Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Never Forget....

Well, as today is September 11th, I decided to take a turn and do a serious post. I haven't really spoken too much about my experience on 9/11/01 to many people because it was a day I will never forget and it was the source of many many nightmares for a long time. I can't watch any news about it nor can I see any of the movies or even look at pictures. I saw it all when it happened and I was just too close for comfort. Although, I wasn't downtown at the time, I was right across the river in Queens and I saw everything as it transpired. So, for the first time...I will actually write down my story of that day. I guess for me it should be a bit cathartic. I have never been able to do it before but here goes...

I was in my first week of Law School. I was sitting in my first class. We heard some strange rumors about the White House and the Capital exploding. Then we heard about a plane hitting one of the towers of the World Trade Center. We were all confused. My Professor just kept on teaching but no one was paying attention. We wanted to know what was going on. We then heard from another Professor that her brother was on the first plane that hit the towers. Well, that was the end of class. We all got up and went to the lounge to watch the tv. It was on CNN and outside the lounge is an outside deck. I went out there with some people and we could see the 1st tower burning. Then someone pointed and said "look." It was at that point that I saw another plane. We were all wondering where it was going. In horror, we all watched as it hit the second tower. I will never get that sound or that vision out of my head. Then I just stood there with a guy I actually went to High School with. He had his arm around me and we just cried as we watched the towers burn and stood there until they both collapsed. We had NO clue what was happening. I then went inside to watch the tv to see if I could get any information. I was just in a state of shock.

My father was away at the time and I had no way of reaching him and my mom was in the city but I didn't know where. I was hoping she was home and safe. I couldn't get through to ANYONE on the phone. Many of us were outside trying to contact people. It was just complete mayhem. No one knew what to do. I finally got a hold if my aunt and she got through to my mom and my dad so that was good. But, I found out that my cousin, who worked at 7 World Trade hadn't been heard from. She was also 7 months pregnant at the time so there was some drama with that. Finally she was found and she was ok. She had to walk several miles to get to a ferry which took her to NJ where her husband picked her up.

I hung out at school for a while because we were all just sitting in front of the tv not knowing what to do or how to react. I also didn't know if I could go home as I was told no one could get into Manhattan. So, I stayed at a friend's house in Queens. I went to a drug store and bought a tooth brush and a clean pair of underwear. I sat with my friend and her roommate and we watched CNN until we were completely numb. I just had no feeling left whatsoever. I also had no tears left. I never felt like that before.

The next day, we had classes because the school was just trying to keep normalcy. I went to class since I was right near school. It was a light schedule on Wednesday though, so I left early. I took the 59th Street bridge home and the smell was unreal. As I was driving across the bridge, something I've done probably thousand's of times, I saw the broken skyline for the first time. I saw the smoke pouring out of lower Manhattan and the absence of the Twin Towers and at that time, Proud to be An American came on the radio and I just cried my eyes out. I don't know how I saw to drive but I just cried and cried. I then went to my mom's house because September 12th is her birthday. Obviously it wasn't a time for celebration so we just hung out for a while. Finally, I made it home. At the time, I lived on the Upper West Side....74th and Broadway. I walked into my apartment and for lack of any better words, my whole apartment smelled like burning flesh. I cried again. I had left my kitchen window open about a half an inch and the smell just seeped in. Also, there was soot and all kinds of dirt blowing in. I spent the night alone and that was the beginning of my nightmares. For a long time after that, I would have a lot of nightmares. I didn't sleep too much for the fear of more nightmares. Eventually, a list of the fatalities was published and I remember sitting at the computer going through the list name by name to see if anyone I knew was on it. I don't know how it happened since I grew up in NYC, went to high school in NYC, college and law school in NY but I did not know one person on that list. For that, I was extremely thankful. Though, a little while after 9/11, I spoke to a friend who worked on the 90something floor of one of the towers. Well, she couldn't decide what to wear to work that day so she missed the Staten Island ferry she always took and got a later one. She never made it to work but many people from her office did not survive unfortunately.

A few weeks after 9/11, I was in the car with a friend of mine who is a cop. We were driving downtown and so many of the streets were blocked off but because he kept showing his badge, we got through. Well, he made a wrong turn and we drove right up to ground zero. I just saw this enormous pile of smoldering debris. The smell was unreal. I can't even describe it. It was then that I saw another sight I will never forget. A body was recovered and it was being brought out. We had to stop and the body was brought out right in front of us. The people who were there lined up to form an aisle for the deceased and the body was brought out. It was a horrible moment and one I will never forget and one that will haunt me in my dreams forever.