September 11, 2001:
“The morning after my 38th birthday, just blocks down the street from our loft, an airplane crashed into the World Trade Center. Mel had left extremely early for a board of directors’ meeting at work. I was still unemployed and was sitting at my computer shooting out resume after resume when I heard thunder and felt the ground shake. I assumed that Nobu had fallen down. There had been scaffolding around its building for months and I had always expected it to collapse and now it very likely had. In my thoughts I muttered, “Who cares… fuck Nobu… I can’t afford their overpriced haute Japanese food anyhow….”
The phone rang. Mel’s assistant asked whether I was okay and told me to turn on the television.
“You know I don’t watch TV,” I protested. “Just turn it on now,” she said in a scolding tone,
“There’s a disaster going on down the street from you.” I tuned in the small black and white television in our living space and saw the second plane crashing into the South Tower. I was starving and went out to get something to eat. People were wandering up and down Hudson Street and the air was full of smoke.
It was weird because I didn’t know exactly what was happening. At the time it was just a horrible accident, a double-airplane crash taking place in my own neighborhood. No one knew the magnitude of it yet, the everlasting global impact of what would be referred to ever after as 9/11.
I finally found a leftover breakfast vendor who sold me a bagel with cream cheese and jelly. I returned home and went back to my resumes, with Mel’s assistant calling every ten minutes to see what was going on in our neighborhood. It seemed that this plane crash thing was larger than any of us thought and the rest of the news was that a plane was crashing in Pennsylvania and several more were heading towards the White House.
I told Mel’s assistant everything was fine so far and not to call me for 20 minutes while I took a shower and got ready to go out. Of course the phone rang and rang and rang while I was in the shower. When I got out and answered, Mel’s assistant was hysterical thinking something had happened to me.
“What the fuck, I told you I was taking a shower,” I said crossly. “Mel wants to know what’s going on down there,” she said. “People are wandering around outside, it’s dark and cloudy and smelly and I can barely breathe,” I told her. “Well, get outta there,” she told me. Just then I heard cops outside with bullhorns telling all of us that we were being evacuated. At the time I didn’t know what exactly was going on or understand the scope of the disaster, and now it’s mostly a blur. I packed a few things for both Mel and myself, locked the door to our loft, and headed out onto Hudson Street.
There were cops everywhere, directing us to Canal Street. My bag was pretty heavy and by the time I reached Canal Street I was dazed and tired. There were Greyhound buses lined up all up and down Canal. With a crowd of neighbors I had never met, I was loaded onto one of the buses. The vehicle took off and I had no clue where we were going; like everyone else, I was confused, just staring out the window. In midtown we disembarked and I had no idea where I was. New York City looked just as I thought it might after a bomb hit it – or after two planes crashed and exploded into the World Trade Center.
I stumbled around with my heavy bag on my shoulder, trying to get my bearings. My cell phone was dead. Suddenly I saw Macy’s; I was in Herald Square. I started towards Mel’s office. I only had a vague idea where she had her board meeting. I knew the Teacher’s Union building was not far away, but it seemed everything was happening cinematically. My mind’s eye can remember myself on that day, trudging through the streets of post-apocalyptic New York City in slow-mo…”
~from Beautiful Wreck: Sex, Lies & Suicide by Stephanie Schroeder (Creative Evolution, New York, NY: 2012)
FYI, if you were involved in almost any way with a physical presence in or near the World Trade Center on or after 9/11, you might qualify for free health care through the WTC Heath Program, whether you have health insurance or not. I participate in the WTC Clinic at Bellevue Hospital and receive all my asthma medication for free along with regular check-ups and treatment(s) from a very nice, committed physician.
For more information about this program: call 888-982-4748 or visit http://www.cdc.gov/wtc