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Five Years Later

Five years ago I was planning my wedding.  It was a month away.  I had an appointment with our photographer to take engagement pictures on the beach for the weekend.  I drove westward to my office in Warren, NJ, on a beautiful cloudless day, listening to the radio and singing along.  I didn't have any feelings of dread or premonitions that something really bad was going to happen.  There was no traffic, it was a great day. 

I was disappointed when,in the great Weddingchannel system change, my journals were lost.  I am such a geek thought, I had printed it out.  Here's what I wrote about September 11, 2001

In the Immortal words of REM: It's the end of the world as we know it.  Unlike Michael Stipe, I do not feel fine.  

Today started like any other morning.  I slept too late and had a hard time getting myself in gear to go to work.  I stopped at the bagel place on my way into the office for a raspberry bagel with raspberry cream cheese.  It's my current breakfast obsession.  I got to the office around 8:30.  I sat at my desk.  I checked my email and said hello to Michelle, the coworker whose cube is behind mine. 

Another co-worker a little down the way was on the phone.  We heard her talking, as we usually do.  Michelle turned around.  

"Did Tara just say that a plane flew into the World Trade Center???"

I spun around and we discussed how that might be possible.  Michelle and I both started trying to log in to news websites that cover breaking stories.  Just then our Art Director, Mike, walked in.  He told us that a second plane had crashed into the second WTC tower.  He said it was clear this was no accident.  We were under attack.  I freaked out and called Steve.  

Steve works with the government as a defense contractor.  He told me that there had been an explosion at the Pentagon but that it was unknown whether or not it was an attack or the result of construction that's going on there. 

Now it's after 9 a.m.  Everyone was in the office, everyone was trying to know what was going on.  My boss thought her best friend still worked at the top of the South tower.  She and Mike went outside to listen to the radio in his truck.  I scrambled around, making calls, losing my head, crying in disbelief, crying because I knew it was true.  

Then we heard that the north tower had collapsed.  We were unsure if that meant that the top of the building came off or if the whole thing crumbled.  Shortly thereafter, the second tower crumbled.  

My ridiculous company sent out  a mass email that said the interest rate had been frozen, but that our associates should continue to originate loans.  Whatever!!! I wanted to go home, I wanted to be with Steve.  I called my mom. 

Another plane crashed.  I needed to know where.  South western Pennsylvania.  Steve's parents live in a southwestern suburb of Pittsburgh, in the south western part of the state.  For all of the issues I have with Steve's parents, I didn't want to know that they were hurt --or worse, killed. 

No one knew whether it hit a building or people or where they had been headed.  Some people said Camp David or the White House.  

Finally, the big shots got together for a meeting and news started filtering around the office that we could go home.  I'd already gathered my things together, waiting for the word that I could leave. 

I take 78 east to the Garden State Parkway.  The speed limit is 65.  Cars were flying past me at 90 miles per hour.  It was either keep up with them or get run off the road.  I tuned my radio to an AM station and started calling people on my cell.  Steve, to let him know I was on my way home and to ask whether or not he wanted me to pick Rachel up from school.  My mom, to tell her I was going home and that I'd call as soon as I got there.  I tried to call my friend, Stef, who lives in Manhattan.  My cell phone line kept going dead.  

I moved further and further east, noticing that the sky looked strange, almost like at sunset, when streaky colored clouds stretch across the horizon.  I felt a physical jab when I realized the strange orange and brown cloud was a plume of smoke from the destroyed towers dissipating slowly over New Jersey.  I didn't know my body's own capacity to make tears.  I sobbed as I drove.  Hard. 

I sped down Highway 36, noticing that flags hadn't yet been lowered.  I turned off the highway into my little town.  I raced through the streets just wanting to know the comfort of being home.  Steve was already there.  He picked up Rachel from school and lowered Old Glory on the flagpole in our front yard. 

He hugged me so tightly and I prayed for him not to let me go.  We went inside the house.  Rachel was playing a game on the computer.  She knew something bad was happening but she didn't know exactly what. 

We watched the reports and the footage, the first I had seen.  I watched the second plane seem to fly through the building.  I saw the same building I sed to stare at from my attic window fall to the ground.  The whole thing.  We watched the cloud of smoke chase people across lower Manhattan.  It was as if we were watching Independence Day or some Arnold Schwartzenegger movie.  It couldn't possibly be real but every reporter made their commentary with the new New York skyline behind him or her.  I had to turn off the television and try to do something else.  

People I knew from college and hadn't talked to in years were calling to see if I worked in New York, of we were okay, what was going on... It was strange and I didn't want to talk about it.  I didn't feel like I really could talk about it yet.  All of my stress and fear regarding our wedding just vanished.  I wondered if our wedding would even happen as planned. 

I occupied myself by cleaning our house and putting away our shower gifts.  I went to bed early to read Harry Potter.  I tried to sleep.  I couldn't sleep.  I stayed up practically all night watching the news, seeing footage as it was released. 

At some point in the middle of the night, they let someone with a camera onto and into the pile of rubble.  One of the first shots was of the two long escalators that led into the shopping area from the PATH station underground.  I must have rode those escalators a hundred times.  They were now two stone handrails that led to nowhere.  There were fires burning around them.  They looked white and chalky- covered in rubble and dust.  If I close my eyes I can remember the last time I took the train through there.  There was a really good, fresh juice stand at the top of the escalator.  

I'm just stunned. 

I drove in to work this morning even though I really didn't want to and couldn't fathom focusing on such trivial mundane tasks.  My sotmach is in knots even now.  On the radio, they keep talking about people who narrowly avoided death through eerie gut feelings to just stay home or coincidences that kept them away.  I started crying again.  The radio played one patriotic song after another and I lowered my windows and turned the volume all the way up.  I stopped at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and a paper.  It was obvious I'd been crying so no one talked to me. 


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 12th, 2006 02:15 am (UTC)
I remember worrying about you that day. I didn't know if or how close you might be to the towers. I still can't believe that you didn't see any tv footage of it all until you got home.

It's weird... a lot of this post doesn't sound familiar except the part about seeing the towers from your attic window and the juice stand at the top of the escalators. I find it so amazing that you even ever got to see the buildings with your own eyes, or be in them. Honestly, before 9-11 I had heard of the "World Trade Center" but didn't know what it was, thought it was just ONE building somewhere in NY and didn't realize how often I saw it in the skyline in movies. How crazy how one day can change SO much.

I love you Jules and glad you & Steve and everyone you personally knew were okay that day.
Sep. 12th, 2006 02:31 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much, Lyd! I was all weepy and sad yesterday morning, but everything is better now. I'm getting all psyched for my trip this weekend.

The WTC was such a huge thing in the area-- you could see them from just about everywhere. I still cry when I drive up to my parents' house and see the hole in the skyline.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )