Saturday, July 29, 2006

Still too soon

An ad aired for the movie World Trade Center, an Oliver Stone movie which will be released in August. I didn't make it to the end of the 30-second spot without erupting into tears. There are many people who lost family and friends that day. I did not. But it was still one of the most horrible days of my life.

We'd had a loss in the spring, and though I felt physically better from the first ectopic pregnancy, I was raw emotionally. I was trying to pull myself out of a depression that felt like it was swallowing me...and so, every day, I would get off the subway 30 blocks from my office, and force myself to walk those blocks. The rush of endorphins made me feel a little better, and then I would reward myself with a coffee and a cigarette before rushing upstairs to my empty office.

I walked down 8th Avenue that day. It was a beautiful, cool day with one of the bluest skies I ever remember. I didn't hear or see the planes hit, but realized as I got further downtown, that people were stopped in the middle of the street looking downtown. I could see there was a fire and lots of smoke from the first plane, and something John had said rumbled through my head. Planes are always hitting the World Trade Center. It wasn't until I got to the coffee shop near my office...they were listening to 1010WINS...that I realized what had happened. While I was in the coffee shop, the second plane hit.

I got back out on the street, and there were now a lot of people walled against the building staring at the inferno of the top floors of both buildings. A huge gaping hole appeared where that first plane gored Tower 1. I walked quickly to my building and got into my office.

The phone rang was ringing as I sat down at my desk. My mom. Then Alec. The phones were pretty much useless after those first fifteen minutes. I turned on my workstation and started running aging reports.

Two of my coworkers arrived around 10. Both had recently emigrated to the US. Slava was a soft-spoken man from the Ukraine, and Sujarit, a Thai who had been rechristened Tony C because he had a note pinned on him with "To NYC" scrawled on it when he arrived at US Immigration in New York. Tony was pale when he arrived. His subway from Queens evacuated at 14th Street in time for him to see Tower 1 crumble to the ground.

We sat at our desks working in silence to the hum of the nearby server room and the radio announcing what they thought was happening. By 10:30, those buildings were gone. I sat blinking listening to the radio. I just couldn't wrap my brain around that they were gone.

I nervously got up for a cigarette then, and blurted out I was afraid to be alone on the was so eerie earlier. Slava quietly got up and we walked down to the street together. Tony followed. The only traffic now going down Varick Street were emergency vehicles, and the scream of sirens seemed to echo from everywhere. The smell of smoke hung heavy in the air. I stared at where those buildings were, hardly believing they weren't any more. Tony turned his back to it, his expression was hard.

Around 3, the lettered subways were running, and there were Metro North trains leaving Grand Central Station. The 3 of us left the office and walked across town to the NR station on Prince and Broadway. The smell of smoke choked us and smelled...toxic. There were dust covered people on the streets who'd come from further downtown. We said nothing as we parted.

When I arrived home I sat on the terrace for hours waiting for Alec to drive back from Long Island, smoking cigarette after cigarette until an entire pack was smoked. The sound of sirens continued, and that toxic smoke smell hung in the air.

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