It is hard to believe that 9/11/01 was seven years ago. If I let my mind return to that day I recognize that it was the beginning of a short period of madness for me. I literally lost my mind that day.
You see I was one of the people working in the vicinity of the Twin Towers. My building was a mere four short blocks away – for those of you unfamiliar with urban terrain – I was about a quarter mile away.
That day the morning sun shined brightly in a sky of sparkling blue. It was a perfect day for my morning run. So I left for work on a later train – a blessing in disguise. As I walked up the stairs of my subway stop I heard people saying “a plane hit the TwinTowers.” I said to myself it could only be a Cessna, a prank gone awry.
But the sight that greeted me when I surfaced was one I will never forget. The towers were burning and my first thought was – the firefighters, they are going to lose their lives trying to save people. I wanted to drop to my knees and pray in the street but instead said a silent prayer and proceeded to my building.
My office on the 17th floor had a clear view of the drama unfolding and when I entered I was met by two co-workers both near hysteria. One said "I heard it! The plane, what’s happening?" And I calmly responded “Terrorists.”
My statement was based on the facts. One plane is an accident, two planes - intentional.
I placed calls to loved ones. I reached my boyfriend in Philly but not my mother in NYC. The office administrator called in and I told her what was happening. As we were speaking I looked out of the window at the fiery inferno.
The sight of a jumper free falling put me into gear. I hung up the phone quickly and told everyone to evacuate. We shared our plans to leave the area and wished each other well.
I ended up with the receptionist. He was a handful. I am calm, cool, and collected in the face of danger. He absolutely is not. I had to threaten to slap him silly and leave him before we were able to proceed.
You’ve seen the rest of the story –we ran through the streets, when we finally looked back we saw a solo tower and later none at all. We made it to midtown where I ditched him. I needed to care for self and we were out of immediate danger.
I went to Macy’s searching for a phone. None worked. The Pennsylvania Hotel – hoping for a room, none available. And it was there that I realized the extent of the attack. I stood in the lobby shaking from adrenaline and fear; people asked if I was okay but had no remedy when I responded in the negative.
I walked the streets in search of luxurious accommodations - if this was the end of days I wanted a Jacuzzi bath and champagne for company.
The best I could do was a couch in a fully booked Bed and Breakfast owned by a stranger from my hometown.
I went back to Penn Station in hopes that a train could take me home. If that didn’t work my alternate plan was to walk to Harlem. My thinking, “Terrorists won’t bomb Harlem.”
As the sound of fighter planes flying overhead reached the gathered crowd somehow I heard above the din – “first train to L.I.” – on my line. I raced to the train, prayed for safety and arrived home physically unharmed.
But the madness hung around for awhile. I stayed in my bed for the full week following the event. Finally turning off the TV when the images flashing across the screen became too much to bear. From my window I could see the smoke of the smoldering buildings, so I had no view. Sleep occupied my time. When I finally returned to work I donned a surgical mask as did all that walked the streets surrounding ground zero. And on a daily basis I had a birds eye view of the rubble that was once the Twin Towers.
At that time I realized my mortality and pressured my boyfriend to marry me – I even designed and purchased a ring for myself. He talked me down. Returned the ring.
After months of therapy I was in a better place. But the images will never leave me. And that day will always haunt me.