The morning started off in such a beautiful way. Had I known the horror that would follow, I would never have stepped foot outside my front door.
My wife, Andrea, and I have two children. One boy and one girl. Matthew is seven years old and has his mama’s eyes. Megan is three, and thankfully, she doesn’t look like me. She does have my dimple in her chin, but that’s where the similarities end. She is a mini version of the woman I married eight years ago. We had been waiting a week to hear from the doctor about a variety of tests they ran on Megan. The call finally came in that morning as we were sitting around the breakfast table.
With tears streaming down my face, I delivered the good news to Andrea. We bundled together in a small family group hug for several minutes. Whether or not the kids could fully understand what was taking place, Andrea and I were more than relieved that our little one would not have to undergo surgery. There were no handouts or instruction booklets attached to the children at birth. We’ve done the best we can, and believe that their long term damage, due to our inexperience, will be minimal. Taking Megan to the doctor had been one of the most terrifying moments in our lives as parents.
After a celebratory breakfast, I kissed the wife and kids goodbye and headed into work. My job is pretty boring, but it puts money in the bank and food on the table. Selling insurance isn’t glamorous by any means, but it allows me to provide for my family, and that’s what matters. My Dad taught me the value of hard work, and even now in my late thirties, I realize it doesn’t matter what the work is. If you perform to the best of your abilities, there are rewards. In this day and age, just having a job is a reward all in itself.
Traffic that day wasn’t as bad as a typical Tuesday. Most people think Mondays are the worst, but in the city, pretty much every day has its share of bad traffic. Some, who either didn’t own a vehicle or just wanted to enjoy the beautiful fall weather, plodded along the sidewalks. I had my window rolled down and could hear the usual sounds of activity that always infiltrated our chaotic streets. Continuous honking of impatient horns, the serpent-like hissing of buses starting and stopping, and the ever present shouting out for the attention of a cab driver.
Once inside the office, I greeted my co-workers and snagged a cup of steaming, hot coffee from the break room. It wasn’t Starbucks, but it would suffice. Once seated, I looked at the pictures on my desk and smiled. I had so much to be thankful for. So many people take the things they have in life for granted, myself included. I decided right then that our family would take a trip the following weekend. We needed to get out of the city and breathe in some fresh air. It had been too long.
I glanced at my desk calendar and frowned. On September 10th, the day before, I had jotted down a reminder to myself to call my Uncle who was celebrating a birthday. I had completely forgotten to call him. I picked up the phone, and then changed my mind. It wasn’t even nine yet. He might be sleeping in.
I heard, or rather felt, the first explosion around 8:45. It was one of those moments where you wait several seconds before reacting just to make sure you hadn’t imagined anything. As I stepped outside my office and saw the fear on everyone’s face, I knew something had indeed happened. The building shuddered, and someone across the room screamed. I ran back into my office and stood by the nearest window. From my vantage point on the 75th floor of the North Tower, I could look down and see the expanse of New York City below.
I walked around my desk and snatched up the phone. I dialed home and waited. After several moments of complete silence, a busy signal assaulted my ear. The call didn’t even go through. I pulled the cell phone from my pocket and held down the 2 button, which was speed dial for Andrea.
“Come on, Darling. Pick up. Please pick up.”
After five rings, the call went to voicemail. I pressed End and then dialed our home number. No answer there either. She must still be on her way home from taking Matthew to school. He hated riding the bus.
A co-worker, Phillip, burst into my office. “Rick! Let’s go. We need to evacuate the building.”
“I don’t know. Sounded like a bomb went off. There’s already smoke in the hallways, and the elevators are not working. We have to take the stairs. ”
I returned the cell phone to my pocket and followed him out. The main office was already clear of people who wasted no time in running for the exits. Smoke had already started to penetrate the air, and my eyes began to burn. We rushed into the hallway where we found small groups of people standing around, unsure of what to do. Phillip sprang into action and began to direct people towards the stairs. Several stood there crying. Some had cell phones out trying to make calls. It was an eerie scene.
I started to follow everyone else when I heard someone call out from an office I had just passed by. I stopped and looked. Through the gathering smoke, I noticed a man sitting on the floor. I rushed over to him. “What are you doing? We have to go!”
“I twisted my ankle and can’t walk. I think it’s broken.”
Movement flashed in the corner of my eye, and I turned toward a window. At first, I though it was building debris falling from the upper floors. I slowly walked across the office so I could get a better look. Once I realized what was happening, my flesh crawled in horror. Debris was indeed falling, but something else was hurtling toward the ground as well. Bodies. Before my stunned mind could comprehend what my eyes were witnessing, a plane appeared from around the building. My mouth opened in a silent scream as the aircraft slammed into the South tower.
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Have a blessed day