The decision to stay in Midtown became a moot point, as I saw people heading into the Subway. I told Chen, and Steven that if I had to be with any two guys, after terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center, it would have to be them two. Steven asked me which girls I would have rather been with, and I left.
I ran down to the Subway, and was a little surprised to find out I still had to use my Metrocard. It didn’t matter, I just wanted to get home, and I nearly grabbed a train going in the wrong direction. When I got on the right train, it was the most crowded Subway car I had ever been on, and it got worse with later stops. I was still glad to be on it. I never had a chance to grab a phone, and call someone.
On the Subway, I noticed a man who seemed Middle-Eastern with his head in his hands (he was bearded, had dark skin, and was wearing a turban.) Maybe he was trying to sleep. Maybe he was crying. Maybe he didn’t want to get attacked.
The train passed the 47-50th Street station. I assumed it was because it was too crowded, or there was a threat in the nearby area. I just remember that I thought about going to the area earlier, because I knew there were a few book stores (Barnes & Noble, and Kinokuniya- I was a bit of a manga fan at the time), where I could have killed a few hours, in case the Subways wouldn’t work until evening.
I eventually got to my stop at the Forest Hills: 71st, and Continental Ave. station, and ran out. I was happy to be what I considered to be walking distance from home (a mile and a half- my apologies to the Stuyvesant students/ faculty who walked from Manhattan to Queens). I don’t think I’ve ever felt better in my life, than when I grabbed a phone, discovered it was working, and heard my dad’s voice. I asked him where Michael was. He said Michael was safe, but hadn’t home yet. He promised to come pick me up.
I waited for what seemed to be an unusually long time. Maybe I was just really eager to get home. When dad finally arrived with the car, I asked what was left of the World Trade Center. He told me nothing was left. He also explained that mom was walking home, and that he knew Michael was safe, because Michael had called our grandmother while in Manhattan.
Dad talked about a telephone conversation he had had with mom. Upon hearing what had happened, she wanted to go to the roof of her Midtown workplace, to see the smoke. My father then reminded her how two of their sons could be in terrible danger. His exact words were “Don’t you understand? Our boys are in that smoke.” And then he hung up on her.
At home, I hugged mom. I was pretty much in shock, but Kristjan- my youngest brother was in worse shape. He heard what had happened from gym teachers at his Middle School, and when he got home, he had a perfect view from our 11th floor apartment building of what was left of the Manhattan skyline. He didn’t see anything on TV to prepare him as I had.
I watched the news. Dad said something about how Stuyvesant could be closed for a month. There was footage of Palestinian Kids celebrating, and burning American flags. This disgusted me, and dad was angrier.
My father does not have a high opinion of the Middle East, after working for two years in Saudi Arabia in the 80s. He still maintains that Carter should have ended the Iran Hostage Crisis by threatening to nuke important Muslim cities. I do agree that that probably would have won Carter the election, although that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
Dad suggested we become the Great Satan Arabs say we are, by nuking a few of their cities. His parents came to the United States from Estonia, a country occupied for decades by the Soviet Union. I asked him how he would have felt when he was my age, and discovered that Moscow’s most famous building had collapsed. He tried to explain how it was different, but I don’t really think it was. These Palestinian kids had been raised thinking we were the enemy.
I hugged Michael when I saw him a few hours later. I was just so happy that everyone I cared about was safe., I knew there were others who couldn’t say the same. I prayed to God to thank him that I, and my loved ones were secure. I don’t think I had ever prayed as much as I had that day, and I’m pretty sure many others have felt the same. Meanwhile, Dad wanted to bomb Mecca and Medina. He said that the World Trade Center was destroyed because it was a symbol, he’d destroy the symbols of the Arabs. “I’d be nice,” he said. “I’d give the Arabs eight hours to evacuate, before launching half the trident missiles.”
I answered several phone calls from worried friends and relatives. Many people, even in Estonia knew Michael and I went to school near the World Trade Center. My parents were now able to answer the phone, without worrying about missing an important call from Michael or me.
On the news, we watched World Trade Center 7, a 42 story building collapse live. It was the building I had noticed was burning. I started writing about the things I remembered seeing after I left Photography class. No one knew who was responsible for the attacks. Osama Bin Ladin was a prime suspect. All I knew about him at the time was from an interview he had done a few months earlier for Esquire. He left the impression of a terrible threat to the nation. On TV, his supporters said he was not as wealthy or powerful as he had been before. I thought of the obvious counter-argument “Where do you think his money went?”
Around 9 O’clock George Bush quoted a Psalm, as the News used a lot of stock footage. There was a tape of Bush reading to a group of kindergartners in Florida, as he was told of what has happened (I still remember the gasp on his face as an aide whispered in his ear.) Only Channels 2, and 11 worked (I didn’t have Cable, so I don’t know about the Cable channels.) I later found out ABC news was airing on a Public Television channel. I assumed no one would to mention that on the news, because that would give the competition more ratings. This was probably a ridiculous notion because ratings mean nothing when there is no advertising
At some point, Kristjan came and said something about the passengers on United 93 not being on the plane when it crashed. I didn’t quite understand how it happened, but I thanked God for the lives of people I didn’t really know anything about. I went to dad, and he asked what I was talking about, and said that we had just misheard something on the news.
I wrote the essay on September 11, which is why the last paragraph is in present tense.
It’s night. It’s still September 11 2001, a day which is being referred to as T Day. I am finishing writing all of this, as the shock is beginning to hit me. As I look at the Manhattan skyline, and the smoke coming from what’s left of the Twin Towers, I remember what I thought when my best friend’s father died. I try to cry, but the tears don’t come.