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9/11 – A City Silenced

September 9th, 2011 by Magdalena Tabor

I can’t believe it’s been 10 years. We had been living in our new home for

just a year. Taking the Long Island Railroad into Manhattan each day was still

a relatively new experience for me. Prior to then, I spent years riding the

subway into work. I guess you can say I’m a seasoned New Yorker. September

11th, 2001. It was the most beautiful September day. Noticeably so. I know it

sounds like a cliche but it was the kind of day that made you feel alive.

People still talk about how beautiful the day was. Picture the perfect day.

That was it.

 

 

I was sitting at my desk working (or about to. God, it was early) when I
got a phone call from my husband Michael. He said a plane had just crashed into

the World Trade Center. My initial

assumption was that a pilot of a small aircraft lost his bearings, making a

grave miscalculation in altitude. This was no accident, Michael replied. Call

it a gut feeling. Leave work, he said. Leave now. I didn’t. My office is in

midtown Manhattan. A few of us opened a window and if you leaned ever so

slightly in the direction of downtown, you could see it. A big gaping hole in

the tower. I remember thinking, “How are they ever going to fix

that?” Crowds began to gather outside. We walked up to the corner where a

clear cut view offered a broader perspective on the damage. There was billowing

smoke emanating from the hole. By the time we got back to the office, a second

plane had hit the other tower. By this time we knew the horror of it. We were

under attack. The city shut down. There was no way in. No way out. It was then

I realized that Manhattan is actually an island – that I was trapped – cut off

from the rest of the world. And all I wanted to do was get home. If only for

the last time.

 

 

One by one the towers collapsed. One minute they were there. We saw them.

Then they were gone. It seemed inconceivable. How could this happen? This was

the United States of America. New York City. Dangerous as it may seem at times,

things like this just didn’t happen. Oddly enough, I had always felt safe and

secure nestled within the cluster of tall buildings. Like familiar friends. My

home away from home. On the whole, New Yorkers are a tough bunch. You

inevitably become so. It’s fast paced. You need to keep up. But that day was

different. What struck me most about that day was experiencing the city as

never before. The city emptied its people out of every building, spilling them

out into the street. People everywhere, just standing. Enveloped in a kind of

shell shock. We were not so much individual persons, but a single living

organism brought together in solidarity. Were we scared? Very much so. Yet not

a syllable was spoken. What was heard was only the sound of sirens; scores of

fire trucks and police cars racing down 7th Avenue toward doom. Racing to their

deaths. I was witnessing their final frantic moments.

 

 

I made my way out of the city that day; several of us piling into a

co-worker’s brand new car. How he B&M’d (bitched and moaned) about it until

we all threatened to buy dripping ice cream cones. Finding levity even in the

face of disaster. A kind of balm. An equilibrium on our sanity. His was our

Army Jeep. Our ticket out. Intent on leaving war torn Manhattan behind.

Seemingly, incredibly, ours was the first vehicle to enter and leave the

Midtown Tunnel. There was absolutely no one on the road. Just us. Like

Armageddon. I turned to look back at the skyline behind us. At the empty sky

where the towers stood. There was billowing black smoke. Smoke that used to be

people. In the foreground was a huge billboard. The word P E A C E

spelled out in big block letters. That, the word “peace”, and the

eerie aftermath of silence, is most prevalent in my mind. That, and the empty

September sky.

 

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    Thank you. I’m happy to be here and count myself among the fortunate.

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