I woke up and poked my head out my window a little before 9 am to check the weather. It was a lovely day. I grabbed my backpack and ran down the four flights of stairs in my walkup apartment building on Christopher Street and 7th Avenue. I was headed to my graduate thesis class at Parsons. I was late.
When I got out of the building front door onto the street, it was silent. No one was walking. Everyone was facing south, and on their phones. Turning my head to follow everyone’s gaze, I saw one of the towers on fire. But my thesis instructor was very strict. Lateness was not tolerated. And so I went to school.
But classes were cancelled. I managed to send an email to my family that I was ok before the internet went out. There was a lot of confused running around with my boyfriend for a bit but we ended up back at my apartment. Just in time to watch from my window as each of the towers fell. I recorded the collapse of the second tower on video. I had a clear view straight down 7th Avenue.
It took over five years before I watched that video. It shows the remaining tower burning. Smoke pouring out. And very faintly, you can see thin grey lines in the air next to the tower. They were falling. They were people who had jumped out. I tried to imagine what they were thinking and feeling as they finally decided to jump.
The tower fell, and in the video, you hear everyone on the street gasp at once. A collective intake of breath. I didn’t notice it in real time. Only later, in the video. And then it was silent.
For about 6 months afterwards the streets of New York City stayed silent. No honking. No yelling. No loud banging noises. No fighting. People went out of their way to avoid body contact and eye contact. No one spoke in public. There was a wall covered in posted flyers of missing people. Dozens and dozens just on this one wall. There were many such walls.
One day, all the flyers were gone. Nothing left but the corners of each one where it had been stapled on. Empty places where faces used to be. And the city was noisy again.