Part 6 of 6: 10:28—The North Tower Collapses

It had only been an hour and a half since that call from Stella had turned the world upside-down, but it seemed infinitely longer than that. He had tried to call Claire a dozen times since he had hung up with Stella, but she had never picked up her phone. So he had come into the office for lack of any idea of what else he should do. However instead of doing work, he was sitting at his desk watching as the World Trade Center burned and wondering if his wife was even still alive.

Suddenly his cell phone, which he was clutching tightly in his hand, rang. Quickly he answered it, "Mac Taylor."

"Mac," a soft female voice greeted him.

"Claire," he said relief seeping though his body, "Where are you? I'll come get you, just tell me—"

"You can't," she told him her serene tone contrasting sharply with Mac's frantic, worried one, "I'm above impact, and the plane severed all three staircases."

Mac took a sharp breath in as he realized what Claire meant. "There's got to be another way," he said desperately.

"There's not," she replied, she said looking out of her office window onto the city below.

"But—" Mac began again, but this time she cut him off.

"Mac, I am not going to get out of this building alive," she told him simply. It was a statement of fact, which she had come to accept over the past hour. "I may have ten seconds, ten minutes, or ten hours left, I don't know, but what I do know is that no matter how much time I have left, I don't to spend it dwelling on things we can't change."

Mac swallowed and nodded. "You're stronger than I am," he told her.

"I don't know," Claire replied, "Maybe I am, maybe I'm not, but there is a certain comfort in knowing that it's coming, and having time to say goodbye.

"I'm not sure I can say good-bye," Mac said struggling to keep his voice as calm as Claire's, "I don't know if I can live without you."

"You can," she told him with a quiet confidence.

"How can you be so sure?" he asked her.

"Because I know you," she replied, "and if I know one thing about you, it is that you don't give up. You're a fighter." She paused, and then as if she knew what he was thinking, she added. "And you won't be alone. You've got Stella and Danny and Aiden."

"You're right," he told her, his voice steadier than before, "but they aren't you."

"No," Claire agreed, "they aren't." She paused for another moment, took a deep breath and then continued. "Someday you are going find someone else who you love as much as you love me. Don't argue," she told him sensing that he was about to interrupt, "just listen. And I respect, and I actually hope that you do. Can you imagine how lonely life would be if we went though it alone?" She smiled to herself.

"I made a vow to you Claire," he said, knowing that he could never love another person as much as he loved Claire.

"And you kept it Mac," she reminded him, "Until death do we part. I'm not telling you that you have to do something. I just want you to know that I respect any decision you make."

"I will always love you," he told her.

"And I will always love you," she replied, "but we'll see each other again."

Mac swallowed again, and the pair fell into silence. It was not an awkward or a heavy silence. It was a companionable lull in the conversation, which they had had so many times before. They were both just taking comfort in the knowledge that the other one was on the other end of the line.

"Stella has your birthday present for this year," Claire remarked suddenly.

"She has yours too," Mac replied a little dully, but a smile spread across Claire's face.

"So all these years that we've been trying to hide presents from each other," she said with a small chuckle, "We've been using the same hiding spot."

"Great minds think alike," Mac replied slightly heartened by Claire's laugh.

"We've known that since the day we met," Claire joked, "remember we both came to Maryanne's costume part dressed Albert Einstein."

"I still think you looked better with that hair than he ever did," he teased her, forgetting for a moment where he was.

"Well thank you," she replied, "you looked pretty smashing yourself."

" Yea well," he replied, "I still haven't figured out how I ended up with the smartest, prettiest girl at the party."

Claire smiled and shook her head lovingly. "It probably had something to do with you calling her 'the smartest, prettiest girl at the party,'" Claire pointed out.

Mac chuckled, and the two returned to a companionable silence. However less than a minute later, Claire spoke again, but this time something had changed. Her tone was no longer playful as it had been mere moments before, but it was still calm.

"I love you Mac," she told him. She could hear the building creaking all around her, and she could feel it shaking.

"I love you too," he replied, sensing that something had changed, but not sure what. Then he saw it. The North Tower of the World Trade Center was collapsing just as its twin had done half an hour earlier. He still had the phone pressed to his ear, but all he could hear was the dial tone. Claire was gone.

One moment he had been talking to her, and the next she was ripped from his life forever. Mac felt a lump rise in his throat at the thought, and tears began to fall down his cheeks. He let them fall because at that moment nothing mattered except that he was never going to see the woman he loved again.

Well that's all six of them and while I realized they weren't perfect (and that I missed the mark on this one by about an hour) I hope that you enjoyed them as a whole, and that they were a fitting tribute to 9-11.

Dedication: To the memory of 9-11 and all those affected by it.