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The September 11 Digital Archive

Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Behring Center Smithsonian “September 11:
Bearing Witness to History”

     Story of September 11
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Contributed by: Alison Thompson
Contributor's location on 9/11: Upper East Side, NYC.
Contributed on: 28 September 2004

How did you witness history on September 11th?

On Sept 11th I rollerbladed down to the WTC from the Upper East Side with my medical kit and arrived just as the first tower had fallen. I bladed into the smoke to look for someone and found a worker who needed CPR. There were a few walking wounded and badly burned people. Most of the people I saw were dead. Suddenly the 2nd tower above me began to mushroom so I ran for my life and dove under a car. I lived in the streets for the next 5 days and set up a triage center at Firehouse 10 across the road from the WTC (with Michael Voudoris an EMS worker.) In the days that followed we filled the body bags, when we ran out of bags we used our hands and buckets. One day someone found a heart lying on a piece of metal. Somebody's heart... all by itself. On day 5 I climbed the 53 flights up to the top of the Marriot hotel and looked down into the gates of hell. I was so tired, it was time to leave...I found my rollerblades, still lying in the place I had left them days ago and I went home and slept for 3 days. After that I went back to GZ and worked for the American Red Cross as a volunteer for the next 9 months. I saw many things that storm my nightmares on a regular basis but the main thing I want to share is that there is hope for humanity as I witnessed help and love pouring in from across the world. On Sept 12th, I met an 84 year old lady wheeling a coffee cart around in the dark. She had driven from Chicago as soon as she had heard. She was doing the only thing she knew how to do. I met Japanese firefighters who had flown in from Japan and spoke no English. I bedded next to rescue dogs with burnt paws and met a distinguised lawyer who toiled by hand to fix the sewage so we could have somewhere to go to the toliet. He was knee deep in sewage and never slept. There was a young Spanish boy who slaved sweat bringing us tanks of water and would quietly ask us if we had found his sister yet? ...and then there were the healing children's cards that read "If you have a broken heart you can have mine" and "I wish I could come there and cook for you but my mum won't let me drive!" this kid was 8 years old and he lived in Colorado. These cards helped heal me. These children made a difference in all of our lives. I lost 23 of my friends and my best friend.

Has your life changed because of September 11, 2001?

I still believe in hope and love and faith... just a lot more now. The world feels smaller. God feels more real. I still feel the pain of that day, every day... but I smile a lot more because life can be short and I want to live the rest of mine... every day as it comes. I have had a full good life and sometimes which that I could have changed places with someone in the towers who hadn't had their chance yet.

What do you think should be remembered about September 11th?

I hope people remember the people whose lives were stolen. Also the hope for humanity that came follwing those days, the feeling of comradship we all felt for each other in the days and months that followed, no matter what color and religion we were. It felt so warm and loving. The way the world should be.

Did you fly an American flag after the events of September 11th?

Yes I flew the flag and I still do. It made me appreciate the symbolism behind the flag and the freedom in which we live that we take for granted.

Cite as: Alison Thompson, Smithsonian Story #6845, The September 11 Digital Archive, 28 September 2004, <>.
Archival Information: 455 words, 2302 characters

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