{ missing pieces }

Staring at Those Towers

On the way to work at around 9:15am, I was randomly selected by a stranger on the train to be told that the World Trade Center was hit by a plane. I thought it might be a joke.

What I saw after getting out at the next stop would take me 10 minutes to understand, and another 10 minutes to feel. My mom worked on the 65th floor of the north tower, which seemed far below the flames, from what I could see on the ground at the time. But no amount of rationalization prepared me for the sight of the south tower crashing down. Having not heard from my mom at that point, I wasn't quite sure what to think. I just about lost it.

I am generally not an emotional person, but my knees buckled at the sight and sound of the crash. Knowing your mom might still be in a building on fire is one thing, but watching an adjacent building of that size fall like it did has an altogether different effect on you. I was in front of an all-glass wall, on the 14th floor of a building a mere four blocks away from the towers. My vantage point was a little too close, with a line of sight much clearer than I could care to have. There was hardly anything blocking the view and not much keeping me from thinking the worst. Then we were told we had to evacuate the area.

An hour later, still not knowing what to do, I found myself as far as the East Village, with some co-workers heading uptown. No trains were running, so walking was the only way to get around. I didn't want to get too far so I stopped to call my aunt to see if she had heard anything. No cell phones were working. It felt like an eternity when I was on line for the payphone. The time was roughly 11am when I finally got through to my aunt and found out my mom was alive and well somewhere in chinatown. I ran down towards Grand Street and then back up to Union Square where I finally found her near my step-father's office.

Eight hours later we've somehow made it to my aunt's house on Staten Island by hitching rides. For the moment, I am happy just to be sitting next to her, hearing her voice. I am not happy however, that there are still people out there feeling what I felt this morning, staring at those towers, not knowing for sure what to think. There truly isn't a worse feeling. It hurts more than you would think.

Redrick deLeon

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