I remember trying to verify that no one I knew was involved in the catastrophe. What were probably only a few moments seemed like horrific weeks when I learned that my friend Alvin might not be safely back in London, as I thought, but still in New York...and no one knew his whereabouts. When I finally reached him on his cell, I was stupid, practically gibbering with relief. Turns out he was still in New York...but thankfully a fluke injury had him at his parents' in Brooklyn.
My roommate & I took turns all day on the computer, each keeping in touch with our friends. Sometimes we watched tv together in mute companionship, other times I watched from my room or he from his. We didn't have cable, so most of the day it was CBS only...the antenna for the other local stations had perished in the collapse. Some time late in the day (or maybe it was the following day) we got ABC on an affilliate channel of theirs. A good thing, too, because Dan Rather's emotional, dramatic lines were becoming unwatchable for me. Peter Jennings became my hero for his calm, sober reporting.
The reports kept pouring in...more highjacked flights suspected in the air, possible biological agents at the site, entire troops of rescue personnel vanished in the collapse. I still have in my head a seemingly indelible photo montage of images: the second tower being sliced through by a flaming plane while the first tower smoked & burned...people in palestine celebrating in the streets...the collapse of the one tower, and then the other...those tiny figures leaping from the smoking building to their deaths nearly 100 stories below. That one (though I actually saw it less than the others), I see over & over again in my brain, and I cannot convey the horror it instills in me. That, more than anything, oulines for me the awful hopelessness & helplessness of the situation.
Shortly after the towers collapsed, a fine ash could be seen in the air from our balcony, falling lower than the plume of smoke above. And still the day was beautifully sunny. So surreal. The roomie & I took a walk to the grocery store. We weren't there to stock up...I think that we were there to try to inject some normalcy back into the day. When the going gets tough, the escapists shop, I guess. I remember waiting for bombs, or for some other followup that would announce, definitively, World War 3.
If this all seems disjointed as I recall it now, I can only say that it was magnitudes moreso at the time. I watched tv until late in the night, and I stayed home from work on Wednesday. Transportation was still extremely sporadic, subways were on again, off again, assorted bridges were periodically closed...for awhile, Staten Island was completely isolated, as law enforcement tried to track someone down there. There were reports of an attempt to blow up the GWB. A bomb threat at the Empire State building. When I went to work the next day, there were bomb scares at Grand Central Terminal & Port Authority. I feared being stuck on Manhattan overnight, but fortunately was not. Streets were blocked off all over the place, & the police presence was massive & surprisingly comforting.