Twenty years ago this morning, I was sleeping on an air mattress with my boyfriend in his tiny studio apartment on 14th Street and Eighth Avenue in New York City.
Then day before, in an effort to make the 7 foot wide, 250 square foot apartment feel bigger, we double-stick taped a grid of mirrors to one wall.
I awoke to the sound of one of them peeling off the wall just over the bed. I stood up and caught it before it landed.
While still holding the mirror, another started to come unstuck and I yelled,
“Roswell, wake up!”
Just as he opened his eyes the mirror fell and broke puncturing the air mattress. So, we were up cleaning up broken mirror at 8 AM. We were already packed to go upstate and his truck was parked on Eighth Avenue and had to be moved by 9 or money put in the meter.
Roswell turned on The Today Show as we cleaned up and made coffee. Suddenly, a maintenance worker was calling in to NBC to say a plane had hit the World Trade Center and then there was a live shot of it with smoke coming out.
The apartment was on the top floor so we ran up the stairs to the roof. At that time there were not tall buildings between us and the WTC so we had a clear shot. I ran back downstairs to get the video camera and filmed a few minutes and said to Roswell,
“There’s a lot of paper flying out of the windows…”
“That’s not paper.”
He ran downstairs to put money in the meter before 9 –New Yorkers feed the meter, even in a crisis. I went back inside and saw what I thought was an explosion of one of the towers. I ran back to the roof to see the second tower smoking.
There was a guy on the roof behind us and I yelled,
“What was that?”
This was the first I heard that word associated with what we now know was an attack. Roswell was back upstairs and we watched in horror not knowing what was happening. On a rooftop all we could see was the smoking towers.
We decided to go upstate IMMEDIATELY, so we grabbed our bags and raced up the West Side Highway in the opposite direction of the towers.
We got to the George Washington Bridge and it said BRIDGE CLOSED, but there was no one to stop us, so we drove across the empty bridge. We saw the towers in the distance as we crossed. I’ll never forget that image. As we drove up the Palisades we listened to the radio like it was the War of the Worlds broadcast hearing them say,
“Oh my god, tower two just collapsed…”
…and then tower one. We got gas, cash and groceries not knowing what the world would be like tomorrow and went to our converted church in the Catskills. We watched TV with the rest of the world, having just been 25 blocks away from the horror that morning.
We didn’t come back to the city for two weeks. In the aftermath, to go below 14th Street you had to show ID. We were on the uptown side of the street but the air quality was an issue in my mind even though then we were told it was “safe.”
While we were on the roof that morning (not sure exactly what I meant) I said to Roswell,
“It’s all over…”
In some ways it was the beginning of the end. We broke up 4 years later (we’re still friends) and the rest is history.
I’ve never looked at that video footage and I don’t think I ever will.
Today we honor the nearly 3,000 men, women, and children who died on September 11, 2001, and the heroes who have always run towards danger to do what’s right. Let’s never forget that day, and let’s never take them for granted. pic.twitter.com/VkN11wZAMh— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) September 11, 2021