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“Will I Recover?”

Submitted by Michelle D. Cruz

 

October 6, 2001

 

September 11, 2001
Taking the elevator to the 95th Floor of Two World Trade Center is something that had become a mindless, involuntary action for all of us who worked there. Our offices at Fiduciary Trust had consisted of the 90th to 97th Floors, with a few unoccupied floors in between. I had been working at Fiduciary for over two years,and it had become a second home to me.

The Call
8:40 a.m. I arrived at my desk when I noticed that no one else in my group was there. It was still early, and relaxing a bit before theday began was what I would normally do on any ordinary workday. Yet, what I thought was the beginning of any other ordinary workday became much more. It began as the most terrifying day of my life.

Panic
8:43 a.m. I received a call from a friend of mine and I had told him I had come into work early to finish a project I was working on the night before. When asked how the remainder of my day looked, I replied, “I’m going to have a really busy day ahead of me, so I’d better start it.” Almost immediately after I hung up the phone, there was an unforgettable sound - the roar of an airplane engine.

It’s ironic that despite how high up we were, we hardly noticed any aircrafts overhead. Yet today, we heard this one. The next sound we heard was what sounded like an earthquake, then a bomb. A woman on the Northeast side of our floor screamed, and as I quickly arose from my chair to see what the commotion was,
our windows shattered. “What was that?!” I screamed. Someone yelled, “I think a plane just hit Tower 1! Everybody get out of the building!” I grabbed everything I brought in with me that morning (my purse and briefcase), and ran towards the nearest exit, which was approximately 10 feet from my desk.

I was running for my life, not knowing what would happen next, when I saw my co-worker Lori running out as well.We headed for the elevator, then I stopped.I asked her, “Shouldn’t we be taking the stairs in an emergency like this?” and she replied,“No! Just get in the elevator! C’mon!” We dashed into the elevator and held the door as our co-worker Andrew ran in. All three of us looked at one another in disbelief. An eerie feeling stirred throughout my body. For a moment, I thought I was dead; as if our Tower, 2, had been hit. Then the elevator stopped. The doors opened to the 90th Floor.

Occupying the 90th floor were the Legal and Human Resources departments. The elevator door opened, and all that was heard were the screams of panicked employees. Lori and I pleaded with them to come into the elevator, but no one did. The door then closed. Why didn’t they go? This question haunts me every day,
due to the fact that many of the people on the 90th Floor who were there that day are missing.

We landed on the 78th Floor, which was one of the main elevator banks at Tower 2. Lori and I ran to the nearest elevator we could find, and shoved our way in. A woman in front of us said, “That’s it! No more people!” I looked behind me, and there were two men - scrambling to get on another elevator.

When the elevator stopped at the ground floor, I looked to my left. Liberty Street, which is the main entrance used by many Trade Center employees, was in ruins. Debris from the Tower and office papers engulfed the sidewalk. I watched as security guards led people away from the street outside, when I took my cell phone from my purse and called my manager, Joanie.

Still not really knowing what happened, I said, “Joanie! I think there was an explosion in the World Trade Center!” She asked me to hold as she turned on the television. “Oh my God! A plane just hit the Trade Center!” For whatever reason, I asked her if I should go back upstairs. Joanie relentlessly said, “No! You go home and call me as soon as you can. ”When I ended the call, I heard someone on the PA system say that there were no problems with Tower 2 and workers should go back to their desks. I decided to walk out. I saw a few co-workers in the lobby, including my former manager, Chris, who inquired if I was ok. Andrew, who just recently underwent knee surgery, became my rock.

The Journey
9:03 a.m. As Andrew and I calmly proceeded to walk from the building, the roar of another airplane engine hovered overhead. We watched in horror as one more plane dove into the upper floors of Tower 2. While everyone ran frantically to search for a safe location, a stampede of people ran towards me and knocked me into a steel barricade. Andrew quickly lifted me up when in the distance was the alarming image of people jumping from windows to their deaths. I quickly grabbed Andrew and asked, “Where do we go?” He calmly replied, “The South Street Seaport. It’s the only place that’s safe for now.”

10:03 a.m. We walked to Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport, where many took refuge. Almost all cell phone service was down, yet I remembered I had the ability to send and receive e-mail messages on my Palm Pilot. Shaking uncontrollably, I e-mailed my friend Joe to tell him I was fine and asked that he call my family to let them know I was ok.Andrew went to a payphone nearby to call his family, when a third rumble came. Tower 2 looked as if it was about to topple on us; onlookers by the masses ran in terror
towards the edge of the pier, prepared to leap into the water below. “We’re trapped,” I said to myself. “This is it.” The Tower fortunately collapsed onto itself, which instantly gave me the initiative to begin my journey home.

We decided to start walking up the FDR Highway, which was the were filled with people, mostly distraught and covered in soot, making their way uptown. Andrew turned to me and said, “Tower 2 is going to collapse.” I believe that in the shock of what I and so many other people just witnessed, I numbly shook my head. We had barely made it past the Seaport when Tower 1inevitably collapsed.

12:30 p.m. After two and a half hours of walking and trying to get cell phone service, we wound up on 35th Street and 3rd Avenue, in Midtown. Andrew noticed a cab driver who had pulled up along the curb in front of us and agreed to drive me home - at no charge. I said a somewhat emotional goodbye to Andrew, who in this traumatic time had truly been there for me. I was elated to know that he would be able to take the ferry home to New Jersey. To Andrew, God Bless You. You’re an angel.

3:10 p.m. We finally arrived in my neighborhood and made one last desperate attempt to call into my voicemail. There were 13 messages left from family and friends. It was the first time that day when I broke down and cried. I had survived a terrorist attack. I’m alive.

The Recovery
Although I have yet to receive counseling for the circumstances surrounding the attack, I’ve learned that expression through words has become my strongest outlet to recovery. I’ve taken into deep consideration all my friends and colleagues desperately trying to reach me during that incredibly trying day of September 11th. Every conversation has ended with a sincere “I love you,” or “I miss you,” and the emotional support has been phenomenal. To my family and friends, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you all, and God Bless You. I Will Recover.

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