My first inkling that anything might be wrong was an early morning phone call. You know the kind, they are never filled with good news and you hoped that you did not lose anyone close to death.
This was obviously different. Terrible. A nightmare.
I was living in the Bay Area with my now ex-girlfriend. We had a small one bedroom apartment that was big enough to be quaint yet small enough to be claustrophobic at times. The phone was in our bedroom. I don’t know if I answered or not, but the message was quick and adamant:
Turn on the television!
I staggered out of bed and down the hall- my feet numbed with coldness by the time I got to the living room. When I hit the power button I could see the devastation.
_____, I shouted! Get out here! You won’t believe what is happening!
When she got to the couch a few moments later I was numb with disbelief.
We did not move for the next hour or so- both of clinging to each other in desperation, sadness and slight fear. Neither of us wanted to go to work, but being the good worker bees we were, we did.
I begged her not to go. She worked near the financial district and already we had heard the Transamerica building was a possible target (crazy five years later to think about it, but shockingly realistic at the time). Time after time she told me it was ok and if I was going to work, she was going to work. My mother had begged us not to take the Bart or Muni.
Getting to work for me was always fun. I could walk to work in 30 minutes or take the bus. Sometimes, I walked and then caught the bus. That day I was at the hands of the oft maligned SF mass transit system. The trip reminded me of the times when I had some strict bus drivers when I was in grade school-- silent. Hardly anyone spoke the entire time. Also, the bus was only a third full on a route that was usually overflowing during the morning rush hour. The streets were empty as well. It was a spooky and surreal atmosphere. Even the transients were missing from the always entertaining/heartbreaking 16th and Mission intersection.
By the time I stepped off the 22-Fillmore, I was thinking of the things I should do as soon as I stepped into the building. I worked for the Bay Area’s PBS/NPR station. As you can imagine, it was a beehive of activity. In my department, my boss was one of the major point people (the biggest in my opinion) for station travel arrangements. Already, I was trying to think of who might be on a trip today and were they on the East coast for any reason. ______ was never in before me (but always stayed much later than I did), so it was up to me to look at our travel log and report it to the people who might need it most. ______ had beaten me to it if I can remember correctly(phoning in all the appropriate information). When I rushed around the building looking for the CEO and COO, they already knew it and even gave me information about travelers I was not aware of. Luckily for all of us there, we did not have anyone on those ill-fated flights.
Now I could slow down my actions. I did what I thought was the most important thing. Everyone else in the building that was not devoted to news coverage or keeping us on the air was rooted to a television somewhere; and at that point, I found myself looking at a large monitor that had been rolled out into the atrium.
I remember standing in front of the screen.
I watched a replay of one of the towers coming down.
I didn't know one of the towers had fallen. It must have happened on the way to work. I was deaf to all sound. I think tears were streaming down my face. ____ came over to me and put his hand on my shoulder and asked if I was all right. I replied that I didn’t know. He told me to sit down.
I was going into shock.
Again and again the tower fell and you could not take your eyes off of the screen.
I have no memory of the other tower coming down. I just know that it did.
(to be continued)