#181 | Monday, October 1st 2001
I normally stroll into work on the 17th floor of the World Trade Center (Tower 2) around 9:15am. Around 9am on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was on the express bus going to work and we had just gotten to the toll plaza of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel when someone exclaimed that there was smoke coming from the world trade center.


I looked up from my book to see a huge plume of smoke blowing south east off of WTC 1. I am one of the fire wardens on my floor and my first reaction was to grab my cell phone to make sure my co-workers knew what was going on and that they were getting out of the office. The answering message picked up. Someone reported that a plane had hit WTC 1. We all began to talk about it thinking it was a small commuter style plane or even a stunt plane that had had an accident. There are many stupid people who have tried stunts involving the WTC and we speculated this was one gone horribly wrong. I saw what at the time I thought was a helicopter go towards and behind the buildings.


I was trying to call my husband and was looking at my phone when I heard faint thunder. Someone screamed. I looked up to see a huge ball of orange fire, like a mini atomic blast, engulf the top quarter of MY building. I remember exclaiming "Oh my God! I work there!" and then the bus got very dark. After a split second of panic I realized it was because we had just entered the Battery Tunnel (the bus was an older model with small windows and the driver had the internal lights off). With one voice we, the passengers, began screaming to the bus driver - "Stop! Don't go in! Where did he think he was going anyway?" He kept driving forward.


He stopped after a minute or two, when the traffic ground to a halt. We were stuck, could not go forwards or back. The last thing any of us had seen was Hell being unleashed on our friends and colleagues (this was a downtown only bus - all the passengers worked in the financial district). Panic and confusion broke out. My cell phone had a signal, but I could not get a line out to call anyone. People were screaming that we were being bombed, yelling at the driver to let them out of the bus or to back out. I truly thought I was going to die - underground and in the dark.


Every day, twice a day, I passed through this tunnel, 150 feet below the river - and at least a few times a week would morbidly daydream about what might happen if a terrorist attack occurred while I was down there. Wouldn't taking out the river crossings be a logical attack pattern sure to cause many deaths and wreak long-term havoc? My worst-case scenarios normally included rushing fire enveloping and flooding water crushing everything in its path. I was terrified that I was about to find out if my predictions were right. My world narrowed to trying to dial my cell phone and chanting in my head "Get us out of here, get us out of here, get us out of here..."


A lot of the passengers were crowding the driver yelling at him or pleading with him to let them off the bus. Some were trying to make calls, I heard one woman praying. I don't remember anyone crying. I have no memory of the driver making any sort of an announcement to us or giving us any information. I got very angry with him one minute and then the next thought how horrible for him, just a regular Joe, driving his bus and suddenly he holds the lives of 30 people in his hands.


After a while the driver, without saying a word to us, left the bus. While we all assumed he was going to try and get some info on what he should do, we were all mad that he had left without a word. A few passengers tried to open the door, but the driver had somehow secured it.


An SUV came towards us from the Manhattan side. One of the passengers got into the busdriver's seat and began honking the horn. The SUV paused by the driver's window. Word began to filter back through the bus that the towers had been struck by commercial jetliners and that city was under attack and being bombed.


I was now certain I was going to die and heard a roaring in my ears, felt a squeezing in my chest and my face and extremities got all pins and needley. I began to ask the other passengers with phones if they could get a call out because I needed to speak to my husband. No one was getting out although everyone kept trying. I didn't want to die without being able to say good-bye!


We must have been in the tunnel about 45 - 50 minutes when we felt the tunnel vibrate. In my mind's eye I imagined a huge white cloud rushing through the tunnel at us like in movies I had seen about nuclear holocausts. Later I saw replays of the collapse on TV and the clouds of dust and debris rushing through the canyon-like downtown streets looked just what I had pictured in my head. I realized then that the vibration I had felt was Tower 2 collapsing, but at the time it happened I was clueless and thought the tunnel was going to break up.


Just after that, the driver returned to the bus and began to back us out of the tunnel. We cheered him then - let me tell you! I was never so relieved as when I saw daylight beginning to filter in the windows. We cleared the tunnel and we applauded our driver as he began to turn the bus back into Brooklyn. Cell phones began to ring, but still no one could get a call out. We all noticed a huge white cloud just beginning to spread out over the toll plaza from across the river. Looking into it I saw something sparkly all through the plume that was heading towards us. "What is that shit?" I said pointing and just then a lady on the her cell phone cried out that the Pentagon had been bombed and the man in the seat in front of me said that WTC 2 had collapsed.


That news sort of went in one ear and out the other as I thought they meant the top that was burning had come away. The word 'war' began to be tossed around and I wondered aloud if the sparkly cloud I had seen was maybe poison gas (it was in fact a mix of fiberglass, asbestos, metal, glass and paper from the WTC 2 collapse - we are getting papers in lawns here from the explosion, I'm tempted to see if any are from my office - NOT). The driver sped through side streets as I continued to try to get through to my husband, Gerry. Finally we came to my stop and I ran home. I was shaking like a leaf and dashed to the house phone. I dialed my husband's work number and turned the TV on to NY1. The clock on my cable box said 10:25.


There was a picture on the screen of what looked like the same image I had first seen from the bus - smoke pouring from the top of WTC 1. I did not see WTC 2 but assumed it was due to the angle of the shot, which was from the north. I was not listening to the audio since the phone was connecting my call.


Gerry answered the phone. "I'm OK," I blurted out. He began to sob immediately. We spent a minute frantically re-assuring each other we were OK and then I had to hang up to call everyone else. I tried my parents in FL but got a circuit busy signal. I knew I could reach them online so tried to call Barbara (my birth Mother) in the Bronx. She picked up and was freaking out. I was staring at the TV reassuring her that I was Ok, when suddenly Tower 1 collapsed. I remember screaming "Oh my God!" and then the realization hit me that there was nothing BEHIND WTC 1. I began to scream incoherently into the phone - "it's gone!" and "everyone I know is dead!" The next thing I knew I was sitting on the floor by my bathroom and sobbing and gasping. Barbara was shouting through the phone, which I had dropped at some point - I'm sure she thought I was under attack or dying. I was pretty hysterical. I had not comprehended what I had heard earlier when they said that WTC 2 had collapsed. How could I comprehend it? It was incomprehensible! There were things I needed to bring home from my cubicle, my pets (2 frogs and a crab) needed to be fed and my plants watered! I spent more time in that place than I did in my own home - how could it be GONE?!


When I could halfway function again I told her I was not hurt but that all my friends might be dead and hung up on her. Not the best thing to do, but I was hardly thinking straight. I began to page through my cell phone's directory, praying I had someone from work's home number in it. I had one number; I had to dial 5 times before the call got through. I asked for Gygi and, praise the Goddess, she was there. She sounded as bad as I did and I asked if she had been there. She then realized who she was speaking to and told me yes and that everyone had gotten out. "But, did they get away?" I asked. Gygi said she did not know because she ran for the Brooklyn Bridge the second she got to the street. Before she hung up she re-assured me that everyone HAD gotten out. I sobbingly thanked her and told her how glad I was she was alive.


I then tried my folks in FL again and got through this time.


Still shaking, I next thought of my 2 best friends, one of whom works at Verizon across from Tower 1. I knew his habits and knew he would have been getting to work around the same time I normally do. I could not raise him on any of his contact numbers and even went to his apartment down the hall on the off chance he was home. No luck, so I went downstairs to my other best friend's door. I knew she had no reason to be in the downtown area so I was not concerned for her safety as much as I needed to have someone with me. There was no answer from her door either.


I was beginning to feel the waves of bad panic threaten to overwhelm me again and knew I needed to be DOING something. I grabbed my laptop and got online and began to contact everyone on my work address book to try and locate my friends and co-workers in the building. I began connecting to folks and we began to spin an info web, with me in the center. One by one folks checked in safely. The home office in London left me a voice message asking me to call in if I was able - they were doing a head count of survivors from across the ocean. We swapped info on whom we had found and my spirits began to climb as the number grew.


This continued into Wednesday. I dropped into bed around 5:30am Wednesday and was back online less than 2 hours later, trying to locate people, keep communications flowing and making sure my online campus was still running and my clients' needs were covered. Other friends from the WTC began to check in as well and I began to ride a real high. By 6pm Wednesday we had accounted for all our people and only 3 had been injured enough to need immediate medical attention, but essentially, we were whole.

I have lost people I know in this tragedy and many people I care about have been scarred for life, but I am grateful to be alive and very grateful that I work with a very smart bunch of people who did not wait to be told to get out.


Maxime | 38 | New York

#176 | Saturday, September 29th 2001
8:30 am I got to work on 22nd st. and 5th ave. It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny. It seemed like everyone was in a good mood. I put on my headphones and listened to Howard Stern. 15 minutes later a co-worker taps me on the shoulder I turn around. There it was! Right outside my window! The first tower was hit. We all thought it was an accident, an unbelievable one at that. Other co-workers had heard the plane fly overhead. I was actually thinking of going down there to see it up close. Then it happened, the second plane hit. We all grew silent. We all knew it was not an accident.
Fear, was all I could feel, not knowing what else was yet to come. We all watched as the towers burned. It was only 9:30 and I had an awful feeling that it was not over. The pentagon next. Helicopters were now flying over us. No one knew if there were more planes coming. I just sat at my desk shaking. Others cried. All I wanted was to get home to Brooklyn. Next I tried to get in contact with my mother and sister. My mother was ok but my sister, who works downtown, was not accounted for. She would have been on the train when it all happened. Even though I wanted to get out I had to make sure my sister was okay. It was not until 1:30 that my sister finally was able to call. She was stuck on the train but would be able to go home soon. I was now able to leave.
The walk to escape Manhatten led only one way, towards the towers, which as this point, were completely gone from the skyline. All there was was smoke. People were helping each other handing out water and wet paper towels to cool off.
In chinatown unfortunately, the price of water suddenly rose as well as slippers for walking. I was disgusted with the behavior of the people in that neighborhood.
Eventually I got to the bridge and walked with thousands of others. Looking over the smoke and the dust, hoping to see those towers return. Every few minutes a helicopter could be heard. I was still shaking in fear of another attack, this time on the bridge.
I eventually did get to Brooklyn to see cops everywhere. People donating blood and so many other great things! I am really proud to be a New Yorker.
I am now ready to return to a normal life. All I wish for is the unstoppable force of America destroying Bin Ladden and the Taliban!

Viktorya B | 24 | New York

#175 | Saturday, September 29th 2001
At 9:00 AM I was headed to do my grocery shopping. With my son in the car he asked to listen to music. So I turn to our usual station, and all I hear is gasping and then the radio announcer states that a plane has the WTC. Well after a few minutes, they state another plane has hit the other tower. I was like Oh, my God, how can they joke about such a thing!!! At about 9:10 I arrive at the grocery store and they have already set up a TV in the lobby and there they were the Towers in smoke!! I hurry through my shopping and as I'm coming out I hear on the same TV that a plane hit the pentagon. I immediately rush home. I don't even get the groceries out of the car. My son jumps out and we run in the house. I immediately switched from cartoons to the News. At that point the first Tower had collapsed and we saw the second collapse.. I was terrified! What I thought was a joke, actually happened and no words can express the feelings I have about this. A lot of mixed emotions..

Sarah | 24 | New York

#169 | Thursday, September 27th 2001
I was sitting in my business computers class and someone knocked on the door. They weren't supposed to tell the students what had happened. At first, before anyone else in class knew anything was wrong at all, my friend erika & I heard the two teachers speaking in the hallway about no one being able to enter or leave NYC & something about the pentagon. We couldn't figure it all out though. I'm sorry we begged them to tell us. I would have rather not known.

After school, my friend Joe came to pick everyone up and we headed over to my house to see everything on television for the first time. the radio in the car was enough to keep the 8 of us piled into one vehicle silenced the entire ride.. and the images on my television were nothing short of heartbreaking.

Sylvia Vathis | 16 | New York

#168 | Thursday, September 27th 2001
i was in the cafeteria at school waiting for my friends at around 10:55 when i heard. my friends came in swearing and saying that planes hit the WTC and pentagon. i couldnt believe it. we went into the library to watch MSNBC, then the principal called the whole high school to the multi-purpose room to watch the news. i'll never forget it as long as i live.
dusty | 17 | New York

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