The towers fell out of a crystal clear, blue September morning sky. Just 5 months after I started dating my husband. Just 6 years after I moved to New York. Just 25 minutes after I left my house that day. Just 40 minutes after I missed the call from my Mom asking me "What the hell is happening out there?"
She had heard already the plane had hit the first tower, while on her business trip to Chicago. I didn't even know it was going on until after the 1st tower fell. I was headed to a meeting and they all knew it, I called Steve from their landline and screamed into his phone, terrorists are attacking the WTC. I asked his to call from his land line everyone we knew to tell them we were fine. On my way home I passed some construction workers who were briskly walking toward the river, proclaiming "the next one is going to hit Time Square," I lived at 43rd between 9th and 10th. For you non-New Yorkers that is about 3 short blocks from Times Square. I ran home to my apartment and ran up the stairs and my first familiar face was Miguel who gave my first hug of security that I craved after all of this. We ran into our roommates room who had a TV, the TV was pointed north and the window we watched from was pointed south. So we watched it live and live on TV as the second tower came crashing down. We were sending emails home to family as fast as we could and I was convinced it wasn't over, I told my sister I loved them and I would miss them. My best friend Rhonda worked in an office building on Spring Street and Varick, she could see from her desk, tiny figures dropping out of the windows. I'm sorry she has to live her life with that memory.
I lived in a building with a number of artists we all laid on the king sized bed on the 1st floor all 5 of us watching the news, that clip of the plane hitting the second tower as the first tower was burning, over and over again it played.
About 40 minutes after the towers fell, I heard my Mom's voice for the first time, she still had no idea if I was alright, she was in full on panic mode. Some strange man answered her phone and called out to her, he told me that she has been waiting to hear from me. She picked up the phone and I could sense the bottom dropped out from under her, she was so scared. About 1.2 hours after the towers fell Rhonda walked in the door after walking the 2-3 miles home from her office (the subways were closed.) She was covered in dust and soot and I remember hugging her and thinking that we might make it through this. About 4 hours after the Towers fell Steve called and and told me that my mom called him and said they opened the Subways and that I should get my ass to Brooklyn with him and safety. The subway ride was surreal, it seemed normal but everyone knew it wasn't. I got to his apartment and he met me at the door. In that hug I knew that I would be alright. We stayed awake all night watching that image on the tv over and over again. 36 hours after the towers fell we went to Philadelphia for a Ben Fold concert, by way of the Verrazano bridge, the same bridge we took when we moved away from New York, 5 years later. There was a great plume of smoke coming from ground zero and the rescue effort was far from over. We saw the Liberty Bell that day. I love Ben Folds for not canceling that show, it was the best distraction I could think of, though every loud noise or low flying plane, anything like that would strike me for years with paralyzing fear. We drove home only to pass the lower part of Manhattan once more, this time it was just blackness and hazy from the smoke. For weeks after, every time you were in the subway you were struck with the images and words from families missing their loved ones, walls and walls, miles of missing persons signs haphazardly scrolled on paper, desperate for answers. Heartbreaking. For years after, every time you were with a group of people at a party, concert, restaurant, anything. The conversation would always end with where were you?
I have moved forward like so many others never got the chance to do. I've been married and had a baby. The lesson I learned was that you never take for granted what is most important. My family.
Where were you?