A Year Later
by Jason Roth
I was running late for work. I had heard that a plane had hit one of the towers before I left my apartment, and on the bus, the driver announced that the Lincoln Tunnel had been closed for security purposes. I got off at the ferry to try it as an alternative. As people departed the ferry arriving from NY, someone said that he heard the Pentagon had just been bombed. At that point, I knew something organized was happening, so I didn't get on the ferry. I walked back into the ferry terminal, and saw a TV on in a dry cleaning store. As I watched the TV, the first tower fell. I couldn't believe it. I needed to see it with my own eyes.
As I exited the ferry terminal, I saw people crying and frantically trying to use the payphones. Their cell phones weren't working, but neither were the pay phones. People were crying. They must have known people in those buildings, or who could have been there. I left the terminal, and looked across the Hudson River. It looked like a mushroom cloud over one of the buildings, and smoke was pouring out of the other. Some idiot said "That's a good way to get sympathy for your cause." His words implied "the cause might be justified" even when the cause required a skyscraper full of people to fall down. I stared at the building - it was the most perverse sight I had ever seen: ONE Twin Tower! I wanted to get back home, because no one had a radio, and I needed to hear news, I needed to hear what was happening. I started walking back home (which would have been a 20-30 minute walk), and continued to look back at the one smoking building.
When I reached a condominium building, which I pass daily and is now a more painful spot to me than any relative's grave, I saw the second building fall. I thought it was bombed. Another mushroom cloud enveloped over the island. The size of the smoke clouds was something that TV never conveyed. That smoke cloud was the only thing I had ever seen so close to Manhattan that rivaled the majesty of the skyscrapers themselves. I'm no longer religious, but it felt like hell on earth. It felt like war. I knew then and there that this was a war.
I stared, not even close to comprehending all the implications of the two buildings collapsing. At that moment, I didn't know that my father had escaped from Tower 2 unhurt. I didn't know he had a meeting that day in the building. Thank God I didn't know.
I stood looking at the hole in the New York skyline. The vision was like going outside one day, and seeing that the sky was red. It was as if reality itself had altered. As if reality was replaced by the spirit of evil in physical form. "Evil", the once-abstract concept, existed there in front of my eyes, as a solid mass of smoke and debris. I tried to make my mind grasp everything the sight implied, but I couldn't. I wanted to cry, to scream, to hit something. I couldn't.
I turned back. I started the long walk back to my apartment, and soon a car stopped and the driver asked me if I wanted a ride. I took it. The man had his radio on (of course), and I don't remember a word said, just that a chaos of words were describing the chaos of what I had seen.
The man let me out at my apartment, and I went up and in. A message was on my machine, and I played it. My mom wanted to know if I was ok. She knew I didn't work near the World Trade Center, but she wanted to be sure. I called her. I told her I was alright. Then I told her what I had seen, "I saw the buildings fall," and I cried. And I cried.