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Jewish World Review Dec. 7, 2001 / 22 Kislev, 5762

Lenore Skenazy

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Consumer Reports

The gift of 9/11 -- GONE but not forgotten.

Often this is how we describe a loved one who has died. But for most of us, the phrase also could describe a loved one who's very much alive but somehow dropped off our radar screen.

Maybe the split followed a spat. Maybe it happened quietly, after a move or marriage. Maybe the schism was so scorching, all bridges seemed burned.

Then came Sept. 11. And the calls started flooding in.

New Yorkers all over the city got them: tearful, fearful greetings from long-lost friends, lovers, parents, even children. Fearing the worst - death - these frantic calls brought relationships back to life. For those of us blessedly alive and well, it was the gift of 9/11.

"I don't think she would have called if Sept. 11 had been just another Tuesday," says my friend Karen.

"She" in this case is a 70-year-old woman in Australia - Karen's birth mother. On Sept 14, she checked in on her daughter for the first time in 46 years.

Karen (not her real name) had discovered her mother's whereabouts and written her a year ago, but her mother had not written back until August. The tone on both sides was warm, but tentative. Then the World Trade Center collapsed - and with it, their silence.

"It was the first time I heard her voice," marvels Karen "She didn't want to lose me again." Since then, the women have exchanged a flurry of calls. And for Karen, whose adoptive mom died 20 years ago, "It's like I'm a mother's daughter all over again."

For Rosa (again, not her real name), the call that threw her for a loop came from her almost stepdaughter.

"I was in a relationship with a man for 20 years that ended three years ago," says Rosa. "His daughter, whom I knew as a teen and who really didn't appreciate me, suddenly called me five days after [the attack]. She had never picked up the phone when I sent baby gifts or anything. But she just went on and on about how much she respected me and what I did for her when she was a mixed-up teen, and she thanked me!"

Best of all, "She put her son on the phone, and he sang me Rosh Hashanah [Jewish New Year] songs. It was the first time I heard him!"

A second chance is what all after-blast callers were praying for. A chance to apologize, explain or simply be friends again. Countless people got in touch with old classmates and neighbors. Legions called up friends they'd ditched under the stupidest of circumstances.

Brooklyn's Rachel Kessler was desperate to contact her ex-best friend. "We used to do everything together. We'd have parties every Wednesday, and we were always going out. Then we both started dating these men that both of us hated." End of friendship.

But not the end of caring. On Sept. 11, Rachel's heart plunged when she feared her friend, who worked next to the Trade Center, was dead. She dashed off an e-mail, "and I poured my heart out. I said I'm sorry I let these stupid boys get in the way of our relationship."

Miraculously, she got a call back. And a friendship, too.

In its furious finality, Sept. 11 shocked us all into realizing the time to connect is nigh, before all we're left with is regret.

Even if you didn't pick up the phone in September, do it now. Loved ones are standing by.

JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2001, New York Daily News