I Just Don't Know
My throat closes up; I find it difficult to breathe. It's as if the dust from Manhattan has pushed and pushed its way across America until it has invaded the lungs of us all. . Maybe when I take that first deep breath of shock at the loss, the great loss of so many souls, their cries will fill my chest and they will not allow me to let them go. Indeed, I do not want them to go. I need them filling me so that I do not forget.
I'd just come in from a meeting when I heard. The boss of my boss had important things to say about our post-merger fates, and we all had to drag ourselves in for a staggeringly early morning meeting. It was terribly important stuff. People argued about it and everything. I cannot remember a word of it.
Then Doug's phone rang and it was Kevin calling to say that he was sick; he wasn't coming in. He had the tv on and, would you believe it, a plane just flew into One World Trade. Terrible accident, Doug announced to the room. Tragic, we all agreed. We started making angry noises about air traffic controllers and then Doug held up his hand. Shut up, he said. A second plane had gone into the second tower.
And then no one spoke. I took a deep breath and tried to access websites for news. Nothing. My phone rang. It was my best friend. Did I hear? she asked. Yes, I said, tell me what's happening. I have no news. I am blind here. You don't want to see, she said. You don't want to hear. Tell me, I said. Passenger planes, she said. How could this happen?
I don't know, she said.
She had to go. I hung up the phone and it rang again and the person calling me hadn't heard. I don't remember why he called. I tried the internet, still nothing. I sent distressed emails to my friends in New York City. Please tell me you're alive, I said.
The phone rang again, and it was Kevin. He couldn't stand to watch this alone. Tell me what's happening, I said. And he did. And a building collapsed and he told me about that, too. I checked my email and there was one response. I am here, said my friend. I am trapped in Manhattan. The stock market is closed and I have much work to do. My other friend hadn't responded.
My best friend called again. Hijackers, she said. Both buildings have collapsed now. They're evacuating the Sears Tower. Oh, God, I said. We were silent. I tried my email, and nothing. It's the Pentagon now, she said next. What is happening?
I don't know, I said.
Kevin again. Camera angles. Clouds of dust. You should see it. Again I checked mail. Again nothing. My friend should have been in the office by then. I didn't know which way he took to work. God only knew when an airplane might be crashing into a skyscraper. Blocks of debris, Kevin said. I started to cry for the first time. What does it mean?
I don't know, he said.