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this took hours to write…

September 11, 2006

September 11, 2001 was a beautiful crisp day. I woke up early because I had to leave a little early for work for some meetings and then I was off to a store in New Jersey where I was scheduling an in-store event. I remember marvalling at how beautiful the World Trade Center looked on such a clear day. I remember when I was a kid.. they were building the towers.. to me, they were majestic and were a symbol of my childhood in NY. As an adult, they were my beacon home.. I lived just across the river in Brooklyn. I got in my car and drove through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, under the World Trade Center at about 8:30am. When I got to my office people were already gathered at the window. “Some plane must have flown off course! It hit the world trade center!”

I made it “just in time” to watch the second plane fly in and hit. We heard it first – that low rumble, the whistle of the jet engines (that sound still affects me today) .. we saw the plane flying way too low and way too fast. It was the most horrific thing I have ever witnessed in my life. We screamed as if we could stop it from hitting with our voices. It was then that we knew this wasnt an accident and fear spread among us like the plague.

We had no phones.. but we did have internet. I was able to get a message off to let people know that I was ok.. and was able to IM a friend from Philly who was online so he could contact Dave and let him know I was ok.

I used to work in the World Trade Center. I was the Asst. Community Relations Coordinator for the Flagship Borders Books and Music that was in Building 5 (the towers were buildings 1&2). My best friend Amy still worked there. I desperately tried calling her.. for hours. Finally somehow, many hours later, she was able to get a call through to me that she was ok.. but she.. she was standing right there at the base of the towers when the planes hit.

My co-workers and I couldn’t tear ourselves away from that window. Crying and not knowing what to do we alternately watched the TV we dragged in from the conference room and the towers burning. Then my beloved towers.. one at a time.. in slow motion.. crumbled. My heart broke in to a million pieces.

NYC was on lock down. We couldn’t do anything, we couldn’t get anywhere and our buildings were evacuated. I went to a co-workers house because I felt like I didnt have anywhere to go. I couldn’t find my friends and I couldn’t get back to Brooklyn (nor did I want to at that point) and I didn’t want to be alone… actually I dont even think I knew WHAT I wanted .. we were all in panic and survival mode.

The rest of that day was a blur of the horrific events on repeat. It was played over and over on tv and we just sat there like zombies and watched. My cell phone would ring intermittantly when someone was able to get through to make sure I was ok. There was no sleep that night on a friend’s couch.. I dont remember if we ever even ate anything.

The next day, all I wanted to do was go home… but I couldnt. The city was still on lockdown. No subways and no busses, no bridges, no tunnels. Finally at about 3pm we got the word that we could drive home, but expect big delays and possible check stops. I got my car and had to drive all the way to the north to go south to Brooklyn. As I was driving (crawling) on the BQE to get home.. I looked to where I would have normally saw the towers.. and all that was there was still rising smoke. It was then that I sobbed. Those beautiful towers.. and the incredible loss of life hit me like a brick. Strangers in other cars were trying to console me as they cried their own tears. Getting home wasnt any easier. I came home to my stoop littered with financial papers, in-flight magazines and other debris.

Then there was the acrid smell. It is beyond description. Burning buildings and burning flesh scorched my throat. My saliva was black from the poison of it all.

I packed a bag and got back into my car and drove north to Boston to be with Dave. It took me almost 7 hours to get there (normally 4 hours). I called my boss from there and told her I would work remotely, or she could put me down for some vacation days.. I would be back a week later. She was, of course, very understanding and worked with me over the next many months so I could get my work done with the many travel restrictions that were placed on NYC’s bridges and tunnels. There were many days in the following months when I watched the sun rise and the smoke still billowing from the ashes.

I write this today because I will never forget that day.. and noone should ever forget. It took me many months to return to “normal” after that (although I do suffer from some Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from it to this day) … and the smell .. that acrid smell.. lingered just as long.

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3 comments

  1. I have no idea what to say. But I wanted you to know that I read it, and you write so well, I almost feel like I can see it. Except of course that I can’t, I can’t even imagine.


  2. *crying*

    I can’t even get to that spot where I can write about that day.

    I can’t remember if we were in touch that day, you and I. As you know, Amy ran for her life and made it uptown to my office.

    The single most terrifying moment of my life was when Amy called a second time to tell me that she was “in the courtyard.” I told her to GET. HERE. NOW.

    When I hung up, I turned around and the first tower fell. I felt as though I just watched my best friend die. I crawled under my desk and wouldn’t leave. Even when they evacuated the building, I was under my desk and wouldn’t move.

    When I was finally extracated from under my desk, my phone rang. It was Amy, and she was downstairs. I’ve never had a longer elevator ride down 20 floors or a hug that meant more to me.

    I’m linking to you on my blog–because our stories are entwined. I have so many happy and hysterical memories of opening that WTC store. Many, many, many cocktails at Windows on the World; smoking cigarettes by the Globe; curing the hangovers at the hotdog cart (to this day, I firmly hold true that the best cure for a hangover is a NYC Dirty Water Hotdog).

    I can’t even begin to talk about that smell and the dust and the papers littering my backyard.

    Oh Lizzie, I wish you were here and we’d have a good long cry, a stiff drink, and a big hug. With Amy!


  3. What a moving post. I can’t even imagine what that must have been like to experiance that.

    Thank you for sharing.



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