My alarm blares by my ears at 7:30am, and I roll over to shut it off. Dreading to get out of bed, I finally throw the covers off of my body and swing my legs to get up. Getting ready as I’m brushing my teeth, I run over to my laptop and print my paper due today. Regrettably, I stayed up late last night procrastinating to finish a three week paper, so then I spent my entire morning scrambling through my book bag while avoiding toothpaste and saliva to drip from the corners of my mouth.
My phones starts buzzing, alerting me it’s already 8am, and I need to get to my 9:00 class. With my luck, well, I frankly don’t have any. Misfortune and a mess of things always seems to take play into my day.
Shuffling through my papers, I double-check my assignments, guaranteeing everything is there. I cannot afford a low grade. I tie my hair back into a bun, swing my book bag onto my shoulder, and scramble my shoes onto my feet, hopping my way out of the door.
It took about thirty minutes for me to get from my apartment to Broadway Street. Walking along the streets, the usual morning rush of people overwhelmed the concrete, as if so many people and their steps were making the ground shake beneath our feet.
I spot the subway I take to get to Stony Brook Manhattan, hoping I can make it in time. I check my watch: 8:37. At this rate, I’ll be late, but it’s better to be late rather than way-past-the-hour late. Lightly jogging to the subway ahead of me, the rush of people begin to run the other direction, pushing me away from the subway. At first, all I hear are the noises of people talking, car engines running their gas, and it overall feels like the typical day in Manhattan.
However, as I thought it was a typical morning, I begin to hear the sound of a vibrating, threatening plane from a distance that seemed to soar right above our heads, and then police sirens and the ambulance start rushing southwest of the subway.
At that moment, I completely disregard the fact that I’m supposed to be getting on the train right at this second to turn in an urgent assignment that can potentially drop me from the class, but as the hectic crowd dragged me towards the incident, even from a few streets away, I can feel the terror attacking the Twin Towers.
I check my watch again. 8:46am. Clambering among the streets, I can hear the taunting ambulance sirens, firefighters in their black and neon-yellow striped uniforms, and the static voices speaking through their walkie talkies. Overhearing the yelling amongst the fighters trying to save them, it was stated that the plane has crashed into the North Tower through floors 93 and 99.
With fear and the erratic sensation overwhelming my body as I process what’s going on, I begin screaming. My heart pulsates, making my hands and entire body quiver. I begin running towards the buildings, trying to find some way to help. That’s all I want to do.
Dashing through the streets concentrated with other individuals sobbing and voices shrieking out, on my way over, a second plane strikes the South Tower, and I stop running.
I stand there, panting, trying to catch my breath, but all I can do is scream. I scream. I scream and I scream until it feels like my vocal chords are bleeding, and tears stream down my face.
Staring into the sky, I see clouds of smoke padding the air into an entire screen of grey. The incomprehensible factor to it all drives me insane, trying to figure out why the hell this has to happen. My lungs feel heavy, my legs feel as if they can hardly move, and my head throbs in torment. I look up, and I spot a small black figure falling from the South Tower. Right then, it felt as if the entire side of Manhattan began screaming. I catch a fireman speak into his walkie talkie, “Repeat that, please?” From the other end, the static voice replies, “People are starting to jump!” I can feel the tense strain in his voice. “They’re trying to save themselves somehow.” The fireman exhales in desperation, and charges towards the site.
Pacing back and forth, my eyes blur from the mixture of fire smoke and the tears in my eyes. Focusing my eyes, I search my surroundings, and I spot a little boy standing by a tree, wailing for help as he points up above his head. He’s looking around, and his face moves towards my direction, and I can hear him bawling, “Mommy! Mommy!” through sniffles in between. Surrounding him, there is no woman who can possibly be his mother nor is there anyone paying attention to him. Racing towards him, I kneel down on my knees, so I’m at the same level at him. Grabbing him by the arms, I make eye contact with him.
His eyes, matched with mine, are red and surging with pain and horror. Acknowledging the stranger holding him, he continues crying, “Mommy! Mommy!” except it grows fainter, slowly giving up on his hopes of security. This young, innocent boy in a suiting light blue collared shirt is far beyond pure to experience this despair. I will not let him stand here and accept this. I will not let him. This world still has so much to offer – looking up at the buildings – no matter how horrid it can be.
The young boy and I still do not break our eye contact. “Mommy? Where is she?” I ask him in urgency.
He sniffles, swallowing down his tears and croaks, “She went to look for daddy.” His lip begins to quiver, unable to continue.
“Okay, sweetie, where is daddy?” My eyes dagger into his in seriousness.
At first, he’s hesitant to tell me, too afraid to come to the truth as if he already knows what it is. “He went to work this morning. He’s inside.” He tells me.
As soon as his sentence finishes, we hear a thunderous rumble. Instinctively, I stand and cover the young boy with my body in an attempt to protect him. I can feel his arms wrap around my legs, and his damp face wets my t-shirt.
My ears are ringing, and I realize the boy’s ears must be ringing as well. I cover his, and look up at the sky, seeing that the South Tower completely collapses to dust.
My heart aches more and more as this goes on. “No… no… no no no no no,” I’m hyperventilating. No, this cannot be happening. No no no no. Where… Why… Make it stop, please make it stop.
The blue collared shirt catches my eye. I stare at the boy, and I realize that he will not be allowed to stand here and watch these people die. Rushing towards him, he sees I’m coming after him, and he spreads his arms out with his face still covered in tears, and I pick him up as he wraps his entire body around mine. “You will be okay. We’re not strangers anymore, okay? I am your friend and you will be okay.”
With the tragedy happening, I didn’t think it mattered whether or not he believes me, but I do know that even hearing simplistic words like that would bring some sense of comfort. Carrying him over, I transfer him over to a firefighter, “He was just standing there. His mom went to look for her husband who’s apparently in the building,” I tell him. The firefighter nods at me, and I look once more into the little boy’s eyes, “You’ll be okay.” I hug him, and run back.
Sprinting back and forth around the site, I search for anyone who needs comfort or just a mere hug. There wasn’t much else I could do being that I was just walking along the streets, but I will not stand by and let this be. I’ve lived my entire life finding my place in this world, trying to discover who I am, and at this moment, I knew who I needed to be right now, even if it was just temporary.
Pieces from the building are being flung around the area, creating a dangerous environment even for the people not in the building. They evacuate the premises and policemen start pushing people back. Another roaring explosion masks over our heads, and every pair of eyes fixes to the North Tower collapsing.
From there, I knew there wasn’t anything else I could really do. I was standing there, watching two buildings holding about three thousand lives become lifeless.
I felt like if I could do anything, I wish I would’ve been able to be a giant and just caught the planes in my fingertips before it even hit the buildings. Or that I could trade lives with at least one person in one of those buildings because if someone were to die, at least let it be someone willing to make the sacrifice. Those people in there have families and spouses who care so dearly, and I was down here crying with them. I wish I could’ve saved at least one person and one family.
A rescue and recovery act commences immediately, but there wasn’t much to recover as all that was left was unfixable damage, including the broken hearts of many. Including mine. For those I didn’t know, and for those I had just met.
I remember the screaming.
I remember the tears masking our faces, making us unrecognizable.
I remember the people pacing with me and falling to their knees, punching the ground in desolation and misery.
I remember knowing that I and millions of other people watching this even on live television were petrified at the known fact it was deliberate, and a twisted, wicked man wanted thousands of us killed.
I remember the little boy who doesn’t have parents anymore.
I remember the pain.
I remember the suffrage.
I remember what happened on September 11, 2001.
I remember the silence that came throughout the country on that day till the crack of dawn.
I remember, and I always will.