At 8:30am on Tuesday morning, I got a call from a client saying she
wanted to go ahead with a project. We'd meet at 2pm. Welcome news.
A few minutes later, watching Good Morning America, a strange image
popped onto the screen, then vanished. It looked like black smoke from
the top of the World Trade Center - against a pure blue sky. Then it
reappeared, along with a newscaster saying a plane had slammed into the
tower. What? I followed the news for about 20 minutes, until the show
suddenly went off the air - nothing but fuzz.
I took the elevator to the roof, 26 floors up. I could see smoke between
buildings to the south. I could see the edge of the WTC with orange
flames licking out from a high floor. Several others rushed up from the
floor below - a second plane had hit, knocking out the TV signal. My
phone lines were out, and my cell phone wasn't working. I had to go
The bus trip was slow. Several people shoved aboard, one woman saying,
"My sister works there, but she's gotta be okay. She's on a low floor."
Another woman turned around: "The towers are dust and rubble. They're
gone." It went quiet.
At 14th street, the bus stopped. We began walking south. Tides of people
were coming north. A bunch of people were listening to someone, so I
Two men with gray, greasy, tattered clothes and debris in their hair
identified themselves as businessmen escapees. "I couldn't see beyond
here," one said, hand in front of his nose. "I thought I was dead." They
were high on survival.
I walked down to the farthest barrier, two or three blocks north of the
scene. The road was jammed with ambulances, fire trucks, police, and an
unnerving absence of the towers. Suddenly, everyone began to run. "Get
out! Move! Now a gas main's broken." We pelted north, block after block,
gasping for breath, and stopping now and then to look back. Then running
At 14th street, a long wait for another bus. People drifting, dazed. The
next bus that came was packed. With no air conditioning, it was hot and
uncomfortable; some were complaining, but most were silent with relief
Sitting beside me on the bus were two young women who worked in 7 WTC,
facing the towers. "I saw this plane flying low. Pilot asleep? Passed
out? Then he drove it into the building. It was like a movie. You
couldn't believe it. The flames got bigger and people began to jump. Two
people jumped holding hands. They knew they were jumping to their
deaths. We walked down the fire stairs. I was holding the arm of an old
woman who said, 'Don't rush so much - I'll trip.' I slowed down, but
said I wanted to get out alive. When we got out, we walked north. People
were handing us water, masks, trying to help. So kind."
For the rest of the day and evening, endless TV.
The next morning was just as clear and sunny, with the dust cloud still
spreading across the southern horizon. I needed to get out, away from
the television. There were a lot of people in the street; they couldn't
work, couldn't get out of the city. Some postal workers passed by,
pushing their carts. At the end of my block, hordes were outside the Red
Cross Blood Center on Amsterdam Ave. People were lined up around the
block to donate blood, clothes, and money.
For 24 hours, hospitals were in high gear. At the beginning, they
treated people who'd been hurt in the streets: police, fire, and rescue
Then nothing happened for a while. The city was quiet, transportation
erratic. Store shelves emptied of staples, as food trucks were not
allowed to enter the city.
The news continued. Heartbreaking. "Miss, I was watching the towers
after the first plane, and I got my son on the phone. He was an
accountant in the other tower. I watched the second plane crash, and
then the connection was gone."
On the third day, people in my building - like me - were sour and sick
at heart, feeling lonely, depressed, and disconnected. The news
advanced: 12 firefighters from our local unit lost, body bags ordered,
tales from cell phones on the doomed planes, and passengers who tried to
But we are not cowed. We are determined.