9/11: Four Years Hence

This blogpost is a work in progress.

I stayed up until 2AM last night cradling Angel on my lap as he slept, trying desperately to knit this new fancy fringe yarn I picked up on a whim, and my ears were glued to programs devoted to the events that happened on 9/11 four years ago.  I can’t believe it’s been that long.  I have tangible memories of that fateful day because I was working but a few blocks away from the World Trade Center, with the non-profit I was working for on the water-side of Wall Street.

I remember I had come out of the subway, having ridden the 2-3 line which saw me getting out in the middle of Wall Street.  I walked out and saw paper flying from the sky, as if someone had thrown out a filing cabinet of loose leaf paper from some tall building.  The Twin Towers were not visible from my vantage point, but I overheard a young man talking into his cellphone saying there was a fire in one of the towers.  It was minutes to 9AM so I walked briskly to my building and sat there.

I was powering up and getting on with the business of the day when my boss and I were startled by a loud explosion.  At that time, I didn’t know it was the other plane hitting the second tower.  I got a call from Alan moments later telling me that his bus had been turned back before entering the tunnel.  Part of New York City’s response to emergency’s is to lock down the city, closing ingress and egress to Manhattan by shutting the tunnels.  He had seen the second plane hitting the other tower from the bus as it made its way to the city.

Minutes later, my sister who was visiting from Manila and staying at home called to say my brother had called to ask how we were because they were watching everything on CNN.  I logged onto the CNN website and got their updates — the television sets in our main conference room were on at this time and I saw the towers burning when I had to pull my boss out of the room to tell him his mother was on the phone.

A cousin from California called me to ask how I was as he knew where I was in relation to the World Trade Center.  I was paralyzed with fear knowing I was a long way away from home — Alan was going back and I was in the city.  I didn’t know what to expect as well as rumors started to run wild about what was happening outside.  I was busy trying to coordinate with Alan.  At this point, no one was leaving, and we were still getting bits and pieces of news.

When the first tower fell, smoke billowed down Wall Street as in a fireball and for a few moments, visibility was so poor we couldn’t see the building across from us.  Being an asthmatic, I knew I had no choice but to stay put.

It wasn’t until well after lunch when groups were mobilized for us to start leaving.  Our Human resources manager made sure nobody left alone.  I left with Chad, a fellow Pinoy and two others, and we decided we would walk to the nearest subway station that was open.  I didn’t realize I would have to walk to 14th Street, around 40 blocks down, before I could find a subway that would take me home to Queens.

Just outside our building, people were walking away.  One thing I cannot forget are the dozens of dead pigeons strewn on the street, as if something had hit them and they fell from the sky in midflight.  Perhaps it was the soot, their tiny beaks unable to take in the fallout from the collapse of the buildings. 

We walked and we walked.  Most of the stores were closed.  It wasn’t until we hit Chinatown that we found any stores that had food for sale.  Of all things, I got myself some siopao, some water, and we went on our way.

I managed to get a subway ride to 42nd Street where I picked up a ride on the 7 Train that took me straight to Main Street in Queens.  Alan was waiting to pick me up there — and I made it home in one piece.

The following days were a blur for New York City.  We stayed home because downtown was shut off from the public, and non-essential personnel were being requested to stay away.