This year, maybe because of the 10th anniversary, maybe because of the
floods and the fires and natural disasters, I sheltered myself of all
images of 9/11, save the gorgeous New York Times magazine piece on the iron-working, sky-walking men who are working on the rebuild.
Today, I share something I wrote on my bravebethany blog in 2005, four
years after that day. That ten years have passed is mind boggling.
I was there--across the street in 1 WFC. I was sitting at my reception
desk, about to sip my coffee, eat my yogurt from home and orange I
bought from the vendor right in front of the WTC before crossing into
the bridge that led into my building. I evacuated my floor, screaming
when the first plane hit. (I was a fire searcher and the last one off
the top floor of the 1WFC both times we evacuated.) I hit the staircase
with the rest of the people in my building, and when no news came on
the intercom system, my boss who was the fire warden and I got out of
the stairwell so she could call downstairs. We were in a brokerage firm
which had no cubicle or office dividers. It was one big, huge, open
I had friends working in the WTC. The one that was hit first. I went to
the window. Was pulled to the window. I wish I hadn't have looked. I
still wish I hadn't have looked.
With no news, and people jumping from the burning building, we thought
it best to stay where we were. We went back upstairs--I worked on the
31st floor, in the elevator. I tried to call my parents in Georgia. I
didn't get them. I got my aunt who saw it on the Today show. An
airplane pilot had a heart attack, I was told. I wanted to believe it.
My shaking hands wanted to believe it. I called my brother who had no
idea why I was borderline hysterical, while he stood in line in a
parking lot in Georgia at the DMV. I called an actor friend, so she
could spread the word that I was ok. I woke her. She had no idea what
was happening. Not long after the second plane roared over our
building--so close it roared in our ears--it hit the WTC, the tower
diagonal to us, across the street. I screamed. Threw down the phone and
took to the staircase again.
This time, the staircase was silent. No one brought their coffee or
morning bagel. Everyone, at least in their heart, knew we were under
attack. There were whispers that there was a bomb in our building. I
tried to recite my favorite prayer, "The Prayer for Protection" that
strangely enough I say every time I am on a plane, before take off and
landing. I could not remember the words. My body prayed them for me.
Out on the street, crowds stood and stared. I wouldn't look up. Couldn't look up.
My boss had had a premature baby that almost died. We were concerned
with getting her home. Getting her home to her son. We headed for the
ferry by the Wintergarden. So much glass. Glass everywhere. I kept my
head down. Tripped over my feet. My legs carrying all my fear. We
pushed on to one of the last ferries going across. People were standing
in line for tickets. We weren't buying any. "They aren't charging us,"
Out on the water, I looked up. Two huge holes. Smoke, heavy smoke, billowing into the blue, blue sky.
Once we got to Hoboken, I got on a PATH train to Jersey City, where I
was living. We sat and sat and sat on the train. I was mute. I didn't
say a word. No one knew I had been there. Other people talked. I
listened. I learned about the Pentagon. I worried about my friends at
the UN. I looked at people's faces, memorizing them, but feeling,
looking, I am sure, so blank. Just blank.
When the Path train came up, a tall thin man said, "They're gone. The
towers are gone." I didn't believe him. I couldn't see the two
buildings that were my touchstone. Since moving to NYC I lived in many
apartments but I held only one job. The towers were my home. They were
reminders of how far I had come. I looked at them every night from NJ
thinking I work there. I moved from Georgia and I work there. There.
There was gone.
For my old roommate Nicole, who lost her dad that day, and for all the
other lives lost, for NYC, for our country, I offer this prayer.
The Prayer of Protection
The light of God surrounds us;
The love of God enfolds us;
The power of God protects us;
The presence of God watches over us;
Wherever we are, God is, and all is well. Amen.