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September 11, part 1

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post #7
bio: j. wray

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I first wrote this in a group e-mail the week of Sept. 11, 2001 and was later posted on a friend's website. (I don't remember when, bad record-keeping on my part, I guess.) Although some parts make me cringe now, here it is in all its glory. The only thing I've changed is the capitalization. Here goes:

As you all know, I am a bit of an insomniac, to say the least. But instead of taking Paxil, Prozac, Valium, Nytol, I give myself steady doses of television until i fall asleep. So on Tuesday, September 11, it was the sound of Katie Couric's voice, not an alarm clock that awakened me.

I had been dreaming.

In my dream, Katie had been looking out the picture window that makes up the back part of the Today Show set. She was looking out of a window, through a periscope, at a far-off object I couldn't see.

"They've bombed the building," she said, in a incredulous voice.

I woke up a little bit before 10 a.m. Tuesday, September 11, to the sight of the World trade Towers smoking. And as I felt around for my glasses, I watched a chunk of one of the buildings fall, in erie slow motion, to the ground. Later, when I turned my head for a moment, the whole thing fell. Soon both towers were gone, lost in that cloud of debris, glittering with glass. First white with concrete and smoke, then black.

Ten days earlier, iId flown to New York in a small commuter plane. The businessman that sat next to me had been strangely talkative. As we descended toward La Guardia, he pointed out the landmarks.

There's the Manhattan Bridge. There's the Brooklyn Bridge. there's the Williamsburg Bridge. There's the Empire State Building. There's the World Trade towers, he said, his arm outstretched in front of me as we peered out the window.

I was impatient. I knew what the sights looked like, I didn't need him to tell me what I was looking at.

That was Saturday. On Tuesday, I met up with my childhood friend Joey (or Joe, as he prefers to be called). We stuffed ourselves with Indian food and talked about my possible move to the city. We walked over to the New York University area, eating pastries at a restaurant that Joey told me was one of the oldest in the city. The food was good, but filling, so we decided to take a walk. We walked for blocks, skirting the edge of Washington Square Park, then walking further and further toward the river. New Jersey, Joey told me, was on the other side. We thought about crossing the bridge, but wide lanes of traffic kept us back.

My mom is gonna be angry with you if she finds out that you took me out here at this time of night, I told him, smiling. She'll be sad if I die. It was dark, deserted and chilly. and while I was joking, I was more than a little nervous. Let's walk to the World Trade Center, Joey suggested.

So we walked and walked that night, bickering over how far away those twin towers really were. Two blocks, I argued. Twelve, he argued back. You have no idea how big it is. We walked by a big brick building, a modern structure that looked it had been designed with a child's wooden blocks in mind. It was, we agreed, rather ugly.

I saw that building later on the news, a high school, a background to frenzied news broadcasts. We kept on walking.

Six blocks. Neither of us were right, but I was closer, I told Joey. It was big, I agreed. We looked up the side of one of the buildings. It was dark, and the building was high. I couldn't see the top.

I needed to get back to my friends' home, and so we headed for the subway, going underneath those towering 110 stories to catch a train. It was the last time that I saw the towers. I didn't have a window seat on my flight back to Columbus, and I didn't look back as the plane flew westward that Saturday.

Tuesday, September 11. I started to cry as I watched the picture on the television.

I was at home, alone, and my calls to friends in the city went unanswered. All I heard was a recorded voice telling me that all circuits were busy, or worse, a few rings and then nothing at all.

Slowly, my calls began to go through. First to Matt, who was on the train, on his way home to Brooklyn, after an aborted attempt to get to work. Then Joey, returning to Manhattan from the Bronx, far away from the epicenter. Then Maya, her voice registering shock even as her cell phone garbled our conversation.

....8:30...I was going to work...I'm at a friend's in the Upper East Side now...outside is the same as on t.v....

I got e-mails from friends checking in.

I was on the street when it happened. It was pretty intense, wrote Molly.

(I stomped) up the stairs to walk 30 blocks to get to work only to see the World Trade Center fucking collapse, huge plumes of smoke covering the sky as bits of metal and glass shimmer through the air, raining down on the people sprinting uptown, away, away from the insanity, wrote Josh.

Everyone I know is okay. As far as I know, everyone they know is okay, too. And I know, in the grand scheme of things what I went through was nothing, nothing at all. But on Tuesday, September 11, I began to understand exactly why they call it terrorism.

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