‘The Day I Lost My Heart’
Originally published September 29, 2001.
In the nearly three weeks since the attack on the World Trade Center, many people have managed to hold on to the slightest hope that their loved ones are still alive. They line the streets of Broadway and Chambers, in downtown Manhattan, along the makeshift “Memorial Wall,” sharing photos and tales about their husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews who have not come home. Some have accepted the painful reality that there is no chance of a homecoming or joyous reunion, and others hold vigil near the photos, clutching a cross or Rosary beads, staring, crying and hoping for some kind of miracle.
Hubert Hinds, a native of Trinidad and resident of Far Rockaway for the last 27 years, has traveled to Manhattan as well. He has seen “The Wall.” He has been searching day after day for the smallest indication that his wife of 31 years, Clara Hinds, is still alive. She was working in Tower One of the World Trade Center at “Windows On The World” on the morning of September 11, 2001, a day that Hubert Hinds refers to as, “The day I lost my heart.”
The Wave contacted him for the possibility of doing an interview about his missing wife, but we stressed that we would not be interested in telling his story if it would cause him too much pain. He was most gracious and allowed us into the place that he and his loving wife called home for many years. This is what he had to say. Wave: Thank you for allowing us into your home during what I’m sure is a painful time. Hinds: “I’m glad you are here.” Wave: I’d like to start by asking you to tell me a little about your family. Hinds: “Well, I’ve been married to my wife Clara for the last 31 years. We are both from Trinidad. That’s where we met and married. We have two sons who were raised in Rockaway, and they are currently living in Virginia. One is 30 and the other is 28.” Wave: How are they holding up at this point? Hinds: “They are taking it very hard. My youngest son is really taking it hard. It was too painful for them to stay and wait for answers, so they went back to Virginia until there is more information or until they find a body or whatever. They should be back this weekend to get an update and be with me.” Wave: When you say they are taking it very hard, do you mean to say that they are taking the fact that she’s missing very hard or the fact that their mother may no longer be here? Hinds: “Well, the older one does not want to accept that his mother is gone. Based on the information we have gotten, everyone that was above the 88th or 90th floor did not survive. My wife worked on the 106th floor. So, my son doesn’t want to hear that his mother is gone. The younger one is a little more realistic about what the outcome might be, but I have to stay strong to help my older son deal with the reality. I still have hope that she’s alive though.” Wave: Where were you when you heard about the attack? Hinds: “I was right here. You see, she was due to go into work at 9:30 that morning, but because we were getting ready to go to Rome the following week, she wanted to go in earlier so she could leave earlier. She was so excited about the trip, and her boss told her she could come in at 8:00 a.m. for the rest of that week. She left at 6:10 and I was still asleep. I woke up and followed my usual routine of showering, praying and then I’d go to work. I decided to have a little breakfast before I left, so I made a bowl of cereal and turned on the TV to channel 7. I saw building number 1, which is the building she worked in, on fire with the smoke going upward. I ran to the phone to try and call her and a recording said all circuits were busy. I sat down and prayed that she was okay. That’s when I saw the second plane hit the second tower and I saw the big blaze. I then realized it was a direct attack.”
Wave: What was going through your mind at that point? Hinds: “I was thinking that she still had time to get out. Knowing her, she’s the type of person to go around and ask people if they are okay and try to gather everyone to exit the building. I was hoping she wasn’t doing that. Then I saw the second building collapse. I figured she still had some time to escape, since her building was still upright. When I saw the antennae start to go down on the first building, it was like a dagger had pierced my heart. I didn’t know what to do. I just fell to my knees and started praying, hoping that she made it out in time. Then I just waited and waited for some kind of news, but there was nothing. My phone was ringing like crazy because my friends knew she worked in Tower One. They came over and sat with me to make sure I was okay. I didn’t eat or sleep all that night, and Wednesday I went to the city, but I didn’t get any information. I ended up going back and forth to the city all that week, but no one could tell me anything about my wife.” Wave: Did your sons see the event unfold? Hinds: “Yes, they saw it, but there was no discussion about it. I mean, what was there to discuss? We were in a state of shock and disbelief. We spoke a day or two later about it, but there was no discussion.” Wave: Did you look into the possibility that maybe she was in a facility or hospital in another state? I say that because some people that were listed as missing ended up in Pennsylvania and along the outskirts of New York. Hinds: “Anywhere that there were reports of people being treated, we went to. Some reports listed people being taken to Canada. I had relatives check all leads, but there was nothing.” Wave: How long were you married? Hinds: “Me and my wife have been married for 31 years. She’s everything to me. She’s my wife, my soul mate and my best friend. I’ve loved her for 31 years.” Wave: Describe the type of woman your wife is? Hinds: (Smiling warmly) “That’s easy. She’s the type of person that always has a smile for anyone. She is involved with the Frank Avenue Civic Association and other local organizations. She is a deeply religious woman who loves her children dearly. She always believed in helping people less fortunate and never looked down on people. She was very concerned about the homeless. Friends and people from our church always said when they made her, they broke the mold. God played a major role in her life.” Wave: I know that a lot of time has passed. Do you feel that you are now at the point where you can accept the fact that she may be gone? Hinds: “Based on the most recent information, there is no way she could have survived, and that is very hard for me to deal with. However, I still have hope. I have to because of my sons.” Wave: Have you gone down to the area known as Ground Zero? Hinds: “I can’t bring myself to do it. No, I haven’t gone. I try to stay away from there until I hear that they have found a body or something like that. I don’t want to go there right now.” Wave: (Deep sigh, fighting tears) If you could say something to your wife right now, what would it be? Hinds: “I would want her to know that I would do whatever I had to do if it would make her walk through that door right now. If she can’ t walk anymore because of the attack, I will take care of her. I’m prepared to do that. Right now, if I had $10 million, I’d hand it over if it would bring my wife back to me. Whatever it took to bring her home. I’d tell her to come home. (Voice cracking and trembling) You know, we never fought. I always try to teach the young people about what that means. We understood each other so well.” Wave: Have the agencies that are in place to try and help you find your wife been helpful? Hinds: “Because there are so many people out there that are trying to get personal information about loved ones, for criminal purposes, I try to avoid them unless they have some pertinent information. I’ve spent most of my time in the hospitals, and they have been most helpful.”