(written on the eveing of Wed, Sept 19th)
I heard a loud noise or 2 in my sleep but that was nothing new, I don't usually wake up for that, I grew up in a very loud house so you learn to sleep through noise. At the time I think it kinda reminded me of when I lived in the dorms and the garbage guys would come and empty the dumpsters and then drop them back down to the pavement. We live across the street from the fire house so maybe it was one of those big metal rolly doors that roll down from the top of the door frame hitting the pavement. It didn't occur to me that in my psuedo-dream state that I would never have heard either of those sounds as loudly as I did that morning from my 41st floor apartment.
I did wake up a few minutes later when the phone rang, it was Amy, who I have been friends with since the fifth grade. "uh.. Nathalie, what happened to the world trade center?" I rubbed my eyes and looked over to my right and out my bedroom window, across the top of the window frame I could see dark gray smoke traveling across the otherwise clear blue sky. I got up and walked over to the foot of the bed to see the two gaping holes in the twin towers that had previously been as one Tribeca resident said "like our christmas trees for all year long." The holes were big and black, the fringes burned orange like toothpick embers. Amy informed me that 2 planes had crashed into the wtc. At first I thought no, one maybe but not 2, that can't be possible, it must have been one that damaged both buildings, it must. Like most americans a terrorist attack was the furthest thing from my mind. But Amy repeated what the news stations were telling her. Amy had to go because she was late for a thing. I hung up the phone and stood next to Erik in shock. All I could think about was all the people, it was 9am, everyone had just gotten to work. Whoever had done this couldn't have picked a better time. Surely people don't start to run errands or leave the office until 10 or so. My heart sunk when I realized there was no way to put out the fire. You its not like you could put a guy on a ladder with a hose. The building would burn from the crash up, and the probably most of the way down. It would just sit there and burn, there would be no way to salvage the building. I was hopeful that perhaps a helicopter might come by and rescue some people that might have made their way to the roof.
Erik said he was pretty sure could see people jumping. I am near sighted. I wasn't about to get my glasses to look for myself. I refused to let myself believe was he was saying. I told him it was probably paper or some other debris. At first he wanted to disagree, but then he saw the look I was giving him that said that I couldn't even handle the thought of it and so for now it must remain paper or debris. The next day on buried on the third page or so of the ny times was a picture of a man falling, zoomed in, full color, unmistakable.
We couldn't get reception of any stations on our tv. I got on the net. CNN.com was overloaded, couldn't access it. I hopped into the chatroom. I constantly got news from the chatters about missing planes, the pentagon, bombs, some misinformation, but too much of it was true. I talked with peter, a friend in DC, he informed me that the crash at the pentagon was in the west wing, where our friend Steve works. He did not know where Steve was. I turned on my web cam for all to see the view from my window. Some chatters were at work with no tv and also could not get thru to cnn or any other online news service. I got offline a few times to try to make calls, strangely enough I could not make phone calls out but I could use the dialup connection. I had a friend in new orleans call my mom to tell her I was okay. I was talking to friends online when I herd Erik say "oh god, its coming down.." I looked up and saw the building crumbling from the top. I shrieked and tried to type it. I couldn't stop shaking. I was shaking so much, my hands couldn't find the keys, they just kinda hovered above the keyboard shaking frantically and pecking here and there. I knew there were all kinds of bystanders watching from the ground. I knew there were firefighters. All of the firefighters across the street from our apartment. We saw them everyday. I am sure that those men are the closest to the wtc, we are only 6 blocks away. After the firs building fell we knew the other would come down as well. All we could do was wait and watch. It was awful. People were running down the street below us in terror. We thought it best to stay in out apartment unless told otherwise.
Eventually while IMing peter informed me that he had to go, a helicopter had hit his building and he had to leave. It just kept going, with more information pouring in, flights still unaccounted for. It was horrible. Later I learned that the helicopter was a rescue helicopter and it just barely dinged that building. But that wasn't until later that night.
Chatters were saying that guiliani wanted everyone below canal street to evacuate, we are halfway between canal and the wtc. I called the front desk to ask if we had to leave, they said they had no instructions to evacuate. Erik and I knew that we would probably be asked to leave eventually so we decided to do it at our own pace, voluntarily. So I packed a few changes of clothes and other necessities knowing that it could be a while before we were allowed to return, and put the laptop in the closet just incase anything should happen and the apartment might get covered in dust or debris. I fed Jackson and we left. The front desk guys and a few residents huddled around a radio downstairs while others sat on the lobby couches in shock.
Outside was a whole different story. I thought watching everything was bad from our window, but when I walked out the front door I wanted to go back in. I wasn't prepared for what I saw. To someone who had no knowledge of what had happened it wouldn't have seemed to horrible, but I knew that all the people in front of me standing around showing no emotion were too in shock to do anything but stand there in front of the firehouse. Like zombies, firemen, who had just lost the people that they work with everyday, women and men standing around not know wing where there loved ones were. Or if they were alive. There was dust caked on 3 inches high on a car bumper. I told Erik that I wanted to go back inside, I that I didn't think I could handle it. He held my hand and we kept walking.
Walking up Broadway was like walking in a nightmare. I had never experienced anything as surreal. I noticed doctors masks everywhere on the ground and still around people?s necks. Military personnel directed traffic. I saw 2 women riffling through postcards outside one shop, hoping to scoop up some now "old school" shots of the Manhattan skyline. We stopped near a van that blared the tail end of a presidential address to a small crowd huddled on a sidewalk. It felt like a war zone.
Adam had called us and told us we could go to his place if we needed a place to go. There were no subways and no cabs. No busses no nothing. All we could do was walk. While walking we saw kids with signs asking for people to go and give blood. I thought we might pass a hospital on our journey, so we would go in and give blood, but we needed to eat first. We knew we had a long hot walk ahead of us and you might pass out if you give blood without food and water in your system. We found some bad Chinese food in small restaurant with a television near union square. Every church had its doors wide open with signs that said come in and rest, restrooms, etc. most had people on the sidewalk with tables handing out coffee, water or coke. We stopped in one church to rest for a while.
Eventually we made it to times square, which is quite a hike. But the subways were running uptown from there. The subway was free that day. But people were squeezed in like sardines. People kept trying to push themselves into the subway cars at every stop. Not push like disrespectful-push, just desperate-push. Surprisingly enough new yorkers were extremely patient and understanding. Everyone knew.
We got to Adam's place by the park and stayed there all week. Lisagoddess stopped by. The Claire came in and stayed over the weekend while Adam and Mandy were upstate. I watched the news all day and all night for the first 3 days and then I couldn't take it anymore, aside from that the incoming news was slowing down to a trickle. I realized that I would never be able to sleep through sudden noise again. I got really anxious when I would hear the jets or helicopters flying overhead, or the subway rumbling below the house. The rumbling sounded like the buildings as they crumbled. I didn't want to be alone but at the same time I didn't want to be around a lot of people drinking and having a good time. Others went out to bars I stayed in remained numb in front of the tv. I had learned that peter and Steve were fine, and that another friend, Ben, had recently relocated to nyc to train as a stockbroker and was working on the 62nd floor tues morning. He had gone out for a cigarette, while puffing away he watched as the first plane tore thru the tower. Luckily Ben is a smart kid and decided to take off and head to Jersey at that point.
We returned to our building on wed the 19th, to learn that it had never been formally evacuated but the water, electricity and phones had been out. All of the tenants eventually had left voluntarily. We live too high to have stayed without elevators. The phones are still out, but the water and electricity are back. Jackson is still alive, he's such a trooper. Beta's are survivors.
I was surprised and happy to hear that the firehouse across the street had not lost a single person. It seems they had received another call just prior to the time of impact. The exterior of the firehouse is flanked by candles posters and flags. There are candles burning at memorials all over town. And the flyers. They are everywhere. The "missing" flyers. They are on lamp posts, buildings, fences and on the sides of cars. Desperate family members and friends that keep insisting that their loved ones are "survivors" and are alive somewhere. These people wont have any kind of closure until the body of their loved one is found. It could be months. This is what hurts to watch. I'm not really concerned about the people who died. They are in a better place now, they have moved on. But the people they left behind cannot move on. Watching them in pain is what hurts.
I wanted to help, but they kept repeating on tv that they needed no more volunteers as they showed hundreds of people lined up downtown hoping that they might get the chance to help. I wanted to give blood, but once again the news reported that the hospitals were only equipped to take blood from one or two people at a time and the lines were wrapped around blocks and the wait was 3 hours long. Some places even ran out of bags the first day. The sad part is that there weren't enough injured people for the medical staffs to treat. Doctors remain at the scene hoping to pull someone from the rubble that they can treat, but, sadly it look as if it will not happen. I may still go give blood and surely they will be needing more volunteers as the weeks wear on. To my understanding, they still haven't found a single person alive since day one, reports that they rescued 5 firefighters from and suv seem to have been a misunderstanding. They way the city, the country and people all over the world have pulled together to show support is touching, it really is.
When I see the street of my neighborhood filled policemen, military and firefighters I look at them and don't know what to say. With the risk of sounding cheesy, and because I can think of no other words, my heart is heavy. They all give their lives for us, everyday. We never appreciated it like we do now. That part is sad. Sad that we have to see hundreds of people loose their lives in our own backyard in order to be thankful and fully appreciate their bravery and dedication to serving us. Every time a fireman enters a burning building there is a chance that some part of it could collapse and he could loose his life, but they go in anyway, everyday. What did we ever do for them? I give them a little grin and in my mind I pat them on the back. I have no words.
To got up around 730 this morning and went for a walk 3 blocks from here on the street where my big grocery store is, the street is filled with news vans everywhere you look reporters and camera men and satellite dishes. There was a big Campbell's soup tour bus next to a tent of people serving up pints of hot soup. The bus said something on it like "Campbell's, curing hunger one bowl at a time." Several of the best restaurants in the city, even the ones that are the hardest to get into ( nobu included ) are supplying food to the workers, McDonalds sends down tons of chicken nuggets and quarter pounders everyday. There is no shortage of food down there, the guy in charge of organizing suppliers said last Friday, "please don't send anymore food or water, we have more water than debris down here." They showed street corners with stocked with tons of supplies, they were sending the food and stuff across the river to new jersey because they had no room to store it all downtown. I saw signs today for a spa that is open to the rescue workers, remember this is a pretty upscale area, the spa was offering full use of the spa for rest, showers, bathrooms, even massages.
If I were still in new orleans it would have been easier to go about my normal daily routine and not be affected by the happenings in nyc because I would have no direct ties to the day's events ( aside from my friends in DC). But I went to the wtc all the time. The picture on the front page of my website was taken on the fourth of July, we had been at the wtc for an outdoor concert that day. There was a shopping mall at the bottom. I was there the week before, and Erik was there on monday morning, the day before the tragedy, he was at the bookstore, Borders. Erik went to borders in the wtc at least once a week.
Our apartment is illuminated at night by the lights from ground zero.
I had a nightmare about the wtc while napping this afternoon. I dreamt it was all because of me. Satan was there and I was running down stairwells trying to get away from him and he was destroying the building because of me. All the while I was supposed to be babysitting a woman's child who lives in my building, I lost the little girl.