‘DING!’ ‘The doors are now opening’
I stepped out onto the 108th floor of the World Trade Centre. Although it was only 8:30am the office was very much awake and very much alive. I made my way to my desk and put my lunch in my drawer.
‘Claire, Claire!’ It was my apprentice calling me from across the room. ‘Claire!’
‘Yes, Pete’ I sighed. Pete had come to work for us just as an apprentice but he was looking for a permanent job. In an attempt to make a good impression he often came in early to do more work, which appeared to be annoying me.
I made my way across the room to him. His desk was near the window; he had a lovely view of the city. It was a beautiful autumn day. I could see a few trees, their leaves glowing gold in the morning sun. The windows on the other buildings were glittering like a million diamonds had been scattered on the city. People on the street below were scurrying like ants trying to reach work on time. It was a stunning blue sky, it was unspoilt. A few lonely wandering clouds were lost in the oceans of blue hat surrounded them. I spent what seemed like ages in mine and Pete’s own little world, toying with numbers that didn’t up. But when we’d finally sorted it out I brought myself back to the real world and made my way back to my desk.
‘Claire!’ it was my apprentice again, I sighed as I turned in his direction, but my eyes never met him. They were frozen on what I saw through the window. For a split second the golden trees were covered in shadow. It looked like a plane, but I couldn’t be, why would a plane be brushing the tops of the buildings? This was quickly followed by a massive explosion and a jolt that threw me to the floor! I looked around, my brain trying to piece together what happened.
Everyone in the room was in a state of panic, but it didn’t matter to me, I couldn’t think. I couldn’t believe. All of a sudden Pete was by my side.
‘What do we do Claire?’ his voice sounded panicky and desperate, ‘what do we do?’
I didn’t know what to do. We were prepared for fires, for earthquakes, but not this, not for a massive plane crashing into the building.
‘Can we get down the stairs?’
My colleagues told me we couldn’t. The lower down you got the hotter it got. It was like descending into hell. Some people from the restaurant above had come down looking for a way out, but there wasn’t one. We couldn’t go down and we couldn’t go up. The door to the roof was locked.
The woman from a few desks along from mine was frantically dialling a number into her phone. I wondered if she was phoning for help, but this call was much more important.
‘I’m stuck in my office, I can’t get out!… I love you too, tell Johnny and Sam that I love them… You promise they’ll get us out?… I’ve got to go, I love you so much’
The reason for her hanging up the phone so soon was that the room was being consumed by smoke. It was getting harder and harder to breathe.
There were shards of glass everywhere. Someone had smashed a window in an attempt to get some clean air. But as a result the fire was becoming all-consuming. We could hear the screams coming from below as the flames brought people to the end of their existence on earth.
Pete had smashed the window in front of us and we, just for a second, were overwhelmed by how good something as simple as breathing could be.
I gazed down from the hellish heavens that were once a haven of happiness. The street directly below was empty, but beyond this there was a mass of what I assumed were people, but from this height they looked like nothing more than the static from your TV.
Pete was dangling from the window, holding only onto the supports of the building so as to make room for others.
Unexpectedly there was a monumental blast and the whole building shook. This was too much for Pete’s already tired muscles. He lost his grip.
I felt hopeless as I watched his face turn to horror. It was although he was silently screaming fro me to help him. But I couldn’t. There was nothing anyone could do. The situation was hopeless the whole situation was hopeless.
His body twisted and turned almost in slow motion. It was, graceful, elegant, almost peaceful, but at the same time it could have been mistaken for a scene from a horror movie.
Then the fall stopped.
I wished I’d spent more time with him, I wished I’d helped him more. I wished I hadn’t disliked him for what he was…
As my eyes travelled back up the building they froze onto… onto…it was undescribable.
Where gleaming windows used to be was now an anomaly of destruction.
An innumerable number of people were now crammed against the windows. The situation was uncontrollable. I didn’t want to die, but I knew I was gong to. I didn’t want to burn, I didn’t want my life to be snatched from my fingertips. If my life was going to be taken from me I was giving it away.
I thought of Pete, what was he feeling as he fell, did he feel himself hitting the tarmac?
Then I stopped thinking, I didn’t want to think. I edged forwards, I took my left foot off the ledge.
My body became hot. I felt unsafe. I was scared. There was no going back. I took a deep breath. I wanted to jump but at the same time I couldn’t. I thought of my fiancï¿½, we were getting married in the spring. He worked in the south tower. Sometimes we could see each other through the windows. He was probably out of the building, in the crowd below, looking up at me worried.
I think we were probably sharing the same feelings, fear apprehension and terror.
All too soon my right foot had left the ledge.
I was falling.
It seemed like years, it felt like I was flying. It wasn’t exactly nice, but it wasn’t bad.
And then there was nothing.
My fiancï¿½ didn’t get out; he died when the building collapsed. But at least we’re together. I didn’t think anyone will ever forget that day. I never thought when I got up that morning that it would be my last morning.
I am now full of regret, wishing I’d savoured my breakfast, phoned my mum instead of watching that documentary. But I suppose that’s the way it is. Pete’s here with me now, still as annoying but I don’t let that bother me. One day it might be the last day.
One day will be the last day.