Sunday, September 11, 2011

I'd been in NYC for 12 days.

I was in the shower and I heard the phone ring. I had just set up my landline the day before, and the only person who had my number was my mom. It was 6 am in California, so I was like, shit, who died? My roommate, Janet, answered the phone and went, “oh no… oh, that's terrible... I’ll have her call you.” Who died? I got out of the shower and threw some clothes on. Janet was eating cereal and watching tv. Two planes had hit the World Trade Center. We were four blocks away and somehow hadn’t heard it. We grabbed my camera and went up to the roof. I took three pictures, then we came back downstairs to our 9th floor apartment. My mom called again. I told her we didn’t have to evacuate. When I hung up, the building shook so hard I thought the windows would shatter. According to CNN, one of the towers had collapsed. My mom called again immediately, and I told her we were getting out of the building. We grabbed our, bags and t-shirts to cover our faces. The power was out, so we had to go down nine flights of stairs. By the 5th floor, the stairwell was full of dust and we couldn’t see. When we got to the lobby, the doorman desk was deserted, one of the swinging doors was shattered and the revolving door was stuck in a foot of rubble. Outside, you couldn’t tell it was daytime. A guy from our building and his neighbor and her dog were behind us. I grabbed Janet’s arm, she grabbed the guy’s arm, and the guy grabbed the neighbor’s arm. We had to cover our faces to avoid getting hit by shrapnel. Something lodged inside my eyelid and made it bleed. The guy indicated that we should go toward the east river, away from the towers. We headed east, then up through Chinatown. We stopped at a bodega and the guy, Jim, bought us all water. We would take a sip, spit out black sludge, and repeat until our throats appeared to be clear. I poured a capful of water in a stranger’s eyes, which were pasted shut by dust and tears. Jim caught a woman as she passed out. Somebody knelt down to kiss the neighbor’s dog. We heard screams, and looked up as the second tower collapsed. We were too far away and too exhausted already to run. We continued up through Chinatown, stopping to listen to radios and figure out what the hell was going on. I was certain the ground was going to blow up under my feet. It took us an hour to get to Dojo on West 4th. Jim bought us lunch and Janet and I got in line at a payphone. Nobody said so, but you weren’t supposed to stay on longer than to say “I’d like to make a collect call… Hi.. I’m safe, I love you, I'll call you later.” I called my mom. We left Dojo and headed toward the west village, where Jim had friends. We spend the next several hours connecting with his friends at restaurants, none of which were serving anything more than water and chips. Janet got in touch with her brother’s fiancee’s brother and I got in touch with my cousin’s fiancĂ©e. We would stay with the brother that night, and I would go up to my cousin’s apartment the next day. I managed to reach Angela on my CA-based cell phone, and called home again from payphones that night. My parents had gotten dozens of phone calls and had stayed glued to the tv all day. At the brother’s apartment, we watched CNN, then Comedy Central, then CNN again, and went to bed. I spent a week with my cousin, then two weeks in a hotel before I could go back to my apartment.