We sat in the parking basement transfixed to the television screen. Four blocks away, World Trade Center North burned like a roman candle. As we watched, another airplane pierced the side of WTC South, flames gushing from its side. The talking heads on the TV tried in vain to make sense of it. We just watched in mystified shock.
Francis wondered aloud if we were safe in here.
“Shit, I don’t know,” I said. “Better in here than out there with the chance of another psycho plane flying into a building, glass and concrete raining down.”
The others agreed.
Kolski went to fetch the bagels he’d brought to the office that morning. We all pretty much showed up before six am, we worked as traders on the foreign exchange trading floor, but Kolski only followed the US FX markets, so we got used to him supplying us with a food-boost around eight.
“There’s boxed wine in the fridge. We’re not going anywhere today. And I could use a drink.”
Francis complained about the time of day.
“So? This ain’t going away anytime…” I stopped mid-sentence.
Kolski pointed to the screen. Reporters announced another plane had just crashed, this time into the Pentagon.
“What the hell. This is all out war on the US. Somebody’s gonna pay. You’ll see,” I said.
We sat there, aghast at this macabre spectacle, when somebody rapped on the glass window to the parking garage office we were occupying. Someone wanted the keys to the janitor’s closet. Rouges, the garage manager from Louisiana, who’d invited us in to his office after he’d found us seeking refuge, opened the door and mentioned the chaos going on just minutes away. The guy, Simpton, had no idea.
“Come on in here. Jesus. You ain’t gonna believe it.”
We set him up with a styrofoam cup of Chablis and a lox-covered bagel and watched the news until nearly ten o’clock.
Simpton finally realized what was happening. He said his son worked in the South Tower. Just as those words left his mouth we felt the ground begin to tremble. On screen, the horror reached out and grabbed each of us by the throat. It grabbed Simpton by the heart.
The South Tower had just collapsed.
“It’s still early, right? He’s probably already been evacuated.”
There was no way to know. Simpton got up, downed the wine and left. The rest of us just stared at the TV and the smoke and ash rising like a leviathan from the concrete sea that was Manhattan.
“That was unsurvivable.”
Within minutes we could smell the powered cement and chemical smoke. We lost our appetites. Even the wine tasted bitter.
“It just… crumbled. Like God reached out and crushed it. How does a thing like that happen?”
Within a few more minutes the same trembling started again. The North Tower came down like a slow-motion house of cards.
“We can’t stay here, fellas. I don’t think we can help. And I sure as hell know being in the way will just make matters worse.”
Francis left his Toyota. No sense trying to drive. We walked out as a group and rushed right back inside to grab what we could to use as masks. Then, avoiding the large thoroughfares, we zigzagged our way to Warren and then to the river. From there we walked north toward the Holland Tunnel.
“The markets are going to freak.” We knew the government had suspended the stock market. But foreign exchange was a world-wide venue. I thought about mentioning the bounce that was sure to happen, but then thought of Simpton and his boy.
“I’ll see you guys, whenever. Good luck gettin’ home.”
We all gave a group hug. Helluva thing, we agreed. All those people. None of us could wrap our heads around it. We split up and that was it. Nine-One-One had just turned into a real emergency and life would never be the same again.