The World Trade Center - Day One

 

I was in my studio painting and listening to NPR. They broke into the regular programming with a bulletin that there had just been a major explosion at The World Trade Center.

I walked into the living room where Misako was watching The Today Show. Matt Lauer was talking about something or other. I thought, wow, he doesn't know yet.

I told Misako to scan the channels. I told her this was the big one.

We saw the tower with smoke billowing out. They said a plane had crashed into it. We watched the imagery transfixed. Suddenly a second plane appeared in the lower part of the screen, followed by a huge explosion. I didn't say anything. Misako didn't say anything. The announcer on the TV didn't say a word. When she finally did start talking, it was to say that it appears there has been a second explosion and that it was probably the fuselage of the plane exploding. The guy who was talking to her tried to agree. We all wanted to deny that this was more than a terrible accident. We couldn't have possibly seen, what we knew had just happened.

Then came The Pentagon and the terrible news that there was still another one in the air and that its destination was unknown. I think that was the worst moment. Where would hell be visited upon next? When would this end?

Our daughter is adopted and our first thoughts went to her biological mother who works on one of the lower floors. We didn't even try to call for a while, knowing that she would be trying to call if she survived and was capable. Finally we called their home. No answer at first, but Misako later caught Edric as he was leaving to get the kids from school. He hadn't heard from Hidemi yet.

I called back and left a message on his machine that I could be anywhere in Manhattan on my bike within a half-hour if she calls.

I stayed home in hopes of hearing from her. Misako left to buy food. We simply had no idea how this thing might unravel.

While Misako was gone, Hidemi called. "Hello Tim san." I about melted.

She had caught a late train and saw the tower burning from New Jersey, and so caught a train right back. She said a co-worker who had been there was on the same train, and that she said she had seen people jumping from windows. I couldn't believe I was hearing her. I thought she was either dead or seriously traumatized. I kept telling her how much I loved her. I didn't want to hang up the phone.

Next we called the school. Melissa goes to a different school this year, which is a couple of miles away. They said that they were encouraging the parents to pick up their kids. I left on my bike, as I had no idea what was out there.

It was gridlock for a few blocks as we live close to The George Washington Bridge. It had been closed to traffic. As I proceeded south, the streets became empty of traffic. Lots of cops. The few people on the street had that dazed look we all had.

I picked up Melissa and told her she would never forget this day. She asked lots of questions on the ride home. I answered as best I could. Once she got home, she watched cartoons.

Melissa and I went out after dinner on my bike. They had opened the bridge to exit Manhattan only. The traffic was all backed up. On Broadway, the outgoing lane was solid up and down for as far as we could see. The side going downtown was totally empty.

We rode past the bridge. There is a terminal there where buses coming in from New Jersey make a u-turn and head back, Since the lanes coming into Manhattan were closed, there were no buses. Everyone was walking across. It looked like the NY Marathon or something; a constant flow of people fleeing the city. It certainly wasn't festive, but you could tell that everyone knew that they were walking history.

We rode up to Fort Tryon Park and ended up sitting on a park bench overlooking the gardens. It was so beautiful and peaceful that it was shocking. I just sat there with my arm around Melissa, patting her thigh and listening to the crickets as the sun sank below The Palisades.


Tim Folzenlogen
September 15, 2001