Today I was going through my old hard drive, looking for photos to give to SubPress (the press that’s going to publish BrokeDown Palace.) Amidst all the jpgs, I came across this. It’s been lost for a long time. I kept wishing I had written something right after the Trade Center, and it turned out that I did. Now it’s been so long since it happened. There are people who’ll be able to vote next year who weren’t even born then. For them, it’s like World War II was to me. That day still chips at me a little, but I did EMDR last year, which finally got it out of my heart. Now it’s a historical event that I took part in. Still, when I read this, I remember how it tore me up. froze me inside. And I think, I’m glad I didn’t know how it would all play out.
September 21 2001, Trade Center Recollection
On September 11, 2001, I responded to the destruction of the World Trade Center. My partner Steve and I were off-duty. We knew that the South Tower had collapsed, and hundreds of rescuers had been killed. We thought most of our friends were dead. All our equipment was at the hospital. We couldn’t get there. I had a pair of kitchen shears, and Steve had a flashlight. We were in our uniforms, wearing baseball caps. We hitched a ride in a private car to Bellevue, but no one from EMS command was there, only an ambulance that had just brought in a patient. Two EMTs we didn’t know took us down to the disaster site. We lost track of them instantly, and wound up about half a block southwest of what had been the south tower. It was hard to tell where we were. Everything was covered with white ash. There were papers lying around, and floating in the muddy water, which was warm and filled with thin planks of metal. We couldn’t see into the water. There were no people. No bodies, no medics, no ambulances. We walked past a fire truck with the windows blown out, covered with the white ash. It was in the air, sifting onto our clothes and skin, so we looked like we had fallen into vats of confectioners sugar. But it stung, and I realized later part of it was made up of pulverized glass. All those windows, but there was no broken glass anywhere. Only some jagged metal that used to be the south tower, and a brown cloud that used to be the north tower.
It was hard to walk. No part of the ground was solid or smooth. We waded through water up to our thighs. The protein bar I had put in my pocket got soaked. I didn’t see any trace of people. No purses, no watches or shoes or even office equipment. No blood. It was all gone. Only the white ash covering everything, and small fires all around us, every building on fire, smoke and the smell of burning, like woodsmoke, but what was actually burning I don’t know. I felt like I had gone forward two thousand years, and was in the ruins of a place I used to know, but everyone was dead, and all they had done gone to ash.
After a while we found some firemen. We took equipment from some bombed out ambulances. We didn’t know where the crews were. The windows were blown out, and inside and out covered with half a foot of ash. We dragged the equipment onto a pile of rubble, backboards and an ambubag, some bandages, a tube kit. Triangle bandages that we tied around our faces to keep the smoke and dust out. The firemen were digging for their friends, but they never found them. Sometimes they yelled medic medic, but then when we went over nothing was there. We rinsed out their eyes and gave them Oxygen. Four hours later, the fire lieutenant thought the overpass was going to go, and moved us all back. We found an ambulance and joined up with them. They were called forward triage. Around four or five, 7 world trade center collapsed. There was a noise like a freight train coming, and a rolling cloud of black smoke and dust. I didn’t see a supervisor until 7 that night.