The morning of September 11, 2001, was one of those times we all remember exactly where we were and what we were doing. It was the day that "life as we know it" ended. Normal took on a new meaning. America lost its innocence that morning. Heroes were born and heroes gave their lives. While women gave birth in nearby hospitals, many children would lose their parents in the nearby towers. People all over the world stopped their morning work in offices, schools, on the buses, and trains to watch the image on their television screen of the first tower of the World Trade Center after the plane hit. Their horror increased when the next plane hit the second tower. Many of us knew at that moment that this wasn't an accident. This was the beginning of a war. It would be a war unlike any we have ever known, a war on American land, and we would become soldiers.
I was photographing the attacks from my offices in Greenwich Village. Taking pictures from my fire escape, I met my neighbor for the first time when he heard me praying as I photographed the shocking event. The view I had enjoyed for more than twelve years was being destroyed before my eyes. People were dying. I was soon to learn that my neighbors roommate was working that morning in the first tower hit by the terrorist plane. For her privacy we will call her Jane. Six weeks after the attack, Jane told me her story.
Jane, who's in her early twenties, moved to New York City seven months before the attack. She had never been to the city when she accepted her company's offer to relocate from California. Shortly before the attack, she broke up with her boyfriend. Her job wasn't going as well as she'd hoped it would. She described herself as "messed up".
On the beautiful clear morning of the attack Jane got to work a little late. She worked for a bank on the 81st Floor. She said she was very busy typing on her computer, as were all the other employees on that floor, when the building shook suddenly as if there'd been an earthquake, knocking people out of their chairs.
Having grown up in the Bay Area of California, Jane was familiar with earthquakes. Even though windows surrounded them, the employees had been working too intently to see the plane hit the floor above theirs.
Now they could see pieces of an airplane falling from the windows above them. They made a quick decision to leave the building, believing they'd been hit by a small aircraft. They went calmly to the stairwells, which were still lighted as they made their trip down the stairs. She said that she occasionally would have to stand to the side as someone from the higher floor would come by screaming in pain from serious burns. She said one woman was so racked with pain that she turned her head to the side and looked at the wall so as not to see the extent of her wounds when she passed by. On the thirtieth floor they saw firefighters coming up the stairs. She said, "The poor firefighters had to stop to catch their breath as they carried the heavy equipment up the stairs." She said the firefighters assured them they were doing the right thing to continue their evacuation. She said she was most afraid of the smoke overcoming them, but the firefighters told them they would get out, so everyone continued to walk down the stairs in an orderly fashion. Two of her fellow workers stopped to assist an older woman who was having problems getting down the stairs, but she continued on with the rest of her co-workers until they got to the bottom floor. The trip took an hour. When they reached the bottom floor, they stepped into ankle-deep water. She held up her new Banana Republic pants, hoping she wouldn't ruin them in the water. There were firefighters and policemen on the bottom floor instructing them to go in a direction that seemed to her to be the longer way of getting out of the building. She found out later they instructed them to go in that direction to keep them from seeing the crushed bodies of those who had jumped from the windows, and parts of bodies. She noticed a crack in the foundation of the wall when they were in the shopping area of the bottom floor and wondered then "what could have happened to cause this much damage." She continued with her group of co-workers as at last they stepped out of the building. She had turned to a co-worker to ask for a cigarette when they heard a loud indescribable noise behind them. She said she didn't turn to look back, she knew. She started running. Ten steps later, glass from a window of the Borders store pushed her with so much force that it sent her sailing. She was thrown behind a large concrete flowerpot and a metal gate from a store landed on top of her. Within a minute after the noise, it was pitch black all around her and completely silent. She felt the gate on top of her and managed to push it forward. She pushed through debris in the darkness with her hands, struggling to breathe in the thick, dirt-filled air. She turned her head in every direction and couldn't see anything but darkness. She
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