On the morning of the day his twin died, Bob Bernstein woke up from the worst nightmare he had ever had, though he couldn't remember the details for his wife except that it was a "bad, black dream."
The day, Sept. 11, would get much worse. Later that morning, Bernstein stood near his downtown Manhattan office watching the second World Trade Center tower implode. He called his parents to see if they had heard from his twin brother, William Bernstein, a bond broker at Cantor Fitzgerald on the 105th floor of Tower One. Then he just hoped that any minute his brother, Billy, would come running down the street covered with debris.
"I said to a friend I was with, 'I think I just lost my twin brother,'" Bernstein said on Good Morning America. He, and his twin grew up hip to hip, attending the same camps and the same high school. They both attended Syracuse University, and later lived in the same co-op building in New York. The men, 44, both worked in downtown Manhattan and usually drove into work together, [though they went in separately that morning].
Among those who perished in the World Trade Center tragedy were at least 16 twins, who left behind their surviving twins to carry on alone. Experts say twins suffer a loss unlike any other and that it's hard for non-twins to understand.
The Last Morning Call
Pamela Bittner, 27, lost her twin brother Jeffrey Bittner, a research analyst for investment bank Keefe, Bruyette & Woods on the 89th floor of Tower Two. They lived in different cities, but her overprotective sibling called, each morning, to make sure she arrived safely at work.
"We definitely had that bond. Every morning we would make our first phone calls to one another," she recalled. The morning of Sept. 11, her brother called at 8:48 a.m. and told her that the first tower had been hit, but that the people in his office in Tower Two were told to stay put, and that he would be OK. It was the last time they spoke and five minutes later the plane hit.
In the weeks before his death, Jeff Bittner had joined a mentoring program to act as a big brother to New York City schoolchildren. [Her brother had always joked that he was older, because he was born one minute ahead of her.]
"Now I feel half of me is gone," Bittner said.
Monique Parkes, 27, tried all morning to call her twin brother Michael Parkes, who worked for Marsh & McLennan, on the 98th floor of Tower One. Now that he is gone, she has the "weird feeling" that she is alone, she said.
"We did everything, if not together, then in consultation with each other," Parkes said. "It's almost hard to do anything since then, because normally I would have spoken to him many times during the day."
Hope and Twin Intuition
In the days after Sept. 11, Parkes helped organize a team of family and friends to look for her brother in New York. For five days, she remained in Georgia, watching television, manning the phone and posting pictures of her brother on the Web.
Her brother had led a church youth group and the family dreamed that he would someday return to their native Jamaica and become a bishop in the Episcopal Church.
"We held onto hope," she said.
Bernstein had mixed feelings.
"Realistically I didn't think he made it because we hadn't heard from him," Bernstein said. "I held onto hope because my brother was just in such great physical condition. He could easily have run up and down those stairs."
For Bittner, her "twin intuition," was telling her that her brother was OK. Eventually, she and the others realized the truth: that he had died during the building collapse.
A Missing Half
Now, each twin grapples with the loss of the person they considered another half of themselves.
"He was my best friend, the person who helped make every decision I made," Bittner said, of her brother.
In dreams she sees her him and tries to call out to him, but he doesn't respond.
For Bittner, her brother's spirit does linger.
"What gets me through is I feel he's still here," said Bittner.
Bernstein says it was the first real loss he had suffered that didn't seem normal and that his brother was murdered.
"I'll see someone down the hall, that has a faint resemblance to Billy, and I think it's him," he said. "But realistically, I know it can't be him."
When Parkes said when she dreams about her brother she can barely discern him through a mist, but she knows he is there because he responds to her calls. Before he can say where he is, she wakes up. In her heart, he is still around.
"Every time I have a question, I can hear his answer in my head, I know what he'd say and how he'd laugh," she said. "I see the image in my mind's eye, and I constantly feel like he's inside."