It was the worst day in my life, 10 years ago, on September 11, 2001. There was the worst attack on US soil!
I was at work that morning, in the World Trade Center (building #4, which was one of the smaller buildings along the edge of the Twin Towers).
I remember going into work that day. I still lived at home with my mother, and for some reason she was up early and decided to offer me a ride to my office, about a half hour drive away.
It was a beautiful cloudless day, and there was the teeniest chill in the air (I remember this because I decided to wear my brand new leather jacket that morning). I remember being on the phone with my (then) boyfriend, discussing nothing in particular, and then calling a client…and then IT happened.
As I hung up with my client there was the distinct sound of a plane engine and a very loud BOOM!
My team immediately went to the very large windows that looked up at the tower. We looked up in horror. Time stood still. We saw flames. Some of my colleagues saw people jumping to their deaths from way up high. I quickly snapped back to reality and thought about all of our safety (maternal instinct is part of who we are even before we become mothers), as large pieces of the building were falling towards our windows, and could very easily go right through the glass.
“Everyone get away from the windows” I yelled.
That seemed to jolt everyone back into the moment. We immediately ran towards the emergency stairs,
I stopped about 10 feet from my desk realizing that I didn’t take my purse or I.D. to get back into the building. When I turned around to go back to my desk (which happened to be right up against the windows) and get them,
I saw a huge piece of the tower hit the window,
and decided to leave it. After all, it was still going to be there when I came back to my desk – right?
We calmly walked down the stairs, concluding that the pilot must have had a heart attack or loss of power. What a horrible accident, right? It wasn’t until we got to the lobby and the security guard was yelling at us to MOVE and RUN out the door, that I got concerned.
As we were waiting to be allowed back up to our desks (about a block away) looking up at the Towers, there was a strange smell in the air, which turned out to be jet fuel.
From the corner of my eye another plane came into view …in very slow motion… and flew. right. into. the. second. tower. I could not believe my eyes and stood still. Stuck to that spot. My colleague grabbed me and told me to run, which I did, I followed my team so as not to be left alone in the chaos that ensued.
What was happening? I could not get my head around it. We were ushered onto boats across to Jersey City, and while we were waiting to board ,we heard a crash. “What was that?”, was all anyone could say. None of us could imagine. A white cloud started to emerge from the streets and envelope us, making it hard to breath. I pulled my shirt up over my nose and mouth, since I have asthma (and no inhaler, since it was in my purse).
We loaded up onto the boat which was to take us to safety in Jersey City (right across the river). As we rounded the southern tip of Manhattan, I saw what that explosion had been — the first tower crumbling to the ground. The image of a single tower standing there alone, with flames shooting out of it will be permanently seared into my memory.
All sorts of thoughts rushed through my brain, and then they stopped…a family friend, that I had grown up with worked on one of the top floors of one of the towers, and his sister in the 70’s of the second tower. I was sure he was gone, and I was filled with such sorrow. The tears streamed down my face as we walked off the boat. The thought of their mother, losing both of her children this way was too much to handle. (I later found out she had just recently left her job for somewhere in midtown…her brother was not as lucky).
We found a sushi restaurant that gave us drinks and allowed us to use their phones to call our loved ones and tell them we were safe (I finally managed to reach my mother around noon). It wasn’t until then that we found out that another plane flew into the Pentagon and a fourth plane, full of heroes, fell into a field in Pennsylvania.
When the trains started running again, we managed to get to one of my co-worker’s parents’ house (we all lived on the other side of Manhattan, and could not get home). They invited us in, fed us and welcomed us to stay the night (it was already dark outside). My sister who went to university 40 minutes away, picked me up and we slept at her friend’s house. It was not until mid-day the next day that the bridges were re-opened and that I could actually get back home, to my mother.
We saw scenes of our enemies, dancing in the streets, on TV. Celebrating at our tragedy, our loss of life. Celebrating mothers mourning the loss of their sons and daughters. At the time I couldn’t imagine bringing a child into this world that had such unimaginable evil in it. How could I ever explain this day to a child?
We relied on the kindness of strangers that day. Restaurants opened their doors and provided food and drink, even though we had no money. People we didn’t know provided us with a place to rest and a way to call our loved ones, until we could be reunited with them. We were the lucky ones, the ones who made it. The ones who could fall into and cry in our mother’s loving arms. Today, I hug my children just a little stronger and hold them just a little closer. They are still too young to understand, but when they are old enough, I will tell them every detail that I can remember. So that they will never forget.
Where were you on Sept 11, 2001? How do you talk to your children about the attacks?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Maman Aya of New York, USA.
Photo credit to Comitini. This photo has a creative commons attribution no derivatives license.