16 years ago today, I lived in Greenwich Village in a 175 sq ft apt.
I was a shy, naive, sheltered girl who just moved from St. Paul, Minnesota to the Concrete Jungle, otherwise known as New York City. I had no friends at the time but was living life day by day like everyone else.
It was always noisy, and you’d hear cars and horns honking early morning til late at night.
16 years ago today started like any other day except it was my day off work at the hospital. I was awoken with a loud BOOM.
Ugh construction noise.
Of course, I thought it was construction because there was something being repaired in this city every single day and it was the city that never sleeps.
I disregarded it and fell back asleep.
Shortly afterwards, I received a call and was told that the WTC building was on fire. Even still, I though “oh, a little fire -I hope everyone is ok”, but again, kinda just did my thing and relaxing in my tiny apt. A bit later I turned on the TV and it was all over the news – A PLANE had crashed into the WTC!
I had so many thoughts running through my mind. Was it a terrorist attack or a horrible accident? This isn’t really happening, is it?!
Then, I saw the second plane crash into the second tower.
Yes, it was a terrorist attack.
I immediately ran outside to look down Thompson Street, and it was swarming with people. We were all just standing there wondering what the hell just happened!?
Some people, like me, were watching, as bystanders, with their arms crossed. Others were on their cell phones giving the recipient on the other line a play-by-play. There were people with their cameras out documenting what they knew would be a significant day in our country’s history, although no one could have predicted what would happen next.
It may have been about 15 minutes or so I was hanging out with all these strangers … then an explosion and the first tower collapsed. A crazy, insane cloud of smoke filled the sky, and I stood there frozen watching everything that was happening like it was in slow motion. I can still see it so clearly in my mind … the tower just fell … collapsing so easily… I cannot believe I am watching this here, right now.
I was in utter shock.
I don’t even know how long I stood there as people were running up and down the streen, to this side and that side, trying to make sense of what just happened.
There were screams, wails and cries echoing all around me.
I distinctly remember the couple in front of me – her face filled with tears, beat red like a tomato, mouth wide open and in utter pain, sadness and sorrow. She grabbed her friend and buried her face into his army green jacket, and just cried.
Meanwhile, I just stood there – motionless and emotionless.
I looked around and people were hugging each other, others were in their cell phones trying to call loved ones, some were brought to their knees and their hands clasped over their mouth, and meanwhile I still stood there frozen.
You could see the monstrous dust cloud expand and fill the sky.
At this point, I had no emotions.
I just thought to myself … do I go down there? Should I go down there?
MY GOD – what is happening.
Then, like all nurses, emergency mode kicked in, and I needed to get my butt to the hospital.
I don’t even know how long I stood there for but then – BOOM.
Second tower went down.
This was a nightmare. The cries only got louder and you could hear people screaming “OH MY GOD!! OH MY GOD!! WHAT JUST HAPPENED?! I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS JUST HAPPENED!”
It became total chaos. I had to push against the crowd to get back to my apartment.
Once I got inside, I grabbed my gear and sprinted to the nearest hospital. As I entered the lobby, there were crowds of healthcare professionals from surgeons to dentists, psychologists to optometrists, nurses and volunteers ready and waiting.
And we waited…
And no one came in.
They suggested some of us go further downtown to Bellevue hospital to see if they might need support there. A few of us took the trek and found that it was the same situation there.
We just waited for the injured to come in. But very few did.
There were NO survivors.
It was eery. Quietly eery.
After several hours, we were sent home and left our contact numbers in case they needed us later. Of course, you know now, they never called us to come later.
As I walked home, the streets were packed like sardines. Buses were overcrowded, hundreds of people were walking home…some with dust on their faces, arms and clothes, others with scrapes on their faces. You could tell some were just dazed. You could see despair on other people’s faces. The cabs were occupied by the lucky few and all the train stations were shut down.
Things started to sink in and the emotions just overcame me.
I walked home bawling and thinking about all those people who were in that heat and those people who were trying to escape the burning building, and those people who were trying to rescue everyone…they were moms, dads, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, people. They never had a chance.
16 years ago, approximately 3000 innocent people died.
Please don’t ever forget.