We watched cartoons for what felt like hours. The stunned and sooty World Trade Center refugee who'd wandered across the bridge and ended up in our Brooklyn neighborhood, and then our apartment, couldn't take any more TV news coverage of the attacks. She had barely escaped after climbing down 20-odd floors from her World Trade Center office (where she worked, ironically, for developer Larry Silverstein). So, for a while, we watched cartoons with her.
Photo credit: Larry Bruce / Shutterstock.com
My wife worked near the United Nations and had left a short while earler. Between jobs at the time, I was at home in our first-floor brownstone apartment in Park Slope, ready for another day of housework and desultory job hunting. Idly I flipped on NY1, the 24-hour New York City cable TV news channel. Apparently a "small plane" had struck one of the Twin Towers. Unfortunate but hardly shocking, considering how much air traffic came through New York, how big and blocky those buildings were, and how big and blocky in time they were too, having been up for a few decades already.
The TV showed a lot of smoke. I walked outside to Flatbush Avenue. Looking northwest up that main drag provided a direct view of the World Trade Center. There was smoke coming towards us. Looked bad. But nothing yet to suggest it hadn't been an accident.
Back inside to the TV. Worse and worse. A second plane had hit, and one tower had collapsed in a nightmarish deluge of smoke and debris, falling in upon itself as if the earth were swallowing it up.
Shock descending over the city.
Outside again to Flatbush Avenue: smoke completely obscures the towers now. Inside again to the TV. Flames. Outside: nothing to see, just smoke filling the sky. Inside.
As the newscaster speaks, there's a live shot of the second tower behind him – collapsing before my eyes, but not his. A moment passes before he realizes what has happened.
Phone lines were jammed, but not down. I got through to my wife after a while. I can't remember whether she reached me or I reached her. Like pretty much all businesses around town, hers was closing, but the subways weren't running so she was going to have to try to make her way home from Manhattan to Brooklyn some other way, however long it took.