Tuesday September 9, 2001
?The World Trade Center is on Fire!? screeched and echoed throughout a New York City loft.
Half-clothed and mostly delirious I jump from the bed and dart towards the window. It?s true. One tower from the WTC is bellowing out smoke like an old mans pipe. A moment of impatient silence is thwarted by yet another jet crashing into the side of the other tower. No longer awestruck, but rather a feeling of helpless inquisitiveness I rush to turn on the television. The word terrorism resonates from the electronic box whose image is like a reflection from my window.
For the next two hours I prance around the apartment like a child hopped-up on ridlin. Going from window to television. Walking back and forth in every conceivable route, I try to comprehend the reality of what?s going on. Outside the open window there is a propped up American flag sitting on top of an adjacent building. It sits directly between the two massive towers in my line of site. That is until the first tower collapses.
Out of the corner of my eye I view the Empire State Building a mere three blocks away. Thoughts begin racing of the possible castration of this historic landmark. The initial fear subsides when the second tower tumbles. At this point a reflection of the day?s events that have led me to sit captive in this apartment surface.
A breakfast meeting next to the WTC is where I am supposed to be. Fortunately Mapquest wasn?t able to give me the exact subway stop and a recent subletter stole my subway map. When I awoke at 7AM to leave the apartment I simply decided I didn?t want to end up strolling along the confusing streets of the financial district in order to find my meeting. Then I remembered the three friends I invited to attend the breakfast discussion along with me. The intimacy of the relationship ignites my desire to contact my friends and family. Unfortunately phones are down and it?s impossible to log onto my usual email account. Helpless, I sit knowing I?m not there.
Through the piercing sounds of sirens yet another thought penetrates my mind. I had told friends visiting from France that they should check out the WTC early in the week to avoid the lines. Without phone contact I decide to walk down to their residence.
Upon stepping out of the high-rise apartment, which I had stayed the night before, it is evident the city is in chaos. The street is lined with armed military police and emergency vehicles. It is soon revealed that the Armory across the street has been turned into a makeshift morgue. Refrigerated trucks are pulling in and out, unloading the casualties of this surreal event.
Even through my rose-colored sunglasses, the large plume of smoke seems menacing. People line the streets like deer caught in headlights. There is no regard to traffic lights. Emergency vehicles whip past as police officers yell at people to get out of the streets. Shop owners stand outside their stores in wonderment of the passing crowds. A parade of men and women in dust-covered suits begin appearing the further south I walk. Droves of people silently watch the spectacle with a blank look in their eyes.
The usual bustle of my street has been eclipsed by a slew of closed gates. There is a break in the noise of the sirens, as a sole woman shouts anti-Arab sentiments. Her vicious words are only amplified by the fact that I?m walking by a local hair salon owned by a pair of Arab brothers. I call these people my friends.
A short time later I find my French friends safe in their apartment. Thankfully, they ignored my advice and visited the WTC the day before. It?s difficult to put words together and I soon leave.
Like a zombie I walk through the streets. My baby sister calls and we try to comfort one another. The next moment I look up to see I?ve walked clearly beyond the place in which I'm staying. I?m at a blood bank. The line stretches around the outside of the building. A paramedic walks through the line and explains they don?t have the resources to collect any more blood or a need for volunteers. This reassurance of a community showing their support is overwhelming, yet stifling at the same time.
I receive a call offering a place to stay outside the city. Feeling trapped I say no. I return to the place I call home and sit down infront of a television, which I know the world is watching. The surround sound of the sirens screeching outside the windows coupled by the streamless media blitz is giving me a migraine.
Without thought I walk to Grand Central train station. I board a train and head out of Manhattan Island. A woman sits near me with tears in her eyes. I hide mine behind a pair of sunglasses.