9/11 20 years later: Patricia Bowers, Ballston Spa – Confused, devastated … numb | Readers remember

Patricia Bowers of Ballston Spa stands next to her son, Gary Bowers Jr. a firefighter with the Ballston Spa Fire Department.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Patricia Bowers of Ballston Spa stands next to her son, Gary Bowers Jr. a firefighter with the Ballston Spa Fire Department.

It’s Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. I step out on my balcony at the Hudson Valley Resort in Kerhonkson, N.Y. I remember the sky being a beautiful blue. I really would have liked to linger there, but my first class of the NYCOM (New York Conference of Mayors) fall training will begin shortly.

As I sit in class, I remember people checking their phones and others standing in the doorway motioning to other attendees. I think to myself that people are being very rude to the speaker.

When the class is finished, I go to the ladies’ room. When I get out the halls are empty. As I head to my next class, still no one is in the halls. I get to the classroom, no one is there. Wondering if I missed a fire alarm or something, I start walking through the vendor area — a place that is usually a buzz of activity in between classes. No one is there. I continue walking through the halls toward the main lobby.

As I walk into the lobby, there is a bar on the right side. It is packed with people. Seeing the mayor of the village of Hudson, jokingly I ask if they changed happy hour. She looks at me and says, “Two planes have hit the World Trade Center.”

Classes are postponed, eventually canceled for the day. By now, the planes have hit the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

I go back to my room waiting to call my family but everyone is at work. I eventually talk to my husband and all I can do is cry. I go to dinner but I can’t eat. The evening’s entertainment has been changed to a singer singing patriotic songs. All I can do is cry.

I go back to my room, turn on the TV. It’s just a rewind of the attacks. I eventually fall asleep, still in my dinner clothes. When I wake up in the morning, I’m really confused. Why am I still dressed? I look at the TV remote next to me. I think I just had the worst dream possible. I look at the remote, afraid to turn on the TV. I do; it’s not a dream.

I dress for the day. I go to breakfast. Still not hungry. Go to class, can’t concentrate.

I ask myself why am I still here. So many attendees have left. Most are from the NYC area. Many of them can’t get home because the city is in lockdown. Many have friends and family that worked in those buildings. Why should I go home if they can’t?

I go to lunch. I move my food from one side of the plate to the other. I literally throw my fork on my plate and say, “I can’t stay here any longer.” I go to my room, pack my bags and check out.

As I’m leaving, I run into a very dear friend in the parking lot. She’s from the village of Ravena. She’s a firefighter and a member of the Urban Search and Rescue Team.

They have been called and she is going home to respond. I hug her tightly and tell her to be safe.

I head for the NYS Thruway where a young ticket taker tells me to be safe. I tell him the same. I’m now crying, I can’t see the road. It doesn’t matter, I’m the only car in the northbound lanes. The southbound lanes are filled with firetrucks, ambulances, police cars, rescue trucks and lots of pickup trucks. I can’t stop the tears.

I don’t remember much about that ride, just remember seeing my exit on the Northway and feeling safe. I’m going to see my family. That is something I thought I maybe would never do again. The uncertainty has been heartbreaking.

As I get off the exit, I remember absolutely nothing until I turn the corner and see my home. I wasn’t sure I would ever see it again. As I put the car in park, the telephone is ringing in the house. I rest my head on the steering wheel and cry uncontrollably. I hear my husband say, “Pat’s home and something is wrong.” He comes out, opens my door, I look at him and say, “I didn’t know if I would ever see my family again.”

He looks at me with pain in his eyes and tells me a group of firemen from the firehouse are on the way down to ground zero. Your son Glenn is one of them.

Now I am totally devastated.

For the next few days, I am numb. I attended a memorial service with our firemen.

My legs won’t even hold me up. I call my son’s cellphone only to get a voicemail.

How many times a day can a mother call her son and tell him you love him and please be safe? When he came home, charged his phone and listened to the messages, he lost count.

They were stationed in the Verizon building, in the major corporate offices, firehoses out the windows. That’s where he stayed. He was able to use the phones at one point. We weren’t home. He left a message. Can’t tell you how many times I played that message just to hear his voice.

My son came home on Sunday, as there were limits on the amount of time they stayed. I remember every minute like it was yesterday.

-Patricia Bowers, Ballston Spa

More Remembrances: We remember; The Daily Gazette’s special Sept. 11 anniversary section 

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Categories: 9/11 20 Years Later, Life and Arts

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