Living Through the Surreal Days
But my experience was insulated by distance and the safe cocoon of my car. For three days we in this city have sought out friends, the simple phrase "Are you okay?" crossing back and forth over the struggling telephone network.
Using Sprint PCSs wireless web service and my laptop, I returned emails from friends and family while sitting in my car waiting for a ferry during my arduous journey home on Tuesday. The difficulty and expense of setting up the wireless connection a month or so ago is completely justified by this single, timely usage.
My call to a friend who is a New York City fire fighter on Wednesday morning woke him from much deserved sleep -- weeping with relief I apologized and hung up. Later I learned that he was on site when the buildings collapsed and barely escaped.
A friend with whom I spent the day sailing on Sunday was approaching the World Trade Center in an bus when the first plane hit. He screamed at the driver to keep driving, don't stop beneath the building. The driver went on over to the river where the passengers were able to get on a ferry to New Jersey. He was on the phone assuring his mother that he was all right when he watched the second plane strike. He spent the night in a stranger's apartment.
Another friend was dropping off her baby at the World Trade Center daycare center. When she heard the plane hit she grabbed her child and another infant and, along with the other adults in the center, started to run. She ran blocks into Chinatown, with the help of a stranger for a while, sharing a taxi with other women for a while. Eventually she contacted the other baby's parents, and after some difficulty managed to return their child to them. All of the children in the center, which was on the ground floor with doors to the outside, were saved.
Another American Express employee was running late for work. She was still near home when she heard the news on the car radio. She called a co-worker at the office, who did not know what the explosions she was hearing were, and ordered her to grab everyone in sight and run north. Immediately.
In the pool at Bally Total Fitness on September 13 a woman who was trying to summon the energy to swim laps explained that her neice's husband was missing. "I just don't seem to have any energy today," she sighed in understatement.
I returned a frantic call from Antonia, the Barcelona resident who is currently in Atlanta, and shortly received email from friends of hers in Spain who were aghast that this disaster in the US could reach so far as to touch them, too, by virtue of fearing for my life.
The stories you've heard via the national media are a tiny sampling. The reality here is virtually impossible to convey. As I write this, in the north east corner of The Bronx, the acrid smell caried on the southerly breeze makes my tongue tingle. I could claim that it is also what makes my eyes tear up, but that would not be the truth.