It is hell, I guess.
Mar was in the shower and I was working at my desk. I heard a plane, large, slow, and way too low, and then the unmistakable crash. "A plane crashed. I heard it. I'm going out to see". I grabbed my camera and ran out of the house. I stood at Chambers and Greenwich, 5 blocks North of the
World Trade Center, and watched the fire spread. I called Mar on the cell phone and told her I was all right. I saw the second plane hit. Terrorists.
People were starting to stream by me, heading North. A crowd began to gather, with silence broken by screams as people resolved the slowly floating objects, dolls, sheets, paper airplanes, dolls, dolls, silently drifting down, down, people.
I stood there pinned by the horror. I had been taking pictures until I realized that the last shot had captured the image of people leaping from the highest floors of the tower. A woman in a white dress; slowly spiraling down. My stomach rose. I thought, "I'm not working for UPI. What the hell am I doing taking these pictures?" There was an urge to go and help but my feet didn’t move. I got a cell-message from Jeremy, "Get the fuck off the street," but still did not move.
P. S. 234 is on the corner of Greenwich and Chambers. There was an initial panic quickly quelled by staff. Parents and nannies were streaming to the school. Parents were taking their children out. Kate (the 5th floor neighbor I hardly know) had her two kids in tow. She could hardly speak, and I was speechless. Tears were not streaming down all our faces. I couldn't look at the children, who were in shock, I guess, quiet, heads bowed. She dragged the kids along toward home. They could hardly move.
Marilyn came down into the street and pulled me away.
We threw passports and a couple of things into a pack and walked over to the East Side to Jeremy's apartment. As we walked we heard a roar; people gasped and screamed; we turned to see a space where the towers had been. "It’s not buildings. It's people".
Marilyn, Jeremy, Megan (his friend visiting from Zimbabwe) and I walked, subwayed, and walked to Mark's house in Brooklyn. I am glad the four of us are in the same city, are safe, can hug. I am glad the four of us are safe. I am glad Megan is safe.
After a bit of sitting at Mark's, looking at TV, and sitting in shock we move to volunteer somehow. Mark is adamant about not leaving Mar alone in his apartment. His alert sensitivity shames me into seeing how my selfish wish to help pushed my consideration for my family aside. Megan stayed with Marilyn and my sons and I head for the local hospital.
We volunteer as drivers at the local hospital. We do nothing. There are not many injured. This is a second tier hospital in the emergency hierarchy. It is meant to take the overflow. There is no overflow. There are not many wounded. "What does that mean?"
That night Jeremy and Megan stay with friends and Mar and I go to the Orlow's. Mark goes back to the hospital with a friend.
My first call is to my brother, Ken, runs his business from an office on Broadway, one block from the WTC. He is OK. He was on the street when the first plane hit. He went back to the office when the second plane hit to tell everyone to leave. He leaves, sees the chaos, and goes back to make sure his people are all out of there. The first collapse happens when he is back upstairs. The sky turns black, then a rain of particles begins to fall. They all leave and head to their various homes. But there is more news.
Mitchel, my brother's son, is missing. He is a court officer at the NY Supreme Court on the East side of downtown. He was walking to work with a colleague when he heard the first plane hit He is a trained and twice decorated Emergency Medical Technician. He's got a couple of saved lives under his belt. He immediately started running to the site, yelling over his shoulder, "I gotta go". He goes, of course, to ground zero and gets assigned to a fire company's emergency crew. They do runs into the underground passages beneath Borders Books to pull out the injured. He was last seen going back into the passageway just before the collapse. At the end of the day we don’t know for sure what happened to Mitch. This picture was taken just moments before he was last seen going down to get another victim.
Ben's friend who was in WTC 2 at an 8:30 A.M.meeting heard the first attack and ran out with her co-workers. They all agreed that they would soon be evacuated and so started back to gather their things when second plane hit. They are OK. There are lots of stories like this. Near misses.
Rachelle was one of the first to email. I sent a short reply but was unable to express anything beyond our being OK. I am sending one-liners to all who write, and speaking one-liners to most who call. It is only once in a while that I get to touch anything real inside of me, and then there are tears. Sleep is strange. David and Anita have opened their home to us, we are in a comfortable place in a comfortable bed, but it is not home. "Is home caught in a fire-storm? What about all those people?" I have a few nightmares about the boys volunteering for something and getting in trouble.