To this day I fight back tears when talking about that fateful day in September 2001. I was in my senior year in college in Midtown Manhattan. I was sitting in class while the planes hit and as soon as class was over and we opened the door my friend was waiting for me, “did you hear what happened? It’s world war three!” I had no idea what she was talking about, we immediately went over to the student lounge to watch the news.
As soon as we got out onto the street, 29th street and Lexington, I remember thinking there were no cars at all on the usually packed streets and there were hundreds of people on the sidewalks just walking (the subways and buses were shutdown so the only way people could get anywhere was to walk). I immediately recalled that all throughout my class I had heard siren after siren but I didn’t think anything of it, it was NYC and sirens were normal. Now, 10 years later, when I hear too many sirens at once or prolonged sirens I immediately turn on the news or run outside to make sure everything is ok. I remember running back to my dorm to call my mom, I knew she’d be freaking out even though I had never even been to the WTC. She started crying when she heard my voice, so relieved that I was ok. At that point, I went up to the roof of our dorm and looked downtown, I could see the smoke rising from where the towers once stood – it was like a movie. Later that day, as the wind shifted, the smoke headed up our way and you could feel the thickness in the air on the street.
For the rest of the day, and the day after, we sat glued to the news. The scariest moment came for me when we were sitting in the lounge and they interrupted the broadcast to say that there was a bomb threat at the Empire State Building. I looked out the window to my left and saw the Empire State Building, lit up in the night as always, it was like we were waiting for it to explode – no one moved. The dorm where I had lived the previous year was one block away from the Empire State Building and had to be evacuated, all the students there started running down 34th street towards the FDR, some of them sought refuge at our dorm, it was very frightening. As we got the all clear that it was a false alarm that is when the tears started coming – it’s the realization that the world as I had known it 2 days prior would never be the same. Even though I personally did not lose a loved one, just being in NYC that day was a traumatic experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I know it will never be possible for me to forget that day, the sounds of sirens bring it back right before my eyes every time.