by Jack Watts
That morning, I usually took the 6 to Courtland Street to get to my job at a law firm, just a few blocks from World Trade Center. I overslept and had to take a cab down the FDR. Traffic was unusually terrible, and the cabbie told me about a plane that had flown into the World Trade Center.
I couldn’t help but think how terrible, assuming a pilot must of had a heart attack. The cabbie immediately said no it’s terrorist. That was an unfamiliar term at the time. I got out and was trying to get to my building, but it was somewhat chaotic. Plus, my cell phone was not working. I wanted to call work to let them know that I was going to be late, because a plane had flown into the World Trade Center.
As I was about two blocks from World Trade Center, everyone start screaming. We looked up, and that’s when the second one hit. Everything was a little vague after that, but I do remember heroes—lots of heros. The main message from the NYPD was to head north head north. There’s another plane that might be coming.
Head north. I was waiting in line at a pay phone to call my mom to tell her I was okay. I also wanted to know if she had heard from my sister, who also lived in NYC, but the line didn’t move. What I saw, while waiting in line for twenty minutes I will not share.
Realizing that this event was bigger than I could comprehend, I eventually followed the direction of the brave and screaming FDNY that was pleading for us to head north. Looking back, I was in shock. Everything seemed be in slow motion. I saw an old lady crying, and a high schooler.
I approached them and grabbed their hands. They were strangers too. They had nowhere to go, as the bridges and tunnels were closed. Our cell phones did not work, and one of the twin towers was starting to fall. Walking and then running away from one collapsed building in terror, the most overwhelming thought in my mind was trying to find my sister, Laurie, who also lived in NYC.
We all had soot on us, and my feet were bleeding. But we were alive and so many others weren’t.
My sister lived in Soho, and I wanted to find her. So, we all just started walking and running north to Soho. For some reason I was convinced that when I found her everything would all be okay. But when we got to her apartment, we rang and rang the doorbell, but she never answered. Little did I know, but she was at her best-friend Katie’s house just a few blocks away.
So, the teenager, the old lady, and I went to the shark bar around the corner. That’s where we saw the second tower tumble. We thought we were finally out of the white soot, but it was slowly creeping up towards us; so we decided to keep walking north. I lived on 51st, in midtown, and I was concerned the old lady might not be able to make it.
My feet were still bleeding from my shoes, and it was hot outside, unusually hot for September in New York City. There was a Muslim cabdriver that was giving survivors free rides north. When he stopped for us, despite his minivan being packed, we got in the back hatch and he drove us about 20 blocks north with the back hatch open.
He couldn’t take us any further north than the United Nations, because that whole area was blocked off for security reasons. I had about another 20 blocks to go. The last leg of our journey was humbling. People of all faiths, races, etc had set up tables along 2nd Avenue, and they were handing out water, crackers, doughnuts….to the mass exodus that was “heading north.”
People offered us places to stay. We finally got to my apartment, but the Internet did not work; and the cell phones still were not working. It wasn’t until 1:30 p.m. that I was able to get an AOL IM message to a vague acquaintance, through the old internet dial up connection to call my mom. I sent her a message telling her that I was alive. I was not able to speak to her until 3:30 p.m. to find out that Laurie was okay.
The rest of the day was kind of a blur. The two women stayed at my house all day. I couldn’t tell you their names, and never saw them again. I can honestly say, that the most I have ever wanted my Dad was on that day, when I was twenty-four years old.
That is where I was, and what happened on September 11, 2001.
(I found this true story so compelling that I simply had to share it with y’all.)