The Cord That Bound Them
The telephone was the umbilical cord that connected Olabisi Shadie Layeni-Yee to her mother, Edith Layeni. Her mother lived in Newark. Ms. Layeni-Yee worked in 1 World Trade Center as an assistant manager for International Office Centers. But when they talked on the phone, it was as though they were sitting next to each other.
Ms. Layeni-Yee, whose first name means "love and joy" in Yoruba, would call every day when she arrived at work to check on her two "munchkins," for whom her mother baby-sat. Then she would call at 2 p.m. to say good afternoon. Then again at 5 p.m. to say she was leaving.
The two hurled jokes at each other. "Mother, are you dead yet?" Ms. Layeni- Yee, 38, the eldest of four daughters, would say. "No, I'm not dead yet, and I'm going to kick your little girl out the window if she doesn't be quiet," was the reply.
In 1993, Ms. Layeni-Yee's mother watched on television as people raced from the World Trade Center to escape a terrorist bombing. She prayed. Then came the phone call, "Mom, I'm fine." Her daughter had helped a pregnant woman walk down from the 79th floor.
On Sept. 11, her phone rang again. Her daughter told her to turn on the television. "If worse comes to worse, I'm just calling to say goodbye to all of you," Ms. Layeni-Yee said. Then she said the lights were going out and the floor was shaking. Ms. Layeni-Yee's mother whirled around to see the tower collapse on television.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 11, 2001.