Once I had prepared myself for the day ahead and had said my daily ‘goodbyes’ and ‘love yous’ to the family I headed for Manhattan via the tube, after leaving the car outside the city. I got out of my cabin and the buzz of the city too me under its wing for another day.
I got to the 58th floor and was nestling into the day when a bang, a sound almost impossible to describe. A pitch that hurts your ears. A crunch, almost too deep to be heard. It was a few seconds before the severity of the incident sunk in across the office. I gazed up from my desk and their seemed to be debris of some sort falling past the window. We watched in amazement, and some commented on how it could have been lightning, but how on a sunny September day? People began to run, scream, jump about almost possessed. Shouts of “everyone out” was followed by a charge of workers.
Energy levels began to rise, and the alarms began to sound. It seemed unlikely that there we were really going to evacuate, and if we did, we would find ourselves on the 14th floor being told that everything was secure, and return to work. This was soon retracted from my mind, so I had my rucksack and my jacket on, and I made my way to the exit. I don’t remember much about the journey to the stairwell other than walking out the door to the stairs and seeing it was jam-packed with people standing around trying to figure out quite what to do.
Floor 46. Firemen went up, overloaded with kit, sweat poured off them extras in the Die Hard movies. In the passing they told us to keep going. It got much worse for a couple of floors, but then the air began to clear. I was just an observer, more and more detached from the reality of what was taking place as I tumbled down each step.
Floor 29. We caught some word from people that a plane had hit the building.. People constantly stated how strange it was. I spoke a bit about how it could have been a terrorist attack. They would shake off my proposal, and I would repeatedly hear the word “accident”. Reality began to sink back in and worries of family began to sink in, questions raced through my head.
Floor 16. My heart began to sink as the rescue workers went up the stairs to do whatever they possibly could. No one knew at the time, that they were ultimately climbing to there deaths. Marching up the stairs like soldiers matching into battle.
Things began to accelerate dramatically in the lower teens. The line was moving faster, as the peoples spirits lifted and by the 2nd floor it was impossible to walk. Through all the hustle you could clearly hear the police at the bottom telling people to move on.
“Run as fast as you can, get away from the building. We’ve got no time”.
The police seemed extremely agitated and were literally pushing people out of the building. One small middle aged women asked what had happened and the reply received was what we had all been dreading. The shouts got louder as we left. “Go! Come on get a move on!”
I walked off in the direction of the Manhattan Bridge. I decided after my sprint, I would wonder with the other observers. I stopped dead in front of J C Penny’s and I turned round and saw what had become of the second tower. I could see the roaring flames, radiating brighter than the sun.
For seconds I watched it burn, thoughts evaporated from my mind. “I’m not going to die being!”. People stopped to take pictures. I had a number of urges to stop and shake them and scream “Get a move on . . .” I turned round to see which way would be most likely to dodge the snaking smoke when I saw the building collapse. A moment past. And another and finally I looked back and it was gone, everything was gone. There was no sidewalk. No bistros, no people, no Towers. I couldn’t her myself breath. I couldn’t feel the air entering my lungs, all I could feel was the thoughts now condensing in my mind, they were endless.
I stood upright in a street, which now had no name. In a city which had been in gulfed in smoke. In a country which had been utterly devastated.