A look back — and ahead.
Four years ago today the city I love was attacked. I was at the doctor’s office pretty far downtown. I asked the receptionist what all the commotion was outside. She couldn’t respond. I left the office. Chaos greeted me. People scrambling to use pay phones, screaming, running in all directions.
I looked up and saw the World Trade Center on fire, just blocks away. The blaze from the first building located near the top of the tower, and little black specs falling from the top. Those specs, I would learn, were people.
I managed to get on a crosstown bus. My mom called my cell from Jersey. “Terrorists have attacked the Pentagon, and the World Trade Center.” “Is Laura OK?” “Yes,” she said. I sat stunned, paralyzed. The bus stopped and the driver told us to get off because he couldn’t go any further. I walked on 14th, trying not to look behind me at the inferno and wreckage; trying to move on.
My mind began racing — are my friends dead or alive? My ex-boyfriend began a new job at the WTC and I had to call to see if he was alive. I tried him at home, he was there! He said he was transferred by the firm who hired him exactly two days ago. His new office was in midtown. “Why are you calling me anyway, you broke my heart…” and with that he hung up.
Just then I spotted flames rising from a parked car, people covered in white powder, running uptown like a mass exodus. A woman began to scream and I yelled at her, “Don’t panic, it’s just a car on fire…don’t alarm anyone.” I trudged to 89th street where I was living at the time with my friends Julie and Chris. I couldn’t wait to see them; to know they were alive and safe. There they were, with hugs and tears when I walked through the door. Some people from Julie’s office were there, too, unsure of how to get home. We climbed up the fire escape to the roof and watched the WTC smoldering in the haze. We hugged each other for a long time, and Julie was never the emotional sort, but she was crying the most.
Days later, I heard my cousin was the last person to see his friend Mark who worked in the WTC. Mark was my junior high crush. His sister knew mine since 1st grade. She paid us a shiva call when my brother died. Hers died that day. I have had dreams of Mark for years since, intermittently throughout the years. I never did get in touch with his sister, and to this day, especially today, I feel a tremendous gaping void in my heart.
Today I decided to volunteer at an elementary school sorting clothes to send to the victims of Katrina. Human suffering — one cycle after the next, tragedy begets tragedy, but it also brings us together and creates a more collaborative humanity.