Home > Friends, Love, Reflections > I am with you

I am with you

I write this post from 32,000 feet above the earth.

I’ve written before about my take-off anxiety. It was (unsurprisingly) especially bad today, so that my usual tools to defeat it were completely worthless.

My eyes blurred as I tried focusing on easy sudoku puzzles. I can usually cruise through the easy ones in a couple of minutes, but today I could only allot the easiest first numbers to their spaces. I jumped back and forth between four puzzles, willing the plane to start moving so the worst of my anxiety would dissipate.

My flight wasn’t full, so I moved from a window seat in the middle of the plane to an aisle seat nearer the front. Its neighboring seat was empty, so I knew I’d feel a little less claustrophobic.

What I didn’t expect was how I’d fill the space in that empty seat better than I could fill in any sudoku spaces.

I filled it with Abe Zelmanowitz.

I couldn’t even remember Abe’s name when I thought of him, but I will never forget what little else I know of him.

Abe was at work on the 27th floor of One World Trace Center when a plane struck it on September 11, 2001; so, too, was his wheelchair-bound friend, Ed.

Abe could have run down to safety, but he opted instead to sit with Ed and wait for help to arrive. Abe was concerned too-rough help would break Ed’s bones. He waited with Ed to ensure that didn’t happen.

As I took in the seemingly empty seat next to me, I imagined Abe and Ed sitting and talking while they waited for help.

I couldn’t–and can’t–imagine Abe thinking of himself a hero as he waited, still believing help would come.

I couldn’t–and can’t–imagine Abe thinking of himself as a hero as the ground began to crumble and he recognized help would not make it in time.

“So I guess that’s it,” I imagined one man saying to the other.

“Seems that way,” I imagined the other replying; neither man hero, both men friends.

“I’m glad you are here with me,” I heard one saying to the other.

“I’m glad, too,” I heard the other saying as the world grew dark and then brilliant for each of them.

I am with you, I could feel each of them thinking to each other and everyone else they loved.

That’s what I suddenly felt when I looked at the empty seat next to me:

I am with you.

My heart soared.

I set down my sudoku book and closed my eyes.

I could feel Abe in the seat next to me. Ed. My godfather. My mom. My husband. My sons. My sisters.

I could hear them whispering, I am with you. I am with you.

I was no longer anxious. I was, quite simply, full of love and joy at understanding how very unempty was the seat next to me.

To my eyes, it was empty; to my heart, overflowing as four words rippled through me:

I am with you.

I wish I could translate the feeling perfectly for you, or transfer it directly to your heart to ensure you’d truly understand.

But I wanted to write about it, however poorly, because I think most people–including you–have someone who would sit and wait for help with them in even the direst of circumstances. I’m not sure most people–including you–necessarily recognize that.

And so I wanted to write about two friends and four words, and to inspire you to wonder if maybe the apparently empty spaces around you aren’t as empty as they seem.

Whether maybe, just maybe, there is someone trying to reach through that space and touch your heart with the knowledge

I am with you.

  1. Deb
    January 22, 2016 at 3:42 pm

    My eyes are leaking…

  2. January 22, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    For the record…. You never write anything poorly. It’s always amazing 🙂

    • January 23, 2016 at 2:20 am

      Thank you! There was this enormous circle of what I wanted to express, and this much smaller circle of what I was able to actually express. It seems like that smaller circle might have been enough, all the same. 🙂

  3. January 22, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    What a beautifully written, heartrendingly expressed piece. You are absolutely right. Not many people (including me) recognise it. But when push comes to shove, it’s there. They are there. With us.

    • January 23, 2016 at 2:28 am

      Yes! I wish I knew how to bridge the gap between what we often perceive and what is actually there, in some form.

  4. January 22, 2016 at 6:28 pm

    Wow. This was beautiful. We are all in this together, “with” each other, whether we are aware of it or not.

  5. January 22, 2016 at 7:24 pm


  6. January 23, 2016 at 12:11 am

    Your writing is always an inspiration for me, but I find this particular piece very uplifting. It also brings back memories of that day, and surprisingly they are no longer dark memories. Thank you.

    • January 23, 2016 at 2:31 am

      I want to say “thank you,” but there’s something more there for which I can’t (yet?) find the words. If/when I do find them, I’ll return and add them. Thank you.

  7. January 23, 2016 at 12:34 am

    Wow this is so touching. Beautiful!

  8. January 23, 2016 at 5:37 am

    Wow, that was beautiful. My own feelings of claustrophobia were rising up when I read the first part, even though I wasn’t on the plane, but by the end I also felt calm, like I was with you too. I hope you’re safely home.

  9. January 23, 2016 at 11:13 am

    Deborah, This is so powerfully and eloquently written–possibly my favorite piece of yours. Thank you for sharing your generous heart, and warming mine.xx

    • January 29, 2016 at 11:52 pm

      Thank you! More and more, I find myself navigating away from the idea that my “best” posts are the ones most thoroughly considered and carefully expressed. It’s the ones that spring up from the heart and spill over onto the page just as I feel, well, everything, that now tend to strike me as my “best” ones. (I’ll surely still write some of the others, but not as frequently!)

  10. January 23, 2016 at 4:55 pm

    I will say that I hardly ever read writing blogs but yours is fantastic! While my following is a bit sporadic, what I do read here I really enjoy. You know how to say things that touch the soul.

  11. January 23, 2016 at 8:39 pm

    Beautifully written.

  12. January 24, 2016 at 12:54 pm


    I am with you.

    These words, they are important. They touch hearts, souls and spirits.

    I am with you. ❤

    • January 29, 2016 at 11:55 pm

      I’ve pinned this post to the top of my blog for now. Of all the tens of thousands of words I’ve written here, these are the ones I’d really like people to still have in their hearts when they navigate away.

  13. January 25, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  14. January 26, 2016 at 7:39 am

    Chills. I just had a very violent flight over Greenland last week. I was traveling alone, but I felt a similar sense, when things got really bad. Beautiful piece of writing, that really speaks to me. I get it, Deborah; thanks.

    • January 29, 2016 at 11:57 pm

      There was this video I saw a year or two ago of strangers trapped in a convenience store together during a hurricane. Their words were resoundingly ones of love for each other. That was what came to mind after I wrote this post: the understanding that terrifying possibilities are only a small part of a much, much vaster experience.

      I’m glad to read your comment now and find my way back to that same loving calm.

  15. January 30, 2016 at 5:52 pm


  1. January 23, 2016 at 2:15 pm

Please weigh in--kindly!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: