Friday, September 14, 2001

Second Try - Success

Photo: Pet Rescue (Click to enlarge)
Jose and I walk to the van with crated pets on a wheel chair. Note the toxic wet dust. They keep it wet so that it doesn't rise into the air. On the ledge of the building far left you will see FBI and CIA if you look closely.


Friday, September 14, 2001


I woke up at 7 am, paged my super, a number I got from another tenant. I
can't believe that no one in management gave me this number. Jose was
the life line. Jose kept our pets alive for our return. I hoped that
Jose would call back and got ready by the phone. I borrowed another pair
of pants and used a piece of string as a belt. I borrowed a pair of huge
sneakers to protect my feet. I borrowed a raincoat as it was still
raining.

I was on a mission and I had to succeed this time because my
heart was breaking with each moment that went by. I borrowed a cell
phone and put it in a plastic bag in my pocket to protect it. I put my
keys on a chain we found and hung it around my neck for quick access. I
put my faxed id in my pocket. Jose phoned and said he would meet us at
pier 40. I headed to Manetta La. to pick up my neighbor Tara from 9D. I
looked like a homeless person and then laughed at myself, "I AM a
homeless person". When I arrived at Tara's, we tried to eat some cereal
and drink some tea, but both agreed that we were too queasy and should
just go. More confusion at the pier. I re-signed my name and that of my
neighbors to the list. I asked questions, but no one had answers. More
conflicting stories. There was talk of boarding up the buildings and
people were being turned away. I became frantic and hysterical and went
running in search of Juan and Jack Linn, the parks official that helped
me the night before. Sobbing, I explained the situation to Jack and he
grabbed my face and said "Get in my jeep..we can't wait or they will
stop us". He yelled for Jose the super, Anthony and Sam
who worked in my building. Tara came running and jumped in. She said
she snuck past. I thought perhaps she spoke to Gitty (our other
neighbor), but found out later that she didn't see her inside. We knew
that we had other pets to save besides our own. Once again, we put on
our masks and took the same route as the night before. We moved
cautiously. It was horrifying. Abandoned strollers, a random shoe every
couple of yards...it's a miracle that anyone lived through this. So many
workers, piles of debris.

We got to my street. Port-o-potties were
chained to the side of my building. Police, military, jeeps and what
appeared to be a tank at the end of the road. We got to my building and
made a plan. First stop, my flat...box my cats, take only what can fit
in my small knapsack and remain inside until Juan's return. Jack said to
wait for him outside our building when we had all the pets. We climbed 9
flights in total darkness with a small flash light and counted the steps
7- turn, 7 -floor. I entered my apartment and saw the most beautiful
sight...Elvis sitting on the couch. I picked him up and placed him in
the box. Called for Sid and did the same. I put 2 volumes of journals in
my knapsack, and my grant papers. I grabbed my make-up bag, my watch. On
the counter I saw my ring that my Mom gave me. It says "BE" in capital
letters. I loved that ring because it had such meaning in my life. It
was a reminder to be myself, but NOW it meant so much more...it meant
just to BE. I put it on my finger. I saw my superhero necklace that my
uncle bought me..it's motto, "be your own superhero" and put it
in my knapsack. I then kicked off the sneakers and grabbed a pair of boots
from my closet. I grabbed a cat bag out of the closet just in case. I
took one last look around. My coffee cup was still on the coffee table
where I was sitting Tuesday morning. There was a horrible stench in the
flat. The power was out and all the food in the refrigerator was
spoiled. I imagine it would've been far worse if I were not a
vegetarian. Empty cat food cans in the sink and full bowl of water.
Evidence of Jose's heroic efforts. There was a thick coat of dust along
my book case from the force of the blast. The window on that side wasn't
completely shut. It was just a hairline slit open. It must have been the
sheer force that pushed the dust through. What made me think to shut the
windows when I heard the first plane crash? Juan knocked at the door and
I moved my cats to the hall. I threw the extra cat bag to Juan. I was to
wait with the other animals. My cats began to figure out how to get out
of the ASPCA boxes. I panicked. I asked Anthony to make sure they stay
in and ran back to my flat while he shined the flash light down the
black hall. I ran for my closet and grabbed the plastic carrier,
toppling things stacked upon it, and ran back out. I was avoiding the
use of this because the 2 cats together would be heavy and it was
missing a screw, but I knew it was the last chance. I grabbed Elvis and
literally shoved the frightened cat inside. He was strong, but I wanted
him alive and kept pushing. I did the same with Sid. I became frantic as
I knew I couldn't carry them by the handle because the weight could
break it and wasn't strong enough to carry the case from the bottom.
Tara said she could do it and I took her cat. Juan and Sam returned with
more pets. Anthony had a dog named Poncho. We had a dog and a cat in a
hamper. By the time we descended the darkness to the lobby we had all
the animals left in the building. The problem was how to carry them out.
I ran behind the desk and found a cart. Juan said it wouldn't make it
over the debris and fire hoses so I tossed it aside. Someone found a
mail cart and began loading pets. I found a wheel chair and put my cat
carrier on that. Juan grabbed some tape and started taping it to the
seat. I yanked the belt of the extra cat bag and made a seat belt to
secure the front of the carrier to the wheel chair and put the rabbits
on top. We almost made it to the corner when Juan remembered another
cat. I yelled and pointed to the extra cat bag near the entrance. Juan
got the cat. We now had 17 animals. We moved cautiously over fire hoses,
curbs, steps and debris. Half way there Gitty's dog got out and Juan and
Tara tried to tackle it. They were both bitten. Tara was bleeding. I
said we need a scissor and a sock or some cloth. I checked the wound.
Two fireman came out of nowhere and cut a piece of Juan's shirt off to
tie around her hand. We were all very upset about the dog. Jack Linn
went off to look for it while we proceeded to the jeep. It took all 5 of
us to lift, push and hold our bundle of animals to get them past each
obstacle. Workers in the area stopped and watched us as we rescued these
little souls. I made eye contact with one man and his lip quivered and
he began to cry as he saw the animals loaded onto to the wheel chair I
was pushing. Several people working on a nearby building were smiling
and waving. They understood what we already knew.....the importance of
life of ANY kind. Jack said, "I'm not a cat lover, but hearing your
cat's mewing is the most beautiful sound right now". We loaded the
animals into the jeep and made our way back.

Jack insisted we go past
our check point and pull in front of the ASPCA check point to give
others some hope. We opened the doors to the jeep and yelled, "225
>RECTOR PLACE!!!!!" and began unloading. "Where's Mr. Chan?",
I yelled as
>I unloaded his cat.

We couldn't find Gitty to tell her about her dog. Tara was crying and went to find
her. I hugged Jack and the others and told them they were angels and
loved them dearly for helping me. I brought Sid and Elvis over the vet
station and she took a peek and said they looked fine. While waiting for
Two women walked past and looked and my cats. One
began to cry and they hugged me and said, "Thank God you and your cats
are alive". Another woman walked by and gave me a bottle of water. I
stopped at Fawn's to drop off her cell phone, shower off the soot, and
jumped back in the car to go to LI. I kept checking on my cats to make
sure they were ok. The rest of the night was a blur. I kept hearing the
sounds from Tuesday and while I was relieved to have rescued my cats, I
couldn't sleep. Too many phone calls. I was selective with my replies. I
still ate very little.

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