9/11 Stories

Anand J. Modi

I wasn’t planning to get up until about 10; I didn’t have class until 2, but i needed to go to the add/drop office, so i figured i’d go real early and make sure i’d be able to get that done. London, one of my roommates, woke me up at about 8:50 saying, “Wake up, the world trade center just exploded!” I genuinely did not believe him, so I just went back to sleep. About 3 minutes later, I rolled over in bed and looked out the window. There was smoke everywhere, and thousands of pieces of paper were flying through the air. i got out of bed and looked straight out the window at the twin towers and saw a gaping hole in the side of the north tower. People were everywhere down on the street, running east, away from broadway and past my building on william street towards water street and the seaport. I turned on the tv, where the initial speculation was that a drunken pilot had accidentally hit the building. My mom called me, and I was describing the scene to her when I saw another plane flying south, very low, slightly angled. It hit the south tower, and there was a massive fireball that came from the side of the building. It sounded like the thunderous noise made when cars drove over the steel plates on the street around the corner, except amplified a trillion times over. The TV signal was gone in a moment, and that’s when I decided to get out. London was still on the shower, and I went and banged on the bathroom door and told him that I was gonna get out. I went back to my room and threw a couple things in to my shoulder bag; phone, a couple notebooks, and a radio. Wearing the same clothes that I wore on monday, I headed down the stairs.

I got down the ten floors, and there were about a dozen people milling around the lobby. I stepped outside into a crowd of displaced business people. The streets were filled with people just watching the buildings burn. I went back into the lobby and literally bumped into the hall director. At that point the party line from the university housing office was that everyone was to stay there and stay away from the windows. London and I, however, left. We walked up william street and turned right on platt street, heading towards water street. Our plan was to try and sneak onto the NYU bus outside the Water street dorm. We got on, and i listened to the radio. We were in the bus, probably no more than 3 or 4 blocks further uptown than before when the first tower collapsed. You could hear and feel the rumble and crash inside the bus. The sky filled with smoke and dust, and people passed the bus, running for their lives.

Some 15 minutes and only 2 blocks later London and I got off the bus and started to walk. We stepped out into a cloud of dust, and I immediately had to pull my shirt over my face in order to breathe. We had just come into chinatown when the second collapse happened. There was another massive rumble, and a lot of yelling and shrieking, and everyone looked back and west to see another tower of dust rise. I broke into a jog as the dust cloud began to approach.

We eventually plodded up Bowery until it became 4th avenue, and went to my old dorm on 12th street. We went up to a friend’s room and London and I were able to use her phone to call home and let people know we were alright (after the explosions it became impossible to get a cellular phone call through for hours). The security guard told us that everyone from William street was supposed to go to the atrium between the 12th street and 11th street buildings. We went there, and I saw a few familiar faces, which was relieving. After a while, I went over to St. Vincent’s with a couple people to give blood, and I ran into Mike there. There were literally thousands of people there lined up to give blood.

Later in the afternoon, I was able to find most of the friends who I see on a daily basis, and we went to someone’s apartment uptown to try and relax a bit. Nobody wanted to watch TV. We watched Pulp Fiction, and tried to catch our breath. The one person who was still unaccounted for was Bianca. She finally showed up a couple hours later. She had been caught outside, very near the World Trade Center when the first tower collapsed. She had been rushed inside a building to wait out the cloud of dust. People inside buildings were very afraid that they were going to die.

After wandering around farther uptown for a while, I was presented with the opportunity to get on a train to poughkeepsie around 5, which I did. I could have stayed with friends in Brooklyn, or at Columbia. But getting to Brooklyn or up to 125th st would have been harder and taken longer than the train ride. So i left. I’ve been home since, trying to get myself back together. I’ve intermittently watched the news on tv. Sometimes I feel like I need to know what’s going on, when will things be back to normal. But whenever they show video of the plane hitting the building, or of people frantically running away from a massive cloud of smoke, or of the towers collapsing onto themselves, I get a chill. I’m trying to get out, go to the movies and such, but it’s kind of hard. Part of me wants to stay the hell out of town, but part of me wants to be near other people who experienced this so closely. I dunno. Truthfully, all I feel like I want is for everything to go back to normal. I can get back into having a semblance of a normal life. But right now, it’s difficult to get past things when everyone is very much still absorbed with it.

Anand J. Modi, 9/13/2001