September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document
Story:Fall 2001, I was planning the final details for my wedding which was scheduled for November 17. Sal, my soon to be husband was living with me for about 10 months by then. He had moved in with my family in November 2000 because of a strained relationship at home with his mom. My parents opened their home and hearts to him, and so he moved in. Sal had been working for EMS of the FDNY for about a year by then. He had gotten hurt on the job around the same time he came to live with us, and so he was out on disability. We had gotten engaged on Christmas Eve of that same year.
Sal had lots of friends, and they had become my friends too. One of his closest friends, John was going to be the best-man at our wedding. Another one of his friends Gibb, was to be a groomsman, and many others were to attend our wedding in November. All of these friends worked for the FDNY. We were a tight group. We hung out every week. There was a bond there, a bond developed from things they had scene and experienced on the job that regular people never saw. Bodies, sick, dying even dead, births and miracles and the lack of respect the community gave them. These things bonded them to each other and created a brotherhood.
September 11, 2001, it was early, so early that I just threw on a pair of sweats and my sneakers instead of taking a shower. I could do that when I got back. I wasn?t working at that time so I was in no rush to get anywhere. Sal, now recovered from his injury, had to catch the 9am Staten Island ferry to Manhattan that morning because he had an interview in Brooklyn for a desk job in the FDNY. From Manhattan, Sal would hop on the subway over to Brooklyn. Sal put on his dress blues for his interview that he was very excited for, and we got into my car and started our drive over to the ferry terminal. It took about 10 minutes to get to the ferry from where we lived.
We left around 8:40am. We chatted in the car about the interview, and about what time I would pick him up. We were driving down on Richmond Terrace which runs along the water on our way to the ferry and we turned on the radio to Z-100, our local top-40 music station, to listen to the morning show. When we turned on the station there was news chatter, and the DJ came on and said ?you are listening to continuing news coverage of what has just happened, a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center at 8:46 am?? I looked at Sal, and he looked at me and we both said skeptically, ?no, this has to be a joke or something. One of those skits like Howard Stern does.? Then as we turned the bend on the Terrace to a point where we could see the twin towers, we saw it, smoke, thick black smoke coming from the top of World Trade Center Tower 2. I said to Sal ?Oh my God this is for real.? As we drove along the terrace we couldn?t help but just stare in disbelief. I thought to myself, ?wow the firemen are really going to have a tough time with this one, that?s up on the high floors and I bet the elevators are not working. At least with the last major fire at the towers it was on the ground level and below.? Then Sal said, ?When I get over there if they need help, I?m going. I won?t go to the interview.?
My heart dropped, I always knew his job could be dangerous, after all when he worked EMS he wore a bullet proof vest everyday to work at his Battalion in Brownsville Brooklyn. But he was off today, and he had not been back at active duty for months. I forgot what this feeling felt like, worry.
I pulled up to the passenger drop off at the terminal and kissed Sal goodbye, I told him to please be careful and to call me to let me know when he gets over there if he was going to the towers or if he was going to the interview. He got of the car and ran down the ramp into the terminal, and I pulled away. I continued to listen to the radio as I drove home. I got about a ? a mile away when the announcement came over the radio that the City of New York had issued an emergency level call to all city workers, (police, firefighters, EMS) to report in to their stations or the station closest to them no matter if they were off, on vacation or out on sick leave. Everyone had to report in. I pulled out my cell phone and tried to call Sal but all I got was a fast busy. I kept trying as I drove home along the terrace. Finally I at least got his voicemail and left him a message about the emergency call of all city workers.
I got home and ran into the living room of my house, I turned on the TV right away and it was on every channel. I ran upstairs to my parent?s bedroom; my Dad was home and was getting dressed. I said to him, ?Did you hear what happened?? He said no, and I proceeded to tell him as much as I knew and the fact that Sal was maybe heading over to the scene.
We both went back down stairs and my Dad sat down in his chair and I sat on the floor right in front of the TV. Within minutes there was an explosion at tower one that the reporters couldn?t figure out. It was 9:03am. Then as if someone viewed the tape from a different angle the reporter said another plane had hit the towers, this was terrorism, not an accident. I couldn?t believe it. The flames and smoke coming out of the tower, my hand went to my mouth and I gasped at the thought of all those people inside the towers.
I had been in those towers only a few short months before the attacks when I worked for a company that had clients on the 78th floor of tower 2. I had admired the beautiful view from their windows one morning when I had an appointment at their offices. I wondered if the people I had met were alive or dead.
I picked up my cell phone and tried to call Sal. I couldn?t get thru. I grabbed the house phone and tried to call, I still couldn?t get thru. I started getting nervous. I knew that he was supposed to be on the 9am ferry and that he would be getting to Manhattan around 9:25am. He would then probably make his way over to the towers which were a quick walk away from the ferry terminal, especially now that two planes had crashed into the tower. As my father and I watched the TV all I could think about was Sal. We watched as reporters showed people on the street bleeding and crying. We saw them re-play the crashes over and over again. We saw them replay the people standing in the middle of the street staring at the towers. The streets I had walked down everyday when I worked on Wall Street just a few months earlier. I kept trying to call Sal. I either got his voicemail or a fast busy.
9:38am, the reporters stated that another plane had just crashed into the Pentagon. It felt like a dream. Could this many horrible things happen in such a short amount of time? What was next? They news reporters were speculating the White House, the Capital Building? All I could still think about was Sal. I figured by now he was over in Manhattan and making his way over to the towers. Every time they showed they crowd of people on the streets, I looked for his face. I looked for his dress uniform that he was wearing. They were now talking about the people who were jumping. They showed clips of the side of the building where it looked like debris was falling, but it was actually people jumping, jumping to their deaths. What was it like up there that the thought of jumping was better than staying on the floor you were at? I couldn?t imagine.
9:59am, the south tower falls.
I think my heart stopped at the moment. The only thought in my mind was, ?Sal?s dead. The tower fell and he is there and he?s dead.? My mouth opened to say the same thing out loud but nothing came out. I knew that by now he had enough time to get over to the scene. I knew that he would be there helping whatever way he could. Tears were coming down my face. My father was crying too. I sat there on the floor in front of the TV thinking, ?I?m supposed to get married in 2 months and my fianc? is dead.? Finally words came out of my mouth and all I could keep saying was ?Oh my God, Oh my God, he?s dead, he?s dead. I know it.? My Dad tried to comfort me saying that we don?t know that for sure, and not to jump to any conclusions. It wasn?t helping me.
I picked up the phone and tried to call him again, nothing, no dial tone. I tried my cell phone, fast busy. I couldn?t stop crying. They kept showing the tower fall over and over again and with each replay it was like my heart was being ripped out of my chest over and over again.
10:06am, Flight 93 crashes in a field in PA. The reporters say the think it was heading for the White House. I?m still trying to call Sal, still no dial tone, only fast busies on my cell. They show clips of the tower falling, the thousands of people running down the middle of the street. Running scared, panicking, screaming, and crying. They show scenes after the dust settles; it looks like a nuclear bomb went off. There is dust everywhere, on everyone and everything. All you can hear from the clips is this strange beeping, almost like the beeps are singing to each other. I know what it is; it?s the emergency locater beacons of the firefighters when they haven?t moved for longer than a specified number of seconds. It helps locate a down firefighter in a fire situation.
10:28am, the north tower falls.
Now I am a mess. I?m shaking and crying uncontrollably. Again I try to make the words come out but nothing, nothing comes out. Finally I say ?that?s it, now he?s really dead, if he didn?t die when the first one fell then he?s definitely dead now.? All I could think about was how close we were to our wedding, what I would I do without him? My father didn?t know what to do with me.
What happened over the next 20 minutes is a blur. I never left the floor in front of the TV. I watched the footage of the people running again, the cloud of smoke, the towers falling over and over again. I went kind of numb.
Then at the front door I hear a key unlocking the door. The door opened and it was Sal. I didn?t know what to do first. I was so happy to see him, alive standing here in the living room. I truly thought he was dead. I wanted to kiss him, hug him, and never let him out of my sight again. Sal had other plans. He came flying into the house running upstairs yelling, ?I have to get my stuff, I have to go, I have to get to the station!? I wanted him to slow down, I wanted to hold him. He was in sort of a panic. He was so focused. It was if he made himself think of what happened that he would fall apart. I asked him what happened, how did he get here? He said that when he got down into the ferry terminal the police were shutting down the service. They saw him with his uniform on and asked him to help them evacuate the terminal. He helped them get everyone outside. The 8:30 boat was the last boat they let go over, he never left Staten Island. He told me how he saw the towers fall while standing on the promenade of the terminal with everyone else. He told me how people were screaming, crying and passing out. H e said that an Arab looking man was on his cell phone and laughed about something, and that a couple of business men saw this and started to beat the Arab man up and the cops did nothing to stop them. A bus driver saw him and asked him where he had to go, he told him where we lived, and the bus driver drove Sal as close to our house as he could, non stop. He ran the rest of the way.
I helped Sal get his gear together and I drove him over to the main fire station on the Island. From there he would go where ever they needed him. Again I kissed him goodbye and he ran inside. I really don?t know how I made it home from there, I could barely see from the tears in my eyes. Tears of joy that he was alive but also tears of sadness for the thousands of people who most likely just died.
That night I went over to my girlfriend?s house whose boyfriend, John was with Sal and the rest of our friends who worked for the FDNY. We waited for word for to come that each one of them was accounted for and safe. It was long into the night before we got word on the last one that he was ok. Sal, John and the rest of the guys would do 12 hours shifts for the next few weeks while the search and recovery continued for possible survivors. Sal even spent a couple of days down at the site helping with the clean up during the weeks that followed September 11th.
That day will never leave either one of us no matter how many years may pass. I don?t know if I want it to leave me, I think that because of that day, I value Sal and our relationship more than I ever would have, if it never happened.