• author
    • Matthew Najmowicz

    • September 11, 2013 in Columnists

    The citadel of family protected us on September 11

    I won’t forget what happened on 9-11-01.

    I woke up around 8:45 a.m. and walked groggily into the den of my house.   My father was a store manager for Brook’s Pharmacy at the time.  My dad and I have very good relationship, always joking around, being sarcastic, and talking about work and the world.  On September 11, I never saw my dad in such shock before.

    I asked him what was wrong.  He replied, “A 747 crashed into a skyscraper in New York City.”  Dumbfounded, I asked my dad again what happened.  He replied with the same information as before — he was simply astonished and surprised.   I sat down next to him, watching FOX News.  If memory serves, I think I said something to the effect of “that pilot must be drunk or someone just lost control of that plane — how sad.”  Neither of us was ready for what happened next.

    The second plane crashed into the other Twin Tower.  My Dad and I cried, “Holy shit!”

    I had no idea what the world was like.  I had a very peripheral understanding of politics — I was an average chucklehead that mostly parroted cable news lines.  I had a few original political stances of my own — I’ve been pro-choice forever and anti-execution since I was little and able to understand such complex views.

    Two planes flying into the Twin Towers were way way beyond my 23-year-old comprehension.

    My dad and I were simply glued to the TV for two hours as we watch CNN actually do its job for once.  CNN coverage was on virtually every cable channel.  I remember turning to MTV and MTV was putting on CNN’s coverage.  Other TV stations cancelled their usual programming, instructing people to stay safe and pray.

    Around noon, we got a phone call at our house.  My father and I turned white. We had no idea who was on the other line, considering the horror we just saw.

    My mother had called the house, and she was beside herself terrified.  Dad successfully calmed Mom down and explained what he and I saw with our own eyes.  After about 10 or 15 minutes, my dad said, “OK, I’ll put him on the phone.”

    I said, “Hi, Mom.”

    She replied, “Matthew, bring my babies home.”

    I was on a mission to bring my sisters home safely from college, which required trips into Boston, Massachusetts and South Kingston, Rhode Island.

    I grabbed a Mountain Dew, threw a loaded BB gun into my car (don’t ask), took my Dad’s cellphone, and proceeded out with Operation: Rising Red Sun (me kicking ass).  I literally thought I was a superspy on a mission to save my sisters from, more than likely, hot lesbian terrorists that I would have to bang as punishment for imprisoning my sisters.  It’s not that I didn’t take the day seriously — I just have an overactive imagination.

    First order of business was to eat something. I needed fuel. I needed Taco Bell.   I gassed up from money my Dad gave me, drove through a Taco Bell drive-thru that was empty, and started my drive on I-95 North.

    The streets, avenues, highways and byways were all desolate. Not a single soul was out on the road.  I could’ve driven as fast as I wanted, in any lane I wanted, and I probably could’ve driven through any stop sign or traffic signal if I had desired.  Instead, I obeyed all traffic and highway laws, while listening to Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, or some other testosterone themed music upon my journey to rescue my sisters.

    My oldest sister, Liz, was going to Emmanuel College out in Boston.  I called her from the call box and she came downstairs with laundry.  She jumped into my car and I kissed and hugged her.  I told her I had a surprise for her, I had Taco Bell Chalupas with her name on it — she was happy.

    I drove her down to the house and we chatted along the way.  Everyone in her college was stunned.  I asked how one of her hot ass friends was doing and did she need physical consolation while we were in a national crisis.  Liz simply rolled her eyes and claimed I wasn’t up to task to physically take care of a woman like that. Liz and I always had and still have a great relationship where we joke and know no boundaries with our jokes.   It’s nuttin’ but a family thang.

    I dropped off Liz at the house and then left for University of Rhode Island.

    I drove down to Kingston, which is a beautiful area right on top of the coastline to Rhode Island.  If I remember correctly, I had my windows down — the smell of the salty air from the bosom of the Atlantic Ocean is intoxicating.  Part of Rhode Island’s charm is nearly anywhere you are in Rhode Island, if you close your eyes and wait for it, the perfume of the lady of the ocean will entice your senses. It’s really wonderful.

    As I arrived at Mary’s campus, took one more deep breath of that incredible sea air, and waited for Mary to come downstairs.  I carried Mary’s bag of laundry to the car (who said chivalry is dead?), gave Mary her Taco Bell tribute, and we gabbed nervously on the way back home.   Who knew what the hell was going to happen with us that day.  Were we under attack?  Were we going to die?  Would I ever see my sisters again?

    No one knew that day.

    I arrived home with my sister Mary, and as it would happen, my mother came home early from working at AT&T.  As I arrived with Mary, my mother had tears in her eyes.

    Despite a desperate day of everything going out of control in our country, we had a moment’s peace.  We had joy that day.


    We had each other.  If we were to die on September 11, 2001, we would’ve died together at home.

    We had dinner together, we did laundry together, I took out Shelby the dog, and I petted Isis the cat (RIP Lt. Berg Bergeson).  Life continued despite the national nightmare.

    9-11-01 was a day of unspeakable horror that still is burned into the consciousness of America.  It’s a day I will never forget.  I will also never forget why the terrorists never beat the Najmowicz family, never broke our backs, never made us afraid, and never made us submit to their terror.

    We had each other. We had love on our side.  Nothing would ever break us apart including terrorists.  We didn’t cower.  We held hands and loved each other.  We had dinner, played video games together, sat at the dinner table together, and slept together under one roof — a happy warm roof. A happy, warm roof is what protects you from harm and a terrible uncaring world.  Family and home — that’s why terrorism never breached our fortified hearts.

    Our family is an iron citadel — impregnable, unshakeable, and resistant to any assault.

    We were lucky to have each other on 9-11-01.

    Mom, Dad, Elizabeth, Mary, cats, and dog… I love all of you.

      • davidlacy

      • September 11, 2013 at 10:15 am
      • Reply

      Fantastic story — and not just because of the important message at the end, but because as events were unfolding that day we were all acting very … very … different. Conversations weren’t normal — in the immediacy of the early moments they weren’t even normal in the way discussions of tragedy and trauma are sadly quite “normal” now — in ways we’ve grown accustomed to discussing them now much earlier in the course of the events (thanks to the Subway bombing in London, the Boston bombing, the wars — we’ve grown numb and almost memorized reactions are appropriately and immediately somber). But we were in such SHOCK that day, that loading up your car with fuel and food and pumping yourself up with death metal doesn’t seem bizarre in the slightest. Emotions were high. It was a day that jarred our collective psyche.

      • Heather Lee Alani

      • September 11, 2013 at 12:14 pm
      • Reply

      I dont think anyone forgets what they were doing when the planes hit the twin towers. Your a brave soul matt, to grab taco bell a bb gun and head out into the unknown to rescue your sisters! Your valiant bravery is appreciated! 🙂 Fantastic read as always.

    • Ain’t love grand?

    • Lovely family story.

      • Mary

      • September 11, 2013 at 2:12 pm
      • Reply

      You just made me cry, you bastard. 😉 I love you too.

      • Georgia

      • September 11, 2013 at 8:48 pm
      • Reply

      Very nice Matt and you made me cry too.

      • Norbie Kumagai

      • September 11, 2013 at 11:01 pm
      • Reply

      I remember shortly after September 11th, when a group of my friends (all Japanese Americans) met with Sikh, Arab and Muslim Americans in The Sacramento Valley to share stories of the internment of JA’s during World War II and the similarities of hysteria which ran rampant towards those groups.

      There were very few folks who stood with Japanese Americans when President Roosevelt issued EO9066; we simply wanted to stand in solidarity with folks under attack years later.

      Thank you for your most heartfelt column, Matt…

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