Originally written on the 10th Anniversary of the 9-11 Attacks in September of 2011.
Despite living at the top of a 6 floor walk-up, along with the floors of that particular run down place in Manhattan’s Lower East Side looking like a distant cousin to the Tilt-A-Whirl ride at the carnival (they were THAT uneven), my apartment on East 6th Street had the best view of the Twin Towers. Whenever a friend or relative visited, the tour was never complete until the Sun had set, yet another flight of stairs were ascended, and the Castor & Pollux of skyscrapers could be visually adored while fully illuminated against the Manhattan sky from my rooftop at night.
Almost disturbingly, one of my best memories of living in that tiny 1 room studio in New York City’s East Village was the evening of September 10th, 2001. Everything that night was pristine – the air, the setting sun, the almost not to be believed clarity that was accompanied with the clearest visibility. A visibility so crisp, its length of range was dependent only upon how keen a person’s vision was versus any kind of atmospheric impurity. That fine evening in late summer also produced the most delicious breeze. While opening both of my bedroom windows that night, a zephyr-like current of sweet air wafted through the curtains, making them billow as if giggling or exhaling with pleasure.
As I retired for bed on the evening of September 10th, I intentionally left both bedroom windows wide open while the glow from those 2 carbon copy designed, behemoth buildings illuminated both my apartment and the Age of Naive Innocence for the very last time.
So many endless oddities occurred to every person who resided in New York City in September of 2001 and the months that followed. I certainly am no exception.
Over a decade ago, History itself unfolded before us.
Re-living even the first chapter from my personal tale of September 11th is a labor my psyche has violently veered from one of the darkest portions of my life. However, by sharing my direct experiences of 9-11, especially during this momentous anniversary of remembrance, I believe the initial sting will once and for all scar over, allowing me to clearly carry my memories of those surreal times. And they, in turn, will hopefully enhance the clarity within my soul to appreciate both my present state of being as well as my emerging future.
What 18 Wheeler Gets Into An Accident At 8:46 AM?
For those of you who know me, please withhold any and all comments of ironic judgement with this next piece of personal information. People, I am a Gemini, and being as such, have a tendency to be a bit, shall we say, “tardy”, at times. The 11th of September began for myself in quintessential Brad fashion – all that delicious evening air allowed just my fist to wake up the next morning, and only for the single fisted purpose of slamming my alarm clock off. The rest of me awoke 43 minutes later with the queasy realization, I was hideously late for work.
The time was 8:38 AM.
Noticing my alarm clock (not myself, mind you) had once again betrayed me, I tore out of bed. Gauging there was no time to fully shower, I long jumped into my shoe boxed sized bathroom and blasted the shower head, if merely to tame my unruly state of overslept bed head.
With my upper body still dripping from the very eye opening, all-cold shower fawcet blast, I reached for some soap with my eyes closed and performed the bare minimum of surface coverage in order to lightning wash my face and underarms. Upon slamming the shower water off with one adroit Gemini hand, my other hand slapped the tap of the tiny bathroom sink on. One hand had just swung the vanity case shut, while the other was just about to power brush my teeth in triple time
….when the mirror and floor of my bathroom violently shook.
The disturbance was so sudden and unexpected, I involuntarily exclaimed outloud to no one in particular:
“What kind of idiot gets an 18 wheeler into an accident at this hour?”
Not expecting a response, I swished, spit, threw on some clothes, and sprinted out the door.
The clock flashed 8:52 AM.
The Fire Dragon Is Unleashed with a Beauty most Horrible: Brad Bears Witness from the Sidelines of Hell
Upon finally descending what always felt to be around a million + steps, due to the narrowly inclined staircases of my building making 6 floors feel like 20, I broke into a “crap I am so freaking late” pace and sped walked westward on East 6th Street.
Transitioning from my building’s endless stairs to the sidewalk that was now my speed racing lane, I was thrilled to observe the atmosphere of near perfect weather and visibility conditions had lingered into the morning hours. As my speed walk accelerated into a brisk jog, I marveled at how everything had retained such a pristine level of visibility. So much so, the contrast between the rooves and edifice ornaments of each passing building on my block against the hyper technicolored blue of the morning sky was almost not to be believed as I raced to the corner of 2nd Avenue
….and came upon the billowing black smoke that hemorrhaged from a massive hole that was in the upper mid-section of the northernmost Twin Tower.
My first impression was grappling with the visual fact that something was very, very wrong with the smoke being emitted. Its consistency was so thick, it looked as if manufactured by the fluffiest of cumulus clouds. More insidious, was its blackness. This was the blackest smoke I had ever seen. Its cloud-like heaviness and blacker than pitch thickness made it at first appear as if the smoke was spewing from a very active volcano versus a man-made building.
“A gas leak”, I said to myself in shocked denial, “so THAT’S what made my bathroom shake.”
Convinced the proper steps would be taken to rectify something that admittedly looked far worse in actuality, I resumed my lateness sprint, which
….came to a completely abrupt halt upon reaching the corner of 3rd Avenue and 6th Street.
Upon reaching a street corner that was 20 or so blocks due north of The World Trade Center, the Towers could now be viewed from a much fuller perspective. Arriving at the northwest corner of 3rd Avenue and 6th Street, it became abundantly clear, this was no gas leak. The hole which ripped through the wall of the North Tower was so massive, it was as if the Titan Atlas had violently slammed his fist through at least 10 or more of the building’s floors in a fit of blind rage. The North Tower’s flaming hole held a hypnotic power akin to the head of Medusa. Upon catching one’s gaze, your stare remained frozen and could not look elsewhere. On the southwest corner of 3rd Avenue and 6th Street, stood 4 people. They all stared with bug eyed, fixed gazes magnetically forced to look ahead and straight up, involuntarily gawking at the Tower in distress. With my eye still taking in the beginning death throes of one of the largest buildings in history, I crossed the street without looking. Sensing a male who was around my age and height without actually looking at him, I asked in his general direction, “What happened here?”
Without turning towards me, he muttered one simple word, “Plane”.
My brain tried to both absorb and analyze this piece of information which ripped like a jagged needle across the smooth vinyl record of this most perfectly clear day. I said in his general direction while keeping my fixed stare, “How the hell could someone flying a 2 seater cause that much damage?”
The man repeated the same zombie-like response but this time, added a preceding word, “Jet Plane.”
It is here I must interject that I still am in awe at the folly that is Mankind. After being provided with the correct information as to what caused this dire scene, my psyche still felt the need to ascend a very large soapbox of defiant denial and proceeded to preach in a tone of all knowing condescension to this man, who couldn’t move due to being in a temporary state of paralyzed shock. For his information, I explained, the entire reason why there are such things as control towers, air traffic controllers, and even radar for that matter, was for the sheer yet simple reason to keep jet liners from flying into buildings.
The man didn’t respond.
With my gaze still locked ahead and up, I proceeded to inform the man he must have been mistaken as to the actual cause of what was smouldering before our eyes, was he sure it wasn’t a,
….Flight 175 flies head on into the South Tower at 590 MPH, on a path due south of us, directly in front of our field of fixed vision.
Obviously, there were many things going wrong at this particular moment in time.
Something was off. There was no KA-BOOM. Desperately recalling every large scale explosion in the filing cabinets of my mind’s memory, whenever something large and mechanical exploded in the movies, there was always an accompanying KA-BOOM!
So sorry, Brad. Not this time around. And you’re also not at the movies.
The only audible thing perceived by my ears was a dull, sickening thud. The KA-BOOM had actually IM-ploded into the building….along with the jumbo jet, its passengers, and the plane’s burning fuel. Still expecting a cacophony of KA-BOOM!s, I informed myself there most likely would be a delay due to the weight of the sound waves taking longer to reach us.
There definitely was a delay alright…..of fire.
(Keeping in mind these are my first initial reactions, the words I use to describe this next Hellish event may be offensive to some, but are true, none the less.)
The impact from the crash forced the plane’s jet fuel to impel into the atmosphere as it became inflammatory, causing the most brilliantly beautiful fireball to race across the morning sky from West to East. Its path was nothing short of awe rendering. The fireball moved in a forwardly up/down motion like a massively large scale fire dragon at the height of the New Year festivities in the Chinatown parade.
As if we all were partaking in a cosmic game of “Red Light, Green Light” the fireball was the magic cue for every stare to become unfixed. It was only at this point that I realized the poor victim the Universe had placed next to me during all this was an Asian man in his early to mid 20’s, since we now were free to move about, focus our attentions on other people’s faces, as well as
…..begin uncontrollably shaking while simultaneously screaming The Rapture had come and we were all going to die.
That is, according to the short, middle aged, African American woman who was one of the four I stood with while witnessing Hell coming to Earth on the southwest corner of 3rd Avenue and East 6th Street beginning around 8:58AM on the morning of September 11th, 2001. Once again, I must interject by commenting on the behavioral oddities of the human being when placed under situations of great duress. Upon hearing the woman’s Rapture arriving reactions of hysteria, I became annoyed thinking, “It’s people like her that make wide scale panics happen.”
At that point I hadn’t realized that I, too, had also gone into total shock, which translated to my psyche transforming me into a super calm, slow talking robot with manners. Commenting out loud to no one in particular how already late for work I was, I took my leave of the corner of 3rd and 6th…in as calm and orderly a fashion befitting a Stepford Husband that was smiling way, way too hard.
It was 9:14 AM and my 9-11 had barely just begun.
***Brad Kronen’s latest book, “Love In The Stars” published by Llewelyn Worldwide, Inc. is now available for pre-order via Amazon.com.