September 11th and we always remember. Every detail stays with us.
I live in Greenwich Village and on September 11th 2001 at about 8:45, I stood in front of a mirror and applied eyeshadow. It was election day, and I was getting ready to go to vote before I went to work.
Suddenly, I felt our four story house shake. The NPR voice on the radio disappeared and I heard screams from the street.
The front door flew open and my husband Nick yelled, “A plane just slammed into the World Trade Center.”
What? Impossible, I thought. The radio voice was there again. “A plane crashed into Tower One at the World Trade Center.” “
I had only one thought. I have to go.
I called my news desk, at WWOR-TV and FOX5 NY. The assignment editor urged, “Go. Go now.” I pulled on a black dress, put on sneakers and stuffed my makeup, my notebook, and a bunch of other stuff into a backpack and asked Nick to come to help me.
We saw the towers from the corner of Bleecker Street and 7th Avenue South.
A woman ran toward her building screaming, “I saw it. I saw it.” Tears streaked her face. Neighbors clustered in small groups. They stared in horror.
Black smoke and flames sprouted from the north tower. A neighbor said, “I saw the plane. It flew so low over Sixth Avenue that I thought it would crash here. ”
Nick and I walked south against a tide of thousands. They headed north on Varick Street and who could blame them? The north tower was burning and everything seemed uncertain and unknowable.
My phone linked me to the newsroom and I learned that a plane crashed in Pennsylvania and a third plane flew into the pentagon.
“How could this happen?” Nick and I repeatedly asked each other. “Where were the warning systems? Where was the CIA? Where were the government watchdogs?”
We lost the cell phone connection near Canal Street. We reached the burning towers and stared dumbly, helpless and horrified. We wanted to do something, but what?
Four plain clothes N.Y.P.D. detectives appeared out of nowhere. A strange slow roar seemed to leap from the earth itself. “She’s coming down. Run,” one of the detectives shouted above the deep growl.
The sky darkened and grey and white matter floated through the air. The south tower crumbled.
It seemed like a slow motion nightmare. We ran north with the crowd. Two blocks up, we turned back. Tiny white figures in the dark slots of the upper floors of the north tower tumbled out and floated in the air moving down and down and down.
“No. Don’t,” I heard my voice scream when I saw another figure in a window. A man next to me said, “They have no choice. It’s burning behind them.”
Unimaginable. How could you choose between a burning death and a jumping death?
I had to find a working phone. McDonald’s on Chambers Street was closed but the bewildered manager let me in. They had a fax phone that worked and he let me use it.
The FOX 5 live truck was headed our way. Nick and I rushed to meet it. Then, One World Trade groaned and collapsed. The sky darkened even more violently and thick gray dust and smoke covered lower Manhattan.
The dark cloud trailed us as we ran the few blocks to find the TV truck.
For the next week, I reported live. I held the microphone for people with stories to tell. Some searched for loved ones, others grieved. Many came to dig to try to rescue anyone who was left. Some worked in the morgue and talked to try to clear their heads.
A doctor said he jumped on his motorcycle outside of the Archive building on Christopher and headed toward the burning buildings. He told us that he began to help people injured by falling debris. An emergency technician worked beside him and helped. But then, the north tower began to collapse. The man helping yelled, “Take cover Doc.” The doctor slid under a fire truck as the tower came down and when the debris settled he couldn’t find the emergency technician.
He wanted to find this man, and used our microphone to call out to him. “You called me Doc. He said. If you’re still alive, please let me know.”
Parents from Long Island, held a photo of their son in front of the camera and asked if anyone had seen him.
Rescue workers, still covered in bits of debris, talked about the struggle to get people out alive and some told about the thrill of actually finding a person they could help.
A preacher who volunteered in the morgue said simply, “I have never seen anything like this in my life. I never thought that I would see anything like this.” And then his voice cracked and he wept.
There are so many of these stories and they are indelible.