September 11: Six Months Later
Six months ago this morning, the sky was crisp blue, freshly scrubbed from an overnight thunderstorm. As I dried myself from a shower, I heard the first report on WNYC-AM: a plane had hit the World Trade Center. It was an eyewitness account from a janitor at the radio station who had seen the entire thing from the station’s roof near City Hall. He was terribly shaken.
My phone rang. It was Jennifer, who was watching everything on TV. I rushed into my clothes, pledged to call her from the top of 56th Street, and ran out the door. From the top of my street, it looked like Mount St. Helen’s was erupting right here in my city. Everyone was looking up, flabbergasted. My cell phone didn’t work.
In my mind, it was still an accident, not an attack. I walked to the post office to buy stamps — mailers for my new CD “Crash Site” had to go out — and stopped in at Starbucks like any other day. But traffic began to thin, and sirens boomed through the canyons of Midtown. I passed an electronics store where a crowd had gathered and glimpsed the fiery maelstrom through the corner of my eye. I passed a construction site where the foreman was barking orders at his crew: secure the area. I descended into the subway to take the NR downtown.
The ride was stop and go “Due to a police incident at World Trade Center.” Passengers read their papers and kept quiet, as always, but with their eyes jacked open, their ears perked for the next announcement. When I finally emerged on 14th Street, I headed straight for University Place, where I knew the view of the WTC would be clear. It was: for me and thousands of other pedestrians standing virtually motionless in the middle of the street.
I stood silently, mouth agape, as the towers spewed flame and acrid black smoke. I didn’t feel anything, to be honest, just shock, maybe, numbness. I remember being angry at all the people snapping photos and shooting video as a NPR on a nearbye car stereo got me up to speed: two planes, both towers… The Pentagon.
And then the first tower collapsed silently before me. I steadied myself on the nearest building against the void of uncertainty before me.