Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Massacre

The following document contains journal entries recording my survival of the World Trade Center disaster:

I didn't have to be at work until 12pm today so I wandered to my couch
with a cup of coffee and begin pecking out my journal entry on my webtv.
Just then, I heard a plane fly by so close that my apartment shook.
There was a second of silence followed by an explosion and the sound of
breaking glass, sirens and screams. My cats took refuge under my bed and
I ran to the window to see what was going on 9 stories below me. I saw
people looking up and I wasn't certain what kind of accident had taken
place. I immediately shut the windows. I buzzed the doorman and he told
me that a plane had crashed into the tower. He didn't sound alarmed so I
imagined that it was a small plane. It was a gorgeous day...perhaps the
pilot had a heart attack and ran into the building. I went to the
roof-deck (23rd floor) to see what had happened. I was frozen by the
horror of what I saw a mere block away from my home. There was an
enormous hole in one of the towers. Flames were shooting out and black
smoke was everywhere. Cars had crashed on the streets below. Blood and
what appeared to body parts were on the street below. Glass and debris
were falling from the sky and smashing on the street below. People where
throwing themselves from the tower to their deaths. You could see ties
flapping in the breeze as they fell. I saw what my mind wanted to
believe was an indian woman in an orange sari falling, but I soon
realized it was a person on fire. The screams; the sirens; the
panic!!!!! What I witnessed in minutes seemed like an eternity and I
could hear myself sobbing for those poor souls. I instinctively felt
that I was in danger, and in that split second, a second plane shot over
me and into the other tower. A giant fireball and debris were coming
towards me. I ran along with the handful of other neighbors that had
been on the roof. A woman fell and I lifted her to her feet with one
arm. I don't know where the others ran to, perhaps the elevator, but I
ran down 14 flights to my apartment.

I put on the news and huddled beside my couch for protection. I didn't
know what was happening. Were we under attack? Was my building next? Was
I going to die there? There was nowhere to go as the subways run under
the towers. The news mentioned a third plane, but didn't say where it
was headed. I braced myself for another attack. I heard an immense roar.
I thought, "please let me live" and covered myself as the windows
shook and my apartment trembled. It seemed an eternity for the roar to end and
I realized I was still alive. (What I thought was the roar of a third
plane was actually one of the towers falling down.) Then there was
another explosion and what seemed like silence except for the screams
and sirens. I was amazed that I had, again, lived. Suddenly a gust shot
past my window. I could hear debris pinging off the glass. I knew if the
windows broke, my cats and I could be killed. I just kept thinking,
"please let us live" and huddled on the floor protecting my body.

A few more seconds of silence, so I lifted my head to glance at the window and
saw an eerie slow moving tan colored cloud rolling in. It looked very
much like when you pour milk into coffee. Then all of a sudden another
gust and everything went black. The TV went off and I couldn't see in my
apartment. It was darker than night. As if someone had blacked out my
windows. I thought for a moment that I had died, but realized that I was
still breathing and conscious. I felt my way to the door and tried to
buzz the doorman...nothing. I reached into my bedroom and opened the
closet door in case the cats needed extra shelter. I felt my way back to
the kitchen and filled the water bowl. I frantically searched for my
keys, and found a spare. I found my bankcard and put it in my pocket. I
slipped my feet into a some flip-flops that were on the floor.

I prayed for my cats safety and my own. Would I die of
suffocation out there? I knew I could still breathe in my apartment.
Would the building come down? Were we safer inside or out? I felt my
cats would be safer inside as long as the building was sound. I didn't
know if I would die out there and wanted my cats to be safe. I hoped
that I was making the right choices and had NO idea what was going on. I
slowly opened the door and yelled out, "is anyone there!". I was alone.
The emergency lights were on in the hall so I could see through the
haze. I pulled my t-shirt over my nose to breathe. I walked quickly down
the 9 flights, each floor becoming thicker and thicker with white
powdery fog. It was hard to breathe, but much harder to see.
When I got to the lobby I spotted one worker. "What do I do?", I asked.
"Go!" he yelled. I walked outside and it was even worse. How do I "GO"
anywhere when I can't see....ashes burning my eyes; hard to breathe;
screams; sirens; I am instantly covered in a thick ash. It looked like
grey snow. I knew the building across the street was south so I figured
I would run straight across the park until I (literally) ran into it. I
felt my way along the wall to the door when someone pulled me inside. I
said, "they just told me to leave my building, why are you pulling me
inside yours?". Just then a police officer banged on the glass and
yelled "Go". I took off, in the same direction. I caught up to him
and asked him where to go. He didn't know, but agreed that I should keep
heading south. I saw someone with a box of masks and ran for one and put
it on. Just then I spotted the doorman from WFC who says hello to me
each morning and yelled for him, "Dino!" He grabbed me and we walked
together. He said that this reminded him of when he was in Viet Nam. He
said he was hit in the head by a foot behind my building. We headed
towards South Ferry and was told to run in the other direction. There
was another roar and I crouched in dust. I thought it was a plane, but
it was the other tower coming down. More ash blowing on top of us. We
huddled there for awhile and then decided to wander. I saw a hose and
used the water to rinse my face. I asked Dino if he could help me get
back towards South End so that I could see if my building was ok. I
needed to know that my cats were alive. Dino had a badge so no one
stopped us and I could see that the building was still there.

Just then,some police boats pulled in right where we were standing and they yelled
for us to get in. We jumped aboard and were taken to a pier across the
Hudson in NJ. There I saw 3 workers from my building and we cried and
hugged. We sat watching the building. I kept begging what ever forces
exist, be it God or the Universe, to keep my "babies" alive so that
I could rescue them. I waited on an endless phone line to call my Mom and
let her know that I was alive. (I recognized a young girl from my
building and asked her to get in front of me to phone her parents, but
she had already managed to reach them. She was in school during the
collapse.) Then, having not had breakfast, I looked around for something
to eat and some water. I found a few peanuts and ate them. I found a
bottle of water and poured some into the cap for a make-shift eye-wash.
I found another hose and hosed off my feet, arms and face. My skin felt
raw and it was sparkling from the fiberglass. I lost the men from my
building, but found Dino by a radio and we sat and listened. I jumped
and trembled every time the F-15's circled. A woman sitting next to me
was holding an infant and staring and my feet. I was almost afraid to
look down. I focused on her face and our eyes met when she looked up.
She said, "I was just thinking I love your flip-flops". We both laughed
at this....this moment of normalcy amidst the chaos. I saw a guy walk by
with pot holders on his feet. I saw someone in pajamas. We were then
informed we were being taken to another shelter...Bayonne High School.
Once there I looked for a locker room. I jumped into the shower with
some paper towels and tried to scrub more of the ash off. I put the same
filthy, itchy clothes back on and waited. Some food was brought in, but
I could only eat a few bites. I was distraught over my cats and frantic
because I wasn't in a place where I could see my building. We were told
we were being moved to a naval base, but then told we would remain. I
found a blanket and pulled it over my dirty clothes. I tried to sleep on
the floor of the gym, but heard explosions, planes, sirens, and screams
all night. I wasn't sure if I was really hearing them or not. Others
were hearing them too.

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