg on the wall. “No, I can’t stay here.”
“Then, I’m coming with you.” Tracey grabbed her purse, but Beth raised her hand in front of her.
“I need you to be here when the kids get home.

Tuesday, September eleventh started just like any other Tuesday. Phil Drake arrived at his office building at seven-thirty in the morning and purchased a newspaper at the stand before riding the elevator up to his office. “Good morning, Sandra,” he said at the door. “What time is my conference call with Jack?”
“Eight-thirty.” His trusted secretary handed him his usual cup of coffee. “And you have a meeting with Mr. Webber at nine-thirty and lunch with your in-laws across town at Mt. Sinai Medical Center.”
He glanced out the window at the bay. The sun beamed, ferries moved, boats sailed, the Statue of Liberty still held the torch. All was well in downtown Manhattan. He sat and reviewed the file of the Monaco deal.
At eight-thirty-eight, Sandra put the conference call through. Jack, representing Drake & Webber, was at a law firm in the north tower of the World Trade Center, meeting with Mr. Sutton, the attorney representing the Monaco side of the deal. Phil, Jack, and Mr. Sutton discussed critical negotiations. When Mr. Sutton failed to concede, Phil opened his mouth to object. The line suddenly went dead.
Phil buzzed Sandra, “I lost the call. Can you get them back, please?”
“Of course, sir.”
Phil tapped his fingers on his desk, becoming more and more impatient, staring at the phone which remained silent. When the intercom buzzed, he jumped to answer it. “Yes, Sandra.”
“Mr. Drake, I can’t get an answer at Mr. Sutton’s

office, but I’ll keep trying.”
Phil strode out to Sandra’s desk and tapped his thumb on the counter. “What’s the holdup?”
Larry Webber burst through the door. “Turn on your TV or radio,” he yelled. “It’s horrible.”
“Keep trying,” Phil told Sandra before rushing back to his office with Webber right behind him. He turned on the TV and watched in horror as Tom Kaminski from WCBS reported, “All right, uh, Pat, we are just currently getting a the World Trade Center, we have something that has happened here at the World Trade Center. We noticed flame and an awful lot of smoke from one of the towers of the World Trade Center. We are just coming up on this scene, this is easily three- quarters of the way up...we are...this is...whatever has occurred has just occurred, uh, within minutes and, uh, we are trying to determine exactly what that is. But currently, we have a lot of smoke at the top of the towers of the World Trade Center, we will keep you posted.”
Phil stared at Larry, then turned the volume up. “Which building? Tell us which building,” he yelled at the TV. His mind instantly went to the meeting taking place at that location. He yelled out to Sandra, “Anything?”
“No, sir.” “Keep trying”
Phil and Larry remained glued to the news coverage. It was about nine o’clock when Phil heard the sound of a plane flying low over their building. In a couple of minutes, the news reported a second plane had crashed into the south face of the South Tower. Panic struck Phil. What in the world was going on? Both buildings had been hit. Jack was in definite danger. He immediately

tried Jack’s cell but got a strange busy signal.
Phil stared at the television, waiting for any information about the evacuation of the buildings. When he couldn’t take it anymore, he said, “Sandra, hold all my calls. Call Beth and let her know I’m going to check on Jack. Tell her I’ll call her as soon as I know something.”
“But Mr. Drake—”
“And keep trying to call Jack and let me know if you get him.”
“Mr. Drake, none of my phone calls are getting out.” “Just keep trying.” Phil dashed out the door. On the way down the elevator, his mind raced. One plane could
have been a freak accident, but two made it intentional.
Phil stepped outside and stared up. Smoke streaked the sky. Acrid smells permeated the air. Onlookers crowded the sidewalks. Frantic chatter and gasps. He ran when he could and pushed through the crowded areas. Police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances, all with sirens blaring, raced down the streets. Several times Phil had to jump out of the way to allow passage for firemen, dressed in heavy protective suits, boots, helmets, and carrying in tow a myriad of emergency equipment. What is happening to New York?
People crowded the sidewalks, some jostling their way toward the scene and others running in the opposite direction. He asked many who were fleeing, “Were you in one of the buildings? Did everyone get out?”
One man shook his head. “Many of us evacuated even though we were told to stay. Firemen are headed up the stairs right now to fight the fire and rescue survivors.”
Debris and ash flew through the air as Phil raced

closer to the South Tower. Both buildings had gaping holes and white smoke rising. His eyes burned. The air smelled of fuel. He could feel the heat even from two blocks away.
Police were pushing people away, ordering them to turn back. Phil had to think of something.
“I’m with Waller, Thornton, and Associates,” he lied to the officer. “My people are in there. I need to check on them.” The officer allowed him to pass, too busy to argue. The farther he went, the more horrific it became— like something out of the worst disaster movie imaginable. Adrenalin kept him moving. Rescuers whisked a lady past him, blood gushing from her forehead, arms, and legs. Others carried a man with soot- covered face and arms, the stench of scorched fabric trailing them to the ambulance.
Screams filled the air. Debris pummeled the ground. Just before he reached the front of the building, he lurched sideways to avoid a sheet of falling plaster. That’s when he saw him. A man falling from the sky, landing not thirty feet away. He glanced up. There were others. He squeezed his eyes tight, praying that Jack was okay and this unreal nightmare would soon end.
A strong hand grasped his arm above the elbow. He whirled around to see an officer. “Stop. You can’t pass here. You need to evacuate now.”
From the sternness in his tone, Phil knew he’d have to find another way to get to Jack’s office.
Beth wasted no time. Finding it difficult not to speed, she finally gave in and floored the accelerator. How could she calm herself enough to pray? She turned the volume up on the radio. A fourth plane had crashed in a

field in Pennsylvania. The FAA grounded all flights, but the radio now said the Port Authority had closed all bridges and tunnels into the city. She wouldn’t be able to drive there. Beth turned the car around and headed for the train station.
She dialed Phil’s, BJ’s, and her parents’ cell phone numbers, trying to control her speeding car, but she didn’t care. Still, all circuits were busy. Tears threatened. She parked the car and ran into the train station. Once inside, the larger than normal mob slowed her down. The Station’s TV’s played live coverage of the horrific events and replayed the South Tower’s collapse. Her heart raced as she continued to dial Phil’s number. Still busy—she sighed.
Beth waited in a long line and, like everyone else, stared at the TV. She shifted from one foot to the other and glanced around the crowd to judge how fast the line moved. Watching live coverage from the screen above, she and others gasped as in front of their eyes, the North Tower collapsed. Beth’s breath caught in her throat. Danger closed in from all sides like the plot of a horror movie. This couldn’t be happening. Oh Lord, please let Phil be safe, along with Jack, BJ, Mom and Dad. I pray that Phil was in his office when the planes flew into those buildings.
Then, on the billboard above, a major change immediately occurred. All routes going into the city were canceled.
Beth dashed back to the car, threw it into gear, and headed south. She would try the ferry. In a frenzy, with phone in hand, she pushed hard on the gas. Dialing and redialing the same numbers, she struggled to keep her eyes on the road long enough to remain safe. She finally

called home. Tracey answered.
Beth asked, “Have you heard from Phil or anyone?” Fear tightened her throat, raising the pitch of her voice.
“No, no one. I’ve been trying to reach them all, even your parents, but apparently, the circuits can’t handle the volume of calls.”
“I couldn’t take a train. I’m going to try to catch a ferry.”
“Beth, you should come back home.”
“No, I have to find my parents and make sure Phil, Jack, and BJ are okay.” Her car swayed over the line just as a truck appeared from over a hill. Its horn blared and Beth swerved into the right lane. “I have to go, Tracey. Call me if you hear anything.” She didn’t wait for Tracey to respond. For the first time, she placed the phone in its holder. No sense in her children losing their mother while she was trying to confirm everyone else’s well- being.
Forty-five minutes later, she finally reached the ferry in New London. It was easy to find a parking space, and she ran inside and up to the counter. “Are there any ferries going into Manhattan?” Two TV’s played the disaster of the morning’s events. “I need a ticket on the first ferry to Long Island.”
“Honey, there are no ferries going anywhere. All ferry service has been suspended.”
Beth stared at the ferry clerk. This couldn’t be happening. “Where’s the nearest helicopter?”
“They’ve shut down all air traffic. Nothing’s going in or out of the city.”
Beth backed away slowly. It was as if the breath had been knocked out of her. She could think of no other way to get there, to reach the people she loved, to know they

were okay.
The TV showed the White House and the Capitol evacuating earlier and reported they had been targeted. She paused a moment to listen. President Bush had been at a school in Florida where he addressed the nation earlier but now was on board Air Force One. Location unknown. This was crazy. Fear gripped her soul.
David listened to his sister talking to her friend in the seat behind him as the bus followed the curve up the hill. It came to a stop at a new driveway where it had never stopped before.
“Why? I just want to go to school. I want to see Chad and the other kids. I don’t want to stop anymore.”
He sighed, but when he saw a girl outside the window, he stopped rotating the arm of his miniature Bob the Builder figure. She must be new because he’d never seen her before. He watched as she climbed aboard. Her hair, a thick mass of black curls, extended down her back and was pulled into clips on the sides. He recognized her Bear in the Big Blue House backpack.
The bus only had a few empty seats, but as she walked down the aisle, she attempted to sit in one spot after another. One girl shook her head when she eyed the seat next to her. Toby put his backpack in the seat when she started to sit there. She looked like she might cry as she continued toward the back and the one empty seat next to him.
He stuffed Bob in his pocket and stared out the window as she sat down. They rode in silence. As the bus pulled into the school drive, he ventured a glance at her. She pulled her Bear in the Big Blue House backpack over her shoulders and smiled, exposing two front teeth that

had grown in only halfway. Her eyes were dark brown, and she had the prettiest olive skin. Embarrassed, he jerked his head away.
David nodded toward Mrs. Martin, his second-grade teacher, and headed to his desk behind Chad. While she wrote September 11, 2001, on the chalkboard, the principal appeared at the door with the new girl from the bus.
“Mrs. Martin, you have a new student. This is Aliyah Zimmerman,” the principal announced.
“Hi, Aliyah.” His teacher touched the girl’s shoulder and turned to the class. “Everyone, let’s make Aliyah feel welcome.” Mrs. Martin showed the new girl to her desk—the empty one right behind David.
He wasn’t sure why he felt so shy, especially over a girl. The only one he liked was his sister and that was only when she was being nice to him or he wanted something of hers.
“Can you come over this evening?” Chad asked while they proceeded in single file to the lunchroom, but David didn’t want to talk. It was as if his voice had left him. Chad turned and punched his shoulder lightly. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing,” David protested a little too loudly.
That caught Mrs. Martin’s attention. “Chad, David, not a day passes that I don’t have to call you two out.” She placed her finger over her lips.
David sat down next to Chad as he always did. The new girl, Aliyah, was still wandering, lunch tray in hand, looking uncomfortable. None of the girls invited her to sit with them. For some inexplicable reason, David scooted over and made room for her.
Her face lit up with a broad smile. She sat down and

opened her milk. “So, what’s your name?” she asked Chad.
After David’s friend answered, she turned to him. “And what’s yours?”
His cheeks warmed and his palms started sweating.
He opened his mouth, but nothing came out.
Aliyah stuck a French fry in her mouth and shook her head. “You don’t have a name, or you don’t want to talk to me?”
Chad started laughing. David hung his head. Why did I let her sit here? “Both,” he blurted. “I mean, Da…David, and I don’t want to talk.”
She shrugged. “Suit yourself.” She turned towards Chad. “You read really good, Chad. David does, too, but he doesn’t want to talk to me.”
David stared at his plate and regretted everything from the moment she walked in the lunchroom. For the rest of their lunch break, Chad and Aliyah laughed and talked.
On the way back to the classroom, they passed several rooms with televisions blaring, but those were in the older classes. Their room didn’t have one. As soon as they had settled back at their desks, Mrs. Martin announced, “Boys and girls, something happened today in New York City and at the Pentagon. Some of the other kids might be talking about it. It involves planes. You can talk with your parents this evening and ask them any questions, okay?”
That afternoon, David climbed aboard the bus first.
When Aliyah started down the aisle, she eyed the spot beside him. “Can I sit with you?”
He nodded and placed his Bob the Builder backpack on the floor. She removed her Bear in the Big Blue

House and set it next to his. “Why don’t kids like me?” She looked straight at him. “Why don’t you like me?”
David shrugged. “I didn’t say I didn’t like you.” Boy, was she pushy.
“But you won’t talk to me. Is it because I’m Jewish?” “You’re what?”
“You know—are you American or Muslim or Buddhist or Christian? I’m Jewish.”
He understood American and Christian but didn’t know about the others. “What’s Jewish?”
“My mom says it’s who we are.” She wrinkled her eyebrows and squinted. “Like the color of our skin. Anyway, we believe in God or Adonai.”
He nodded. “We believe in God, too. I’m Christian.” The gleam in her eyes dimmed. “Oh,” she said. She took out a piece of notebook paper from her backpack
and a pencil. “Do you know your phone number?”
His mom had made him memorize that and his address a long time ago. “Of course.”
When he didn’t say more, she lifted her pencil from her paper and glanced up at him, sighing. “Well, are you going to tell me or what?”

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