I'm really glad to hear that Ken and Kim are OK. The impact of this attack has reached everyone and will leave the lasting memory of how terrifying and horrible it is for the victims, friends and family. Before I start my story I have to say first that it will eventually have a happy ending for my family.
The World Trade Center is exactly that, a center composed of several buildings, two of which were the Twin Towers. There were other significant structures there that also collapsed, 7 Trade Center was 47 stories tall and 1 Liberty Plaza (collapsed about 5:30 pm Wednesday) was 57 stories tall. My mother works
at 103 Liberty Plaza which is directly across the street. She was at work when the first plane hit one of the towers. People in the area had no idea what was going on. All they were told was to evacuate the building. My mom did not know the tower was struck by a plane, she just knew it was on fire.
Most people thought the problem was local to the one tower. She went back to her desk, gathered her purse and by the time she exited the building, the second plane had struck the other tower. While walking out of the building she was trying to reach me via her cell phone (which were out of service) when she witnessed people falling from the tower, dead, and dismembered body parts. She ran back into the building and called me at work on the lobby phone. I could hear the chaos in the background and the horrified voice of my panic stricken mother. She was directed to walk north to the train station. She started walking north when the first then second towers collapsed forcing clouds of debris and dust gusting through the streets. It was like trying to out-run a tidal wave and eventually overtook the people and my mom. The force generated
by this cloud of dust was so strong it pushed everyone off their feet and to the ground. She had only made it to the Wall Street area. When she lifted her head out of her crouched position, she couldn't see anything and actually thought she had been blinded. The dust was that dark and thick. She found a open building lobby and went inside with some other people. They all breathed in a lot of dust. From that lobby she called me from a phone. She was hyperventilating, hysterically crying and had no idea were she was, it was too dark.
From my office in NJ it was a beautiful sunny day but midnight had fallen on New York. Although she was in a state of panic, repeating the same words over and over " I have to get out of here, there are dead people outside", I had to be the safe calm voice in the dark although feeling helpless and like my stomach had lodged itself in my throat. "Mom I want you to sit down". I had to repeat that several times before she understood me. She sat down with the phone. "Mom, can you see the address of the building you're in or a name plaque for the building in the lobby". "There's no number on the door or plaque". "Does anyone else their know where you are?". "No, no one knows, it's very dark, I can't stay here, I have to go". "Mom, sit back down and stay put until emergency people tell you to leave, you are safer where you are". " Valerie, I'm scared and other people have to use the phone, I'll call you soon". I'm scared are two words you should never have to hear a parent say. I needed to see what was happening and what officials in New York were telling people so I could be more informed the next time mom called. It was about lunch time anyway so I left the office (calls forwarded to my cell) drove through McDonalds for a value meal and headed for Sears TV section to catch the news. I still had my fries and coke when I went in and luckily for me they had camp chairs for sale nearby. I grabbed a chair, sat in front of the large screen TV, and watched for about an hour while I ate my fries and drank my coke. Surreal is the only word I can think of to describe the images being broadcast, you've all seen them. It was about then that the store manager came to pretty much throw me out for loitering, how rude. I bought a radio and antenna so could hear the news from the office. I promised my mom I would stay at work so she knew exactly where to reach me, anything else would have
been too much for her to comprehend in her state. Finally, a couple hours later she called to say the police had directed her to walk south toward South Street Seaport and go over the Brooklyn Bridge. From there she would be transported by the marine police across the river to Liberty State Park.
She called when she landed at Liberty State Park, she was still shaken but calmer. She was then bused to Penn Station in Newark. I called my sister who headed to Newark to pick her up and take her to a nearby hospital. Everyone coming in from New York, including mom, were met and decontaminated by the HazMat people. All her clothes were carefully removed (stripped naked) to limit the movement of the thick layer of dust still caked all over her. They confiscated her clothes, shoes, and purse. They showered her, rinsed her eyes, checked all her vital signs and lungs. Her blood pressure was high but controllable and she has cornea abrasions so her one eye needed to be patched over. She was given hospital scrubs and gown to go home in. She then ordered my sister to somehow get her shoes and handbag back, Kelly got them but don't ask how. Even being as distraught and disoriented as my mother was, she still had to get her handbag and shoes back. "Hey, they were name brand shoes with the matching handbag AND I got them on sale". Real New Yorker. So she got home at 8:00 pm and slept, waking several times during the night crying, restlessly until 12:00 noon on Wednesday. It was then that she turned on the news and saw the video coverage of what actually happened and the images of what she left behind. I was talking to her as I posted her name on the survivor's list available online. I asked her which first name to use, people either call her Esther of Estelle. So she proceeded to tell me AND SPELL her name for me as if I didn't know. She is now going through the "Day After Effects". She is safe but we are all still trying to deal with the emotional trauma that will be left for us to remember always.
Yet we are the lucky ones.
I hope all is well with you,
Valerie Gillespie <firstname.lastname@example.org>