9/11 Stories

Abby Solomon

As I sit here eating my favorite meal of Campbell’s tomato soup, I am thinking about how different it is to eat it this time than it was just two days ago. Today it tastes even more delicious than it ever has.

Yesterday was the longest day that I can remember. I was on my way to work as usual and I started running to catch a crowded train before the doors closed at about 9:00AM. A man was blocking the doors as I tried to get through and I was annoyed at him for causing me to get caught in the doorway with my very full knapsack. Little did I know why. He was reading the newsflash on his beeper and instead of apologizing to me, he showed it to me and said “I hope this is a joke!”

As upset as I might have been to hear the news about the airplanes hitting the WTC, it was twice as chilling to realize that my boyfriend Ken worked there. I decided to continue on to work and to try to find a policeman to ask.

When I got out of the train at 57th street, I could not find a cop anywhere, but I did see lots of people suspiciously on their cell phones. I also heard sirens of all kinds going every which way. I called my stepfather on the phone and asked him to turn on the TV. His TV wasn’t working. I called Ken on the phone. His phone number at work wasn’t working. I knew that this couldn’t possibly be a rumor. I tried calling a bunch of you at work trying to find out what floor the plane had hit. Then, a bunch of people were running into a store nearby to watch their TV set. I finally saw a picture of the building on fire.

Thanks to my stepfather’s advice, I didn’t go to the WTC to find Ken. That could have been one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I decided instead to go back to Ken’s house to wait for his call. On the way there, I checked my voice mail every time I saw a pay phone. No messages.

As I walked, I tried to think rationally. I thought Ken worked on the 50th floor. I knew it was somewhere in the middle of the building and from the TV set, it seemed like only the upper floors were hit. Then I thought, maybe he works in the other WTC building, the one that wasn’t hit. Fortunately I didn’t know about the 2nd plane at that time. I remembered that the phones were down at the WTC and that cell phones would not have signals even if he did try to call. I then realized how many floors he would have had to climb down from before he could call me. I started to feel better.

But then panic set in. I checked my voice mail another 10 times. I thought, why would this happen to me? Why would I have met this absolutely marvelous guy just a short while ago just to have him taken away from me so soon? What would be the purpose of that? I got to Ken’s block and remembered that just a short while ago he was telling me that he would see me later. I didn’t take think twice about it when he said it.

That walk took much longer than usual but finally I was there. I turned on the TV to get the news, checked Ken’s caller ID to see if he had called home, and then dialed my number at work. Finally there was a message. Ken was alive and well at the South Street Seaport.

Then came the building collapse which came with it huge clouds of smoke and debris. I thought of Ken at the seaport and hoped that he would have begun to walk eastbound to avoid it. I waited for his live call. Finally he called me at 10:34 and told me that he would be home soon. Until he showed up 7 miles, 4 hours later, with very sore feet and legs, I was not fully at ease.

The first plane hit WTC 1 on the 80th floor approximately. Ken worked on 59. He heard a boom and then felt the building violently shaking for what felt like forever, but was probably 10 seconds. Being the floor fire marshall, he ran to the fire phone and tried to get some info but of course, no one was there. He quickly started to go to the staircase and walked downstairs with thousands of survivors to the lower floors. Smoke was in the stairwells and people were coughing and tearing. They felt a second boom. That was the 2nd plane hitting the WTC 2 in the 50’s. As he walked down, a bunch of firemen and policemen climbed up. It is those very people that probably lost their lives rescuing the people on the floors above Ken’s. When he finally got downstairs, he saw the remains of a person who had jumped off the tower. Without looking back, he headed to the South Street Seaport, unlike many of the people who stayed at the WTC watching it burn, later to have it collapse on or near them. Lots of people did make it out OK but 3,000+ didn’t.

Yesterday was truly the longest day that I can remember. Hours seemed like days and the day seemed to take a week. Ken and I received so many e-mails and calls that we spent the entire day telling the story over and over again. Last night we went out to dinner like so many other people in Manhattan to celebrate life!

Days like yesterday remind both of us how grateful we are to have so many friends, relatives, and great co-workers in our lives. Although we might not see each other as much as we would like to, it is still wonderful to know that you are there. I hope that the next time you eat your favorite meal, it’s tastes better to you too! And, I also hope that all of you and your loved ones were as lucky as we both were yesterday.

Abby Salomon
New York, NY