12 Sep 2001 technik   » (Journeyer)

I'm probably not representing this accurately, tried to post earlier... can't sleep.

I arrived at work today a little later than usual. Heard a crash while coming out of the subway but didn't think much of it figuring it's always noisy in downtown. Reached my desk, saw my red message light on, logged in and punched the code for my voicemail. My wife had left a nervous message asking if I was okay, that something happened at the World Trade Center which is just a few blocks from me and the stop she takes. I called back that I saw nothing and was okay and tried to check cnn.com. I heard a commotion in the aisle and found coworkers talking about the WTC. I suggested we check the big monitor in the Risk Management area on the other side of the office which faces the WTC. They had CNN on and I could look at the smoking tower as the news read in the background. I ran back to my desk and called my parents, leaving what must have been a barely coherent "We're okay" message since they didn't hear the news. We evacuated down the twenty-two flights of stairs to the lobby but were sent upstairs again. I returned to the other corner of the office and as we watched the WTC, before I could even recognize what happened, a plane struck the second tower off center and fire burst out the other side. Then CNN reported that a plane had struck the Pentagon. I ran back to my desk and found the red light. My wife. I called her and we agreed to meet at her office, farther away from the WTC, as soon as we evacuated my building. For some reason, I grabbed the fire escape kit with the water bag, dust mask and mylar blanket I leave in my in-box where it was dropped two years ago and grabbed another I had stashed in my overhead cabinet that I had scavenged for the cyalume lightstick. I didn't wait and stupidly took the elevator into the lobby. While going down, something shook and the lights blinked but the elevator opened into the lobby and I pushed out past the surprisingly large number of people down there since I thought everyone went back up. I stepped outside and it was all dust and smoke and wind. I put on the mask and started walking as fast as I could to Maria's office through a moonscape of dust. I might have been running. I remember thinking that I'm going to hyperventilate and slowed to a walk. The steel coffee carts with the hard rolls and bagels in the windows and young Pakistani guys inside were at the corners but noone was inside. People grey with dust were wandering in other directions. A Korean guy in a suit, gray except from his eyes, was hacking and vomiting in color next to a car while two grey people stood beside looking after him. All the stores seemed closed or closing and when the wind picked up, I ducked into doorways and turned away squinting. Everything was surreal and unfamiliar. As I got to City Hall the dust and smoke was less and I clambered over a low wall dividing the road that I never noticed before but must have been there for years. A woman in a beige skirt was trying to climb over it but couldn't and I turned to help and another guy lifted her arm and she stumbled over it and stood in the road. For some reason it seemed funny that she had not put away her cell phone the whole time. I tried to make it to Broadway, but the police were directing people and I hurried through a few streets I rarely take feeling even more lost. I got to Worth but had to divert back and circle a few blocks down as FBI agents and police were shouting and opening parked trucks and having people move away from the Federal court building. At an intersection, I ignored a busy cop and crossed the street and took off up Worth. The dust was thin but had reached here too and I felt relieved to find Maria down the street from her office. She had written a note in lipstick on the page of a magazine and posted it on the building, in case I got there after the police moved the evacuees away but I didn't need it. We were okay and we told each other that we should walk uptown away from the crisis and then figure out what to do. We walked without much talking, relieved that the other was okay, avoiding the emergency vehicles up to the teens. People were everywhere and all the mass transit was shut down. Lines were forming at banks and shops, anywhere there was a phone or ATM. In the Village and NYU, I got a few stares and realized that I was grey with dust. My black shirt and shoes were ashy-looking. We found an cash machine that wasn't empty in a bodega around the high 20's, got cash and bought water. I had my gym clothes and offered her my socks and sneakers but she just wanted my thin dress socks. We sat on the slate step of a townhome and I changed into sneakers and she put my decidedly unfashionable black socks on and slipped back into her shoes. We then cut across to the west side and continued up to the 50's. Like a cruel joke, it was a perfect day- sunny, a breeze, gently warm. At the West Side Highway, we started thumbing for a ride. Maria was getting tired and I itched everywhere the dust had settled on skin. A livery pulled over and let us in. The driver, a very small boned, very dark skinned man in his forties with an accent I couldn't recognize, maybe Ethiopian, said he lived around the GW Bridge and was going that way. We asked how much but he waved us off. Traffic snarled and he got onto Broadway around 125th. While he wiggled the car through the streets we tried to use the cell phone and managed to get our parents and tell them we were enroute. He drove until reaching a police line at the Bus Terminal. We asked how much he wanted and he said he didn't care. We gave him $50 and thanked him for stopping and he drove off to get home. We walked the rest of the way, arriving home at 1:35 and found ten messages on the machine. We made a list and started calling. When we finished, for some geeky reason I went on IRC and into email to let those people know I was okay. I finally showered, but I still felt gritty and itched on the back of my neck and inside my people know I was okay. I finally showered, but I still felt gritty and itched on the back of my neck and inside my elbows. Hours later, after watching the news, I am still in a little shock and indescribably happy that Maria and I were okay. We are lucky. I can't even conceive of the people, folks I don't know who I pass every day, who were down there. I hope they can contact their families. I hope they are unscathed. I feel very lucky. I read in email that the a number of people I casually know, some by name, were okay. Later, after having a drink and eating something I called coworkers and asked how they got home. Everyone was fine. Their spouses were there or enroute. I can't sleep.

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