It was a beautiful fall morning in NYC and I was heading off to work downtown. The sun was shining and the sky was a brilliant blue, with white, puffy clouds.
Coming out of the subway, I stop at the street cart for the daily ritual that every other New Yorker performs on a workday morning. Blue cup and bagel in hand, I walk into my office building on Broadway and head to the elevators for the ride up to my floor. Good morning greetings and smiles done, I sit at my desk and turn on the computer.
I notice a buzzing in the office; people are gathering around the desks and my co-worker Maria is talking excitedly about the World Trade Center. I get up and head over to the NW corner of my office floor to look out the window at the Towers, because my floor has a great 360 view of Manhattan. Lovely when the City throws a ticker tape parade, or when you want to get a sense of the weather.
What…the…? I see a massive hole in the side of the North Tower and papers flying everywhere. We all stand there mouths agape and wonder what the heck is going on and what put that hole there, when every other day that tower looked normal. Little did I know that normal was gone, and would never come back to NYC.
More buzzing…people are running to the SW corner windows to see more and get a better view. I head to my boss’s boss’s office (he had the best view, natch) and he is standing and watching the South tower. It is intact, but not for long.
A plane appears while we are standing still and watching. This plane does not stop. There is a collision with the tower. A gigantic fireball expands from the tower and moves upward quickly. I think this is a movie (my first thought). Am I watching “Die Hard”?
My body moves while I am thinking this thought. My brain knows what to do after processing the above scene, because it takes over my body and commands it to move extremely fast.
I have physically moved from the spot I was standing on, but my thoughts are still in that office. Nice to know that in a catastrophe, your brain is the commander and the body is the crew that follows directions to the letter. Your consent is not needed nor asked.
I am now running full speed out of that office, along with everyone else whose eyes saw the unthinkable happen before them. There is no screaming, only fast talking and moving. I go to my desk and get my bag, and head for the doors that lead to the elevator bank…I do nothing else. We quickly account for everyone on my side of the office floor, and we lock the doors.
Everything is left as it was before I decided to get up from my desk and find out why this morning was different from other mornings. Every computer is still turned on and running. It is not the priority now, only escape matters.
The down elevator button is pushed hurriedly and repeatedly by quite a few people gathered around. Other folks are walking quickly in circles, willing the doors to open immediately. When they do, we find that the car is full of other anxious faces, ready to leave the building. Everyone is having the same thought: Must. Get. Out. Now.