Don't send a loved one out of the house with words of anger, many of us have been told; you never know what the day will bring. Martha Backman had never heard that advice at the age of nineteen. On the morning of September 11, 2001, she wished she had. The wound from her parents' divorce still raw, Martha idly picks up her father's Blackberry from the kitchen table and reads an e-mail from his fiancie, Jen. She asks Bob whether he has told Martha that they're moving in together and getting married soon. Martha flies into a rage, calls him a coward, and tells him she hates him and storms out of the house. Bob Backman stares open-mouthed as the slam from the door echoes. Realizing he can't go after her, he leaves for work at the World Trade Center. Bob is listed among the dead Martha, remembering what she said, can't accept that he's gone forever. She finds Jen and convinces her that since no one has found his body he's not dead. Jen, having finally found a man who will stay in her life for some period of time, is all too ready to follow Martha's lead. But that road is pitted before they even start. Martha is more than a little resentful of Jen's sudden intrusion into her life. And Jen, finally having found peace with Bob after being raised by a father who rebuffed all her efforts for contact, needs nothing less than this angry, sullen girl who thinks she has the primary claim on Bob. They reach an uneasy peace to scour the City for Bob. Told time and again that no one got out of his office in the South Tower, and that they have to face that fact in order to move on and find closure, they bounce from interminable waits on phone hot- lines set up for relatives to missing persons centers, Jen becoming more and more discouraged at every turn. Jen is close to giving up when she finds a "Portrait of Grief" obituary in the newspaper, written by Bob's ex-wife Laurie. Livid, Jen throws herself into the search with everything she has. She and Martha patrol the downtown hospitals, joining the hundreds of relatives bearing flyers with pictures of the missing. Just as they're about to leave the last hospital, a nurse sees the picture and tells them she saw him and that her brother drove him to the Bronx. But his name, she says, was not Bob, it's Mike. Martha and Jen look at each other, lost. She tells them to see her uncle, a police lieutenant at a precinct in the South Bronx, near where the nurse dropped her off. Martha says it's ridiculous and refuses to go, until Jen tells her she'll go alone. Whoever, he is, she says, she needs to know. They travel through Army checkpoints and clouds of beige dust from the Trade Center, past entrances manned by newly-minted security guards fresh from the streets and boxing gyms, along streets stripped of cars, and among crowds of pleading eyes, the famous New York rule of no eye contact abandoned by hundreds of faces asking, What will happen to us? They see the lieutenant who, after Martha's tears and Jen's pleading with her wide green eyes, accepts a photo of Bob. And Bob is alive. He rode a piece of rubble down four stories, stone and plaster cascading around him and knocking him out briefly. He crawled out of the wreckage through a maintenance tunnel but the blow to the head has him disoriented, thoughts and memories, like his address and phone number, disconnected and in pieces. His throat caked with the thick beige dust filling the airlike snow, his mind spins in panic as he gasps for air. He even hesitates when asked his name, and the fear just cascades. A cold vise around his chest, he whips his head around, searching for any sort of touchstone.