Contributor's location on 9/11: Corner of Nassau and Fulton Streets, Lower Manhattan, NYC
September 5, 2007
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was on my way to work at 55 Water Street. I had just ascended the stairs of the A train subway station at Nassau Street when the first plane hit at about 8:43 AM. There was a loud BOOM and smoke billowed out of the building...paper floated down from the sky and it looked like little white birds against the blue sky. I stood on the street watching the North Tower burn and I was certain that it had been a bomb until someone told me that it was a plane - from my location, I could make out the tail of the plane sticking out of the building. I was grateful that it was an accident and although people had died, it wasn't a bomb. I called my work to tell them that I was on my way and as soon as I hung up the phone there was a loud WHOOOSH, BOOM, followed by a huge plume of fire shooting from the side of the South Tower! At that moment, we knew that this wasn't some poor pilot having a heart attack; we were under attack! The feeling in my chest at that moment has stayed with me over the past six years - the pounding of a very loud drum that reverberates through your entire body as a band marches by. That's what the explosion felt like - except bigger, much, much bigger. And, the paper kept raining down on us - closer to the towers, it was paper, bodies, and other debris - plane parts, building parts and other horrible evidence of the fact that life for us would never be the same. In shock, I walked to my office - stopped at Timothy's for my usual morning coffee. As I play the memories back in my head, it plays like a silent movie: people running, people silently screaming, people falling slowly to their deaths, firefighters and police officers rushing to their deaths...When I got to my office, I ran into two of my coworkers who were heading back to New Jersey before the ferries were shut down - I burst into tears - the next thing I remember is being on the 34th floor of the building in which I worked - security met me and told me that the building had been evacuated and I needed to leave. Where to go? How was I going to get home? I lived 200 blocks away up in Washington Heights. I resolved myself to the fact that I had to walk and I began to head north up Water Street. The towers were burning and people were still jumping to their deaths. Inside, others were in a life and death struggle and most would never leave; their bodies vaporized in the events that would come next. None of us expected that they would collapse. None of us were prepared for what came next. I got to the corner of Fulton and Water Streets and I crossed the street halfway by the playground - I heard screams and I saw a woman put her hand to her mouth and fall to her knees - I looked up and saw the South Tower disappear behind the smaller buildings. Before I could react, my body was running. My body knew that we had to get out of the way before my brain figured it out. The dust cloud came like a freight train - way to fast for my mortal legs and within seconds, I was enveloped in the dust cloud that was the South Tower of the World Trade Center. I ran gasping for air and nearly vomiting from the dust. I don't know how long it took me to escape because the time between the dust and the church are a blur. The next thing I remember is being in a small church asking for a glass of water. I wanted to cry and tell the woman with the water my story but there were children in the church who were terrified for their parents who worked in the buildings - so I needed to keep myself together so as to not upset the children any further. I sat for a moment, shaking and crying - scared for myself, scared for my own child in a pre-school in Upper Manhattan. What if they bombed the George Washington Bridge? What if my husband can't get to her? How am I going to get to my daughter? Panic overtook me and I left the church and began to run - I have to get home to my daughter before they do. Nobody knew what was happening and there could be others - the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the bridges...rumors were everywhere. At one point, when I was past Brooklyn Bridge, I turned to look back hoping that what I had seen was a dream. Was it really just gone??? As I looked South down Pearl Street, I saw an inconceivable sight: The North Tower came gracefully, silently down and disappeared into a cloud of dust. The two biggest buildings in New York City were gone - disappeared like a magician's trick. The New York skyline was forever changed and so was I. Everything that I thought was permanent, I learned wasn't. Nothing is forever, not even the biggest buildings. Six years have passed since that cloudless day in September, 2001. Many victims remain unidentified but the biggest tragedy is that the events of 9/11/01 are still claiming victims: cancer and lung disease; suicide and PTSD are taking their toll on the survivors and first responders. It will never be over and we will never forget how our lives changed on that beautiful September morning in 2001.
Story #42076, The September 11 Digital Archive, 5 September 2007, <http://911digitalarchive.org/stories/details/42076>.