“Yo, did you hear? A plane just crashed into the Twin Towers, it’s on every channel.”
“Guys, it’s an accident, stay put. I think they’re going to open the market, stay by your phones.”
No, Greg, they’re not going to open the market you idiot…Come on Shari, pickup pickup pickup
“A second plane! Holy shit! Holy shit! It’s not an accident! A second plane!”
“Did you see that? DID YOU SEE THAT? They’re showing it again look at this look at this!”
“What the fuck? What the FUCK?!?!”
pickup Shari, c’mon pickup please pleeeeeease – “Hi, oh my god where are you? Oh thank god, OK, meet me on Second Avenue, we gotta get out of here right now, something’s going on”
“…and we’re getting word now that the second plane to make impact with the South Tower was United Flight 175 which originated at…”
“This is definitely Arabs, they tried to blow up the Trade Center once, remember? You can take it to the bank this is some Muslim Arab thing.”
“Josh, where are you going? Are you seeing this? They keep showing that second plane over and over again, did you see it?”
“….and we’re getting word that another plane has struck the side of the Pentagon outside of Washington D.C….the president is being moved to a secure location and all air traffic and commercial flights are being grounded by the FAA…fighter jets are scrambling to intercept unresponsive aircraft…”
“Oh my god, wait, what do you mean? Where the Pentagon? Like in DC you mean? What?”
“What do you mean you didn’t leave yet? Get the fuck out of there and meet me NOW. Dave’s coming with us, we gotta start getting uptown, I don’t know what’s going on but we’re sitting above Grand Central Station! Jesus. Leave now and meet me, I can’t get through to my parents or anyone downtown…”
The whole office is watching the TV, they are making guesses about if and when the towers will actually fall. They are gasping every time something falls out of the windows..they won’t know until later that those aren’t objects dropping, they are people jumping.
And then Tower Two, the second one hit, begins to collapse. The camera lens shakes. It takes less than half a minute and fills the entire TV screen with smoke.
I’m out of here.
The elevators in the Helmsley Building on Park Avenue have either stopped running or are full. I’m not waiting, I’m taking the stairs. 33 floors down to the ground, whatever, I have to get to her. I have to get out of here.
“….reports are coming in from Pennsylvania about a fourth plane crash landing, it would appear that the United States is under attack…”
oh jesus christ what the fuck what the fuck Shari where are you I said meet me now where are you
I am on the Street…people are running. I am on 45th Street in the shadow of the Met Life Building, one of the tallest structures in New York. I am walking quickly from Grand Central Terminal and Met Life, heading east, away from all the midtown landmarks. I’m 24 years old and looking for my girlfriend, she’s 23.
“What took you so long? Okay, come on…Wait, it’s ringing it’s ringing, pickup Mom…Mom, it’s me, I’m fine, me and Shari are going uptown to the apartment…no, it’s a 50 block walk, I’ll call you when I get there…I don’t know, Mom, I don’t know….”
We are walking. Tens of thousands of us. A mass of panic heading up the Avenues of New York. People pour out of every building along the way, the buildings themselves are all weapons now. So we walk. Bodies are streaming across the 59th Street bridge on foot, the bridge is packed with moving humanity without an inch of concrete visible – an amazing, once in a lifetime sight. Everyone walking somewhere, nowhere, it doesn’t matter – walking uptown, walking off of Manhattan Island and most importantly walking away. Looking back at that cloud, it’s getting bigger and blacker, oh my god what the hell is happening? Some of us have Sony Walkmans with radios, “I just heard the second tower collapsed, guys” Stop it shut up. StopitStopitStopitStopitStopit. Some of us are crying, some of us are running or run-walking; grownups all look like children when they’re scared. Some of us are looking for stores to buy supplies…just in case.
Dave is with Shari and I, he lives on 86th Street, he is reciting lists of people and their relationship to him that work in the World Trade Center or the World Financial Center. It’s a list that is dozens of people long. I start making my own list but not out loud. Thousands of people to my left and right, in front of me and behind – all of us walking and all of us making our lists of friends and family members that we may never see again. No one has email on their phone yet so we are all looking straight ahead as we flee. And up. The skies above us are that perfect end-of-summer blue, not a cloud in the sky. And we can’t stop glancing up.
“I can’t get her on the phone….who else did you speak to?….Did he call yet, I spoke to his sister, she’s okay…What do you mean? What? No no no no no. He’s not dead willyoufuckingstopit, they just haven’t found him yet…Suzy’s dad works there?…NO! DON’T YOU FUCKING DARE GO DOWN THERE.”
People are calling us and we’re calling people. “Where’s this one, and who’s heard from that one?”
My dad gets through to my home phone. He is watching from his office in Brooklyn. Not on TV, out his window across the river I think. He was in his 20’s when they built the Towers, they’ve never not been there. There is debris in air where he is. He can’t finish sentences but he’s okay.
My girlfriend and I are back at our apartment. “Yes, tell them we’re home, they can come here text them the address, tell them we’re home.” We’re inviting people up to our apartment to rendezvous or catch their breath or whatever.
We are staring downtown through our windows. We have southern exposures on the 22nd floor of Rupert Towers, we see that awful black cloud at the edge of the horizon, it is hovering above the farthest of the skyline. It’s drifting uptown, its enveloping the city and headed toward us – slowly yet unmistakeably. Derek’s on the couch, he is covered in soot. He works for Lehman Brothers and was trapped in the subway station during the building’s collapse that morning beneath the World Financial Center. I don’t know how he finally got out or how he got from the southern tip of Manhattan up to us and his girlfriend on the Upper East Side. He can’t stop changing channels MSNBC, FOX, CNN, NBC, CBS, back to FOX, back to NBC…the ticker running across the bottom of the screen is fucking relentless, death toll estimates and other threats and rumors and warnings and soundbites and more goddamn death tolls…
“…with some official estimates as high as 25,000 Americans dead…”
“Towelhead pieces of shit, we’re gonna wipe them off the goddamn map, right?”
“Can you believe what they’re saying about the firemen? Jesus Christ they were running IN when it collapsed.”
“…is asking citizens to please be advised that all landmarks in New York City are to be considered potential targets…please remain indoors and report any and all suspicious activity by calling toll-free 1-800…the New York Police Department is asking residents to stay away from Downtown no matter what, every effort is being made to locate your loved ones…”
“Fucking sandniggers and jews did this. I hope we just nuke the whole fucking Middle East. Kill ’em all, pieces of shit.”
“Hey Josh, how you guys holding up? You gonna leave the city? My dad said we’re all get cancer if we stay here…”
“Why aren’t we bombing these motherfuckers yet?”
and Jesus Christ why does everyone have a story about how they were supposed to be at the World Trade Center that day? “I was supposed to be in Tower Two that morning for a meeting but it got canceled the day before!” “I was supposed to be on that flight from Boston!” Who cares where you weren’t or how close you came to being there you sick asshole. Shutupitsnotaboutyougoddamnitshutup.
“The Empire State Building is being evacuated! Oh my god look out the window, look at those jets, you guys look!”
“They’re saying suspicious activity at Penn Station, turn on CNN!”
“This is all about Israel, they probably have something to do with it…”
The cloud is bigger this morning than it was yesterday. And its closer.
“Seriously, we’re not supposed to breathe that shit, it’s like plastic particles and human ashes and shit…”
“What do you mean it keeps going straight to his voicemail? Nobody knows where he is? Come on, what the fuck are you talking about? WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT WHERE IS HE WHERE IS HE GODDAMNIT?”
“Sirens Josh, you hear that outside? Hello? JOSH! Turn off the stupid news already and listen! The news is just repeating, they don’t know anything! Just stop, please just stop and turn it off.”
Itsgonnabeokay Itsgonnabeokay Itsgonnabeokay Itsgonnabeokay Itsgonnabeokay Itsgonnabeokay Itsgonnabeokay Itsgonnabeokay Itsgonnabeokay Itsgonnabeokay
Its gonna be okay.
Ten years have passed. Did it turn out okay?
They did open the markets eventually that month, the Dow Jones dropped 658 points the first day but they got the thing open and that meant something to New York. New York City was back to work, back in the business of business. The dead were honored, we went to the services and looked at the pictures and heard the stories. They say 20% of all Americans knew someone who died, was injured or survived the attack that day. The number for New Yorkers was probably closer to 100%.
We got back onto the airplanes again too. Saturday Night Live came back on the air and the Mayor told us all it was okay to laugh again. It felt good to laugh after that week when no one did. The football season started and, to this day, the Super Bowl is played in February instead of late January because of the delay that fall.
I think about the kids sometimes. 3051 children lost a parent on 9/11. That number is unimaginable, it hurts every time I hear it or read it. The toddlers who were forced to learn about Death through that first-hand experience are now teenagers. 101 widows were pregnant with the children of fathers who didn’t come home that day. Those unborn babies are in third grade now.
Did it turn out okay for them? They know what they’re missing but do they know what they’re missing?
One of the most perverse aspects of the human experience is how it takes a scare or a tragedy for people to appreciate what they have. I’m guilty of this, I take a lot of people who I love for granted until I’m jolted back to the reality that they can be ripped away from me at any time, and that I can be ripped away from them.
So when people talk about “How does remembering 9/11 make you feel” when the anniversary rolls around each year, I find myself in a more appreciative frame of mind. 9/11 makes me want to hold my girlfriend – she is now my wife – and not take her for granted for a second longer. 9/11 makes me want to be with my kids who sometimes drive me crazy, because I am reminded of the mothers and fathers who never made it back home to be with theirs.
So that day ten years ago, when I was telling myself that “it’s gonna be okay” over and over again, I was telling myself the truth. It is okay. I am fortunate – I have everyone and I’m not taking them for granted, not on 9/11 and not on 9/12.
It’s gonna be okay.
It turns out that I was never in harm’s way that day or in a position to help anyone. I was just another New Yorker looking for my loved ones amid the chaos and uncertainty about what would happen next. But there were many heroes, professionals and civilians, those who went above and beyond – some of them paying the ultimate price. 2976 people were killed ten years ago, many of them leaving behind families whose lives were changed forever.
Tuesday’s Children was founded by the friends and family members of those affected by 9/11. The children of first responders and victims who lost a parent could still use our help in a variety of ways. The organization is a worthy one if you feel like there’s something you want to do. Click below: