Remembering that day 12 years ago...
I was at work at Simon & Schuster in Rockefeller Center that morning when my boss, Wendy Nicholson, cried out, “Oh My God!”
“What?” I asked.
“A plane flew into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.”
“Whoa! What was it, a Cessna?” I asked. Those things seemed to always be crashing. I’m embarrassed to say I was almost flippant about it. That’s what living in New York will do to you.
“Oh My God!” she called out again. “Another plane has flown into the second tower!”
I ran into her office as she was turning on her TV. We started to watch the coverage, sporadically glancing at each other over the next few minutes not comprehending.
Finally my brain unfroze and I said, “There is no way this is a coincidence, it must be terrorism.”
We continued to watch the coverage, I don’t remember much of what happened in the interim. I think Wendy made some calls, she knew someone who worked there. A guy a few floors up had a wife who worked there too.
The first tower fell. I gripped the edge of her desk “Oh my god, it’s falling, it’s falling!”
I think sometime between the first and the second tower’s collapse I called Rick. He didn’t even know what was happening. He’d been at home working on school stuff.
After the second tower collapsed they decided we had better evacuate. As we were in a landmark complex and who knew however many planes were going to fall out of the sky. I wrote an email to everyone in my address list saying that we were evacuating the building. If a plane hit Rockefeller Center, at least they would know I had gotten out.
I met up with my friends from my old department and we left the building. I can’t remember if we took the stairs or elevators, probably the stairs. One of my friends was really worried about her friend who works at the WTC and she couldn't get a hold of her.
We stepped outside and it was a warm, breezy, beautiful day. Not a cloud in the sky. I took a look south and saw the plume. It was many miles away and yet visible. I turned my back on it and started to walk north with thousands of other New Yorkers. There was no wailing or crying or screaming, just silence. I've never been in a place with so many people and it be so quite. Everyone just looked shocked.
Occasionally a plane would fly overhead and everyone’s head would shoot up to look. They were military aircraft at this point. It was so strange to see them flying over the city. I parted ways with my friends in the middle of Central Park. I was heading further north than they were. I had walked home on many occasions in fine weather as it was only about three miles or so.
When I had gotten home there weren't any new developments. Some family members and friends had called to check up on me. We walked over to the hospital to donate blood. A lot of people were there with the same idea. Our names and phone numbers were taken in case it was needed. We never got a call.
I don’t remember much about the rest of that day. My boss called that evening telling me to not go in to work the next day.
I wish I had gone in to work. The wind had changed direction and the next day I could smell it with every inhale. It smelled like burning plastic. Every breath was a fresh reminder. I just watched the television coverage and felt like nothing would ever be the same again. At one point I just had to stop watching. The local stations gave time to people searching for their missing loved ones. They’d hold up a photo and beg for anyone who has seen them to call in. It was too much for me.
The day after that, I did go back to work. My subway train was one that went to the WTC and the new stopping point announcement brought fresh tears to my eyes. The subway was quiet. The streets were quite, no one honked or shouted. I remember hearing someone laugh down the hall at work and got really angry. WHAT ON EARTH COULD POSSIBLY BE FUNNY? Laughter seemed heartless.