Sunday, September 30, 2001

The First Days

"Well the first days are the hardest days, don't you worry any more
' Cause when life looks like easy street, there is danger at your door.
Think this through with me, let me know your mind
Wo-oh, what I want to know is, are you kind?"- Grateful Dead

My flat looks fine. They did a great job with the hep-vac. I cleaned out the fridge and scribbed the kitchen yesterday. I was then too exhausted to do all the laundry. I washed my slip-covers and bed linens today. I need to buy an air filter because the air quality is bad and giving me a headache. My friend, Roger, tried to pick one up for me today, but everything is sold out. A former neighbor came by to visit and brought me food. She was able to get past the blockade because her I.D. has a BPC address. I divided the food she brought and took half down to the front desk with a note to share with my neighbors, whoever's left. I heard hey may have one of the grocery stores open tomorrow as there is a possible food delivery tonight. Last night I slept on the couch with Elvis while Sid took advantage of having my bed to himself. I left the shades open so I could see the few lit flats of other neighbors. It's creepy. No food. No cars. Very few people. There are only 25 people in my building tonight...a building with 23 floors. My sensei is home and said he will leave his door open in case I want to come up later.

My View

Click on photos to enlarge!



 My block
(Rector Place).
Take a good look
at the cars.

The community garden,
now a pile of crumpled cars.

Saturday, September 29, 2001

Home

"Home. Is where I want to be, but I guess I'm already there. I come
home. She lifted up her wings. I guess that this must be the place"
-Talking Heads

My friend Deb's husband, Tom drove me and my cats home yesterday. I
appreciate their help as it was not just physically demanding, but
emotionally demanding as well. I cried when I smelled the burning again.
I spent the day cleaning out the refrigerator and freezer and scrubbing
the kitchen. I slept on the couch last night with the shades up so I
could see the few lit apartments of other neighbors. It was not a
restful sleep. I had nightmares. At one point I got up and looked out my
window at the workers below. Somehow I found comfort in knowing that
these people were outside all night and that I wasn't really alone after
all. Elvis slept with me all night. Sid was happy to have my bed all to
himself.

I am waiting for my former neighbors, Skip and Cheryl, to arrive. Cheryl
saved her old I.D. so they will be able to visit me without my having to
meet them at the blockade. They are bringing me fruit and veggies.
Cheryl escaped from the 31st floor of WTC, but 315 others from her
company did not.

Today I must wash bed linens and slip covers. I'll get to the clothing
eventually. I was too exhausted to do it last night. I must also make
the journey uptown for groceries today. I need some kind of air filter
in here as the burning smell has permeated the building and I find
myself coughing a lot. I would also like to get up to the roof when it's
opened and have a good cry and say good bye to those I saw perish. I
need that closure and my heart still aches for them - more than you can
imagine.
W

Sunday, September 23, 2001

Gathering

Sunday, September 23, 2001
Yesterday I got word that I could gain access to my building to gather
some clothes and documents. We had to park at Houston St. and take the
subway to Bowling Green which is at the southern tip of NYC. The smell
was horrid and the memories associated with it made me cry again. We had
to walk from check point to check point and present Id. each time. The
military and police were everywhere. I passed at least three blocks
before I was able to start heading north to BPC. Looking north the
entire way I could see the giant mound of debris as I passed each block.
It was like one of those cartoons where you see the same scenery passing
by the character....only this wasn't a cartoon, it was mass destruction.
As I approached my building, I saw three soldiers napping beside Rector
Park where I sat in the grass reading just 2 weeks prior. I cried and
hugged the workers in my building. I climbed the 9 stories and found my
neighbors Phil and Hanora gathering items from their home. We hugged. I
packed some clothes in a duffle bag and took my telescope. I look
forward to a clear night when I can look out into space at other planets
- perhaps it will help quiet my mind. I still hear the noises
occasionally, but it seems to be getting better.
I am still frightened.

I have attached a photo of my building: It stands at the bottom left of
the left tower. It's a dark medium size building (23 stories), divided
in half by a white stripe. My flat is 2 floors above the white stripe.
The corner of the tower appears to be touching the roof of my building.
My building is one block South West of WTC.

Monday, September 17, 2001

Starting Over

Monday, September 17, 2001

I slept through the night. I still had the nightmares, but no noises. I
worked through the nightmares without waking up. I phoned work and asked
for more time. So much to do, I don't know where to begin. I will start
with this e-mail to answer everyone's questions. I then will start
taking care of business. Canceling credit cards etc; contacting people.
Starting over. My life was spared because it was a Tuesday. On any other
day I would have been in that building on my way to work and may have
died. I could have froze with fear when I went to the roof to see what
was going on and struck with debris. Had I not thought to shut the
windows, I, as well as my cats, could have suffocated. The towers could
have fallen over and demolished BPC, but they went straight down. Had I
left the building sooner, I could have been struck with the debris and
suffocated by the soot.

Had I not found Dino and gone to check the building, I
wouldn't have been whisked off by a police boat nor would I have known
that my cats were alive.

Had I not expressed so accurately my need to return, I may
have been shipped to Staten Island. Had I lost my strength to keep
trying, I would not have rescued my cats. Had I not been there, all 17
pets wouldn't have made it out. Looking back, I find it odd that there
was very little dialogue, yet there was so much un-spoken communication.
We were efficient and moved like a well oiled team. It was as if we each
knew our role.

My soul-full gratitude to all those that helped, each in their own way:
Jose- for protecting and feeding and finally rescuing the animals
Sam- the same
Anthony - the same
Jack Linn- the ANGEL in disguise without whose determination and bravery
we would have never been able to pass the blockades
Tarra Rosenbaum
The Parks escorts
The ASPCA
Lisa Berganty- for trying
Cathy Zweisler- for trying
Nancy McDonald- for trying
Lisa Phillips- for connecting me to the right people and your prayers
Fawn & Dylan for clothes, a roof, food, and support
Dino Geangelo- for helping to protect me in the blizzard of ash
MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS!!!!
Bill Longman- for informing everyone via e-mail My homeless neighbors
Everyone at The Center For Health & Healing especially:
Dr. Stephen Quentzel
Barbara Glickstein
Aurora
Chris
Cathy
MY LOVE AND DEEPEST GRATITUDE TO YOU ALL!!!!! I am both awestruck and
thankful to be alive with Sid and Elvis.

Sunday, September 16, 2001

Belly of the Beast

Sunday, September 16, 2001

I call Stephen for more advice in helping myself through this ordeal. He
is very reassuring. He said that I am suffering from stress of
UNIMAGINABLE proportions. Stephen helped out at WTC in what he now
refers to as "the belly of the beast" and understands too well what

I am going through. He helped me understand what is taking place in my body
in a clinical aspect so that I am not so hard on myself. He said that I
may THINK that I was hysterical, yet I was able to get things done. I
saved my own life with a number of very accurate decisions, saved the
life of my cats AND helped save the other animals. He called in an rx
for a tranquilizer to take at night to teach my body to sleep again. I
apologized for my behavior over the last couple of days, but he said
that it was completely appropriate and that my apology was unacceptable.
I thanked him instead and he said that I was worth 100 times more than
what he could ever do and that the others would agree. I went to the museum
to retrieve my painting from an exhibit. It's now more than a painting.
It's a symbol of hope for the future...
it could have been in the apartment with the others. We visit my friend Renee.
Holding her children was very healing for me. Her baby, Tommy, loved me and his
laughter made me forget about the horror of Tuesday. She gives me a photo of the
kids as she suspected the one she just mailed is at my flat. She is right. The photo
is on my coffee table. I went back to my Mom's and took 1/2 of the pill as I
was nervous about it.

Saturday, September 15, 2001

Hyper-Alert

Saturday, September 15, 2001

Inundated with phone calls. Selective with whom I spoke with. I plan to
write an e-mail journal entry describing my survival and the rescue of
my cats. My half-sister called. She was very upset. I hadn't spoken to
her in four years - perhaps some good will come of all this. I know full
well how short life is. I know my life is very different and will never
be exactly the same. Too much to think about. I find I have little
patience for BS. I don't like being interrupted. I don't like certain
smells. I feel raw. My senses are too sharp. Noises sound louder, smells
sharper. I jump at the slightest prodding. Still very shaken. When my
body relaxes it jerks into readiness....ready for another attack. My
teeth hurt from clenching my jaw. A few shiny specks of fiberglass
remain on my skin. Questioning my sanity. Did this really happen?
Looking for evidence. I am reassured by news briefs that I am sane. This
horror did happen. I feel out place. We go to the store to buy a few
clothes as I have nothing. Just basics: Underwear, bra, socks, 2 pants,
shirts. I borrow a sweatshirt. Difficult to be in the stores, too many
sounds, hard to focus. Bought some Bach flower remedy and began
sub-lingual doses. It helped. Still unable to sleep. Still see the
people dying. Still hear the noises. My body doesn't want to let go of
consciousness. My body is on alert.

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.

Thursday, September 13, 2001

Rescue Attempt #1

Thursday, September 13, 2001

Fawn rode her bike down to the barricade and reported that it was still
impassable. I was losing hope and beginning to get more hysterical and
frantic. I was trying to find SOMEONE from management and it took nearly
the whole day for someone to forward me to the appropriate people. They
told me my cats were fed by my (angel) super, Juan, but my building was
surrounded by military. Mixed reports: a possible collapse; a
possibility of rescuing the pets. No information.
No numbers to call for help. Everywhere I looked, another dead end. I
called my office and asked for them to fax i.d. from my file to my
friend Fawn's office as everything was in my building. I knew I would
need this if I were to get past the blockades. Two nurses, Aurora and
Chris, came and sat with me as I cried. It felt hopeless. My friend
Nancy called and said she heard about a list with the ASPCA. I tried
calling the ASPCA before and was turned away, but figured I would give
it another try. They told me to go to 110th St to fill out a form which
made no sense to me...Fawn called another number and was told,
"Go to pier 40 NOW!!!"

We hopped on bikes and the kind workers there
were very sympathetic. They took our names, etc. and we all huddled
together outside hoping for a miracle. Water was passed around and some
food. I tried to eat half a banana as I knew I hadn't been eating and
sleeping and would need my strength to climb 9 stories and carry 2 cats
weighing together at least 30 lbs. We applauded and cried as we saw
owners returning with their pets. It was good to see life being rescued
from a place where we had seen so much death. It was at 2am when I
climbed into the van. It would drop me off just north of BPC. We were
told we had 5 minutes and we were risking our lives as well as those
that were aiding us in the rescue therefore if we took anything other
than our pets we would be prosecuted. My thoughts were on the lives of
Sid and Elvis and I couldn't even think about anything else. It was very
surreal. We were all very scared as the van crawled towards the first
blockade. Papers were shown and we were allowed to pass. I looked to my
right and saw a submarine in the Hudson. There were enormous spot lights
backlighting the swirling dust. We put our masks on, exited the van, and
were assigned a buddy. We were to move in a team. It began to pour and I
was completely soaked and cold. I was slipping in my flip-flops, but I
had no shoes. I had nothing. We walked the rest of the way along river.
I could see the damage to the buildings. The lightning, thunder, rain
and wind were the perfect backdrop to the horror of what had happened
there. The side of one building was peeled down as if a giant cat used
it for a scratching post. We got to the west end of my block, Rector
Place, and I could see cars with the roofs torn back. We held on to each
other while crossing over hoses and debris. We got to my door and it was
locked. I cried again. I prayed my cats would be safe another day. When
I got back to the van the ASPCA boxes were soggy and useless. I had a
hard time throwing them away because I wrote my cats names on them and
it felt like I was throwing away my cats, throwing away hope. With all
the strength I had, I reminded myself that these were just boxes, and my
cats were still safe inside. I would try again tomorrow. I returned to
Fawn's and showered off the new layer of dust. I tried to sleep around
>3am.

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

The Plan

Wednesday, September, 12, 2001

I got up at 5 am. When the sun came up, more food came in and I tried to
eat without much success. I asked for a clean shirt and someone was kind
enough to bring me one several hours later. Someone brought in the paper
and I could see the photos from where I was sitting. I began suffering
from what I could interpret as an anxiety attack or shock. I began
getting dizzy and my palms were sweating. I began sobbing. There was
talk of them moving us to Staten Island, but not Manhattan. If only
there was a face I could recognize...if only there was someone from my
building. I asked if there were any medical personnel as I knew what was
happening to me, yet was unable to control it. They sent over a
counselor. I told her that I was suffering from shock; that I can't
believe that I am alive and I need to be with people I know because not
seeing a familiar face is making me feel rather dead; I said that I need
to be near my cats; I do not feel safe here; and if I don't get back I
will lose my mind. She understood, and a small bus was brought in. Two
escorts took me to a train and escorted me back to Manhattan. I went to
my friend Fawn's flat and took another shower.

I washed my hair 3 times, but couldn't get the film off.
There was still soot under my toenails. She gave me some underwear,
pants and a t-shirt. I cried most of the day and tried to get to my
cats, but couldn't get past the barricades. There was a VOID of
information. I was worried about a building collapse and knew I wouldn't
be able to live with myself if anything happened to Sid and Elvis. I
barely ate. I was still hearing the phantom noises although it was
getting a little easier to discern what was real noise and what my mind
was replaying. I was on the phone all day trying to find a way rescue my
cats trying to get information. It was impossible. There was so much
confusion. A psyciatrist (and Family Doc) I work with, Stephen Quentzel, said he
would try to get me down there. He was my only hope. The plan was to get
in scrubs with my hospital i.d. and try to get past the barricades. I
drew a map of the lobby so I could memorize the quickest route as it
would be hard to navigate with merely a flash light. There was no power
and the hallways and staircases would be blacker than night. The plan
was to go at 10pm thursday.

Barbara Glickstein from my office brought me a homeopathic
remedy to help calm down. My brother, the Reverend, called while I
was crying and first thing he said was, "What's wrong with you now". I tried
to explain what I was going through, but it wasn't sinking in. He said,
"I saw pictures" and acted as if he knew. He has never been to my
apartment in the four years that I lived there and NO idea of how close
I was, or the miracle that I AND my cats are alive. He could not relate
to the immense sadness and anxiety I was experiencing because I was
still unable to rescue them. He was both oblivious and unsympathetic.
His tone was harsh and almost angry. I told him I had to go and hung up.
I realized that I survived death and am not obligated to maintain relations
with someone so insensitive and fake merely because he is family.

I couldn't sleep.

I kept hearing noises, felt like I was falling, seeing people
dying....it was like my mind was doing it's own thing...sorting. My body
was reacting by jumping a/o trembling. All of which was out of my
control. I fell asleep only to awaken at 3am to the sound of another
explosion. I turned on the tv and found no report of the event. It was
my mind again. It was a relief and yet frightening that I was not in
control of my body.

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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