I can tell it’s coming, the nightmares started about a month ago. They are always the same and always come back around late July/early August. I survived September 11th, I am one of the lucky ones. We were all so young, I had just turned 26 and was on time to work that day. I was rarely ever on time to work.
Being on time meant I wasn’t on the path or walking through the WTC when the first plane hit.
I don’t know if my mom remembers but we argued that morning on the phone. I couldn’t stop thinking of that argument all day and how I hoped it wouldn’t be the way we ended things.
I was hungry; I’m always hungry! I wanted to go to Cosi to get a square bagel, I had just discovered them and was craving one. I was being lazy though and didn’t want to walk across the street. I also wanted to get to Borders that day. The Kurt Cobain book had just come out and I really wanted it. Cosi and Borders were two reasons I needed to walk across the street to the WTC. I was iming someone on Aim. I can’t remember who it was but it was enough to keep me at my desk so I wasn’t walking across to get my bagel. Then it happened. It was a loud BOOM. My whole body froze in fear when one of the guys in the office stood up and yelled “What was that, it sounded like a bomb at the World Trade Center”. I looked out the windows and it looked like a ticker tape parade with papers raining down.
I called my mom, I told her I thought a bomb went off in the WTC. I was so scared but then someone yelled “no no it’s a plane, a small plane must have crashed into on of the towers” I told my mom I would call her back I wanted to go outside and see what was going on.
We didn’t speak again for hours.
I went outside the front door of my building, which put me on Broadway. There were lots of people everywhere, things start to get blurry for me now. I remembered the loudest screeching noise I ever heard in my entire life that It took me years to stop hearing it. I looked up and saw the plane right over my head as it crashed into the second tower. Then next thing I know I was at the corner of Broadway and Wall Street. I don’t know how I got there, I can’t remember if I ran or if the mass of people running just pushed me there. I don’t remember moving my body. I worked my way to the side of the street by the Trinity cemetery and walked along the fence to avoid the stampede and to get back to my building. I got back up to my office. I don’t know how, did I walk? Were the elevators working?? Then what happened?? I left with 2 guys but what happened to everyone else? I don’t know where people went. I walked down the stairs, they were dark, and out the back door. I kept trying not to look. I kept trying not to see everything but it was impossible not to. I remember one of the towers looked like a pacman mouth in it. I kept thinking it was going to tip over on everyone. I ended up down in the subway, why did we go there I don’t know, we didn’t know, we were young and so scared, so so scared. We then realized the subway probably couldn’t come and if the building fell it would kill us in the subway so we came back up. We ran, I remember running. I remember wearing a skirt, it was short and a pink tank top. I remember thinking I wished I had sneakers on. After that, for years I kept sneakers at my desk. Even when I moved to Philly I kept sneakers at my desk for a while.
I was dirty; I had black stuff in my hair and on my face. I wrapped my cardigan around my head, why did I do that? It made sense at the time. We finally got to the Brooklyn Bridge. We had to hop a fence to get onto it. I don’t know why but everyone else was doing it too. I remembered wishing my skirt wasn’t so short as someone I never met before gave me a boost up onto the bridge. There so many people, so many people.. People were shouting out scary things. “They got the pentagon” “It was terrorists” “They attacked America” How the f*ck did anyone attack America?????????? I was scared they were going to blow up the bridge as I was walking over it. Where was my dad?? He was on the bus somewhere, where was my dad??? Was he parked by the back of the WTC. Was he dead? Why won’t my phone work? I need to call my mom, where is my dad, am I going to die? Is this what it feels like before you die, omg the tower is collapsing, it came down. It looked like it was raining crystals, shiny sprinkles of glass gleaming out from all the smoke and fire. Is that why we covered our heads? To not get soot in it? To not get glass in? Please don’t bomb the bridge was all I kept thinking. Let me get off the bridge, let me call my mom, please don’t let me die. I will never ever in my life walk another bridge, I will never go over the Brooklyn Bridge again.
Safety……I got to Brooklyn…now what? Where the hell do we go, we walked miles and miles that day. Strangers gave us bottles of water at many stops. I used the bathroom in a mans house, his wife gave me towels to wash my face. They gave me more water and then we walked more. I spoke to my mom at some point. I was alive and I was able to tell her. I kept thinking she and my dad probably thought I was dead. I told her I would call her back hours ago but my phone wouldn’t work. I got to a friends apartment. He and his cousin later drove me some place else in Brooklyn. I needed to get as close as I could to the Verrazano Bridge so that I could get to Staten Island. My Mom and Dad both would be there. I found a bus and told the driver I needed to get to the bus depot and my dad was a bus driver. He told me he would drop all the people off and then take me to where my dad worked. The bus was packed. Some crazy man was yelling that it was the jews fault. Why???? I don’t know but it made me cry more, I am a jew, it couldn’t be my fault. I finally got to my dads work. I went to the window, did they see my dad…no. I saw some of his friends, they gave me cookies. I can’t imagine what I looked like, I was filthy and it was evening by now. Chickie came to pick me up. She is my moms best friend. She was the first sign to me that things would be ok. She took me to eat, I never got the bagel and hadn’t eaten all day except for the cookies. I guess I was still dirty but we went to a restaurant. Italian food, I think it was good, I can’t remember if I ate. My mom walked in and she wasn’t mad at me, she was so happy I was alive. My dad was someplace, I don’t know but he was in Staten Island and he would meet us at home. My mom drove me to our house, my sister was there. The next few days were blurry, I got sick a lot, I cried, I had nightmares, My mom’s friend brought me over some sort of meds, I think they calmed me. I couldn’t sleep for weeks, months…. I survived, so many others didn’t. It took a very long time for me to not get startled, to stop hearing the bang from the first plane and the ear piercing screech of the second, to stop seeing the fire, the glass, the death. For me to sleep without the same dream of walking down the street and every building came crashing down as I walked passed. It took a long time for me to not think everything bad was another attack. I always needed a plan, a meeting place, an escape route, to be ready to go if need be. I eventually needed to leave New York, my city that I loved so much, to feel safe and at ease. The hardest thing though was to stop feeling guilty everyday that I lived and so many others died.