Excerpt from chapter 20 of TREASURES
THE ATTACK AND ITS AFTERMATH
It was a Tuesday and the wind had died down. All was still with the sun peeking its head upon the horizon. There was a smattering of rain during the night and wisps of clouds still hung low. Birds were chirping on the windowsill of my first floor corner bedroom. I woke up early to prepare for an 8:30 meeting with a contractor. As I sat in the kitchen of my narrow loft, under the glass skylight sipping tea and reading the news, I felt the building shake like an earthquake, or was it an explosion? It was 8:46 a.m. I dashed away from under the skylight; fearing the ceiling would explode. Just then the phone rang: it was Hilly. “My daughter was on her way down to court on Second Avenue and saw a plane fly into the World Trade Center. Go see what’s going on.”
I ran to the front door and, outside on my loading dock, neighbors had gathered to watch the nearby burning tower. We thought it was an accident.
“What a jerk, couldn’t he see where he was going?” Said a guy on my step. We could not believe what was happening before our eyes. Just then, another plane came barreling toward the towers . . . jamming, crashing directly, forcibly into the other building. It burst into a red ball of fire.
I said, “Oh my God, it wasn’t an accident.”
Someone yelled, “Suicide bombers!”
We stood there packed together so tightly against my building, I could hardly see out. I forced my way through the humanity to catch sight of the plane as smoke and flames filled the air. We stood there silent, in a state of amazement.
“Look! People jumping out of the windows,” someone said. I had to look twice. They were like giant birds diving straight toward the ground; frightened souls flying through the air as each floor burned down, down, level by level, their only hope for survival. Then the second tower imploded in a massive black plume of smoke, the building falling to its knees like a wounded soldier.
“Help!” shrieked the voices . . . watch.”
My next-door neighbor had recently adopted a five-year old child from Costa Rica who was in one of the five schools near the Trade Center. He broke our silence screaming, “Sam; got to get down there and find Sam.”
“I’ll go with you and help the others get out,” I said.
We ran west to the river, then down toward the Trade Center along the water’s edge. We were almost there when we saw the screaming children barreling out en-masse with their teachers. I lost my neighbor in the frantic, racing crowd. Then at 10:28, tower number one imploded in an immense black cloud. I could not go forward, it was too dangerous. The stampede of humanity was rushing away from the towers, toward me, to save their lives. Some had run down 50 to 100 flights. Secretaries in good suits carrying high heels, stock brokers in Hermes, attorneys and accountants with briefcases, storekeepers from the underground city, restaurant workers in aprons, janitors, hairdressers, all running up, up away from the frightening towers; reaching safety. Some fell down on the ground in relief, some in exhaustion.
“I’m alive.” Many were sobbing, some were praying. The thick black smoke engulfed us all, as white ash fell like snow.
I sat down on a bench to catch my breath saying, “This is a war.”
A group of Middle Eastern men were sitting at a picnic table near me, by the river, on cell phones, laughing. Instinctively I sensed they were involved.
Walking back to the loft amid the bewildered, injured and thankful, I spotted my neighbor walking with his arm around little Sam. Thank God he found him; he was alive.