9/11 Stories

Charles Waters

I worked on the 54th Floor World Trade Center 2. On Tuesday 9/11, I was on the plaza of the World Trade Center when I saw the first plane hit WTC 1. It was 8:43 am.

Since Labor Day we had been very busy at work and the entire office had been arriving very early for work. On Monday 9/10 I worked until 8:00pm. I was in touch with many people in building that night. But yesterday was primary day in New York and I decided to vote, even though I was late leaving for work. Due to confusion at the voting center it took longer than normal.

I arrived in Lower Manhattan at about 8:38. Walking up Dey Street I decided to stop for coffee and walked across Church Street onto the Plaza of the World Trade Center. I called my father on my cell phone and we were talking which kept me from entering the building. I was on a bench right in front of the WTC 1 and turned slowly for no real reason and saw the entire plane hit the tower. I saw the wing extended from the building on the south side and a large explosion. Then smoke. Then everything was frozen, very still, with a perfect New York blue sky framing the backdrop of explosions. I ran when the glass and metal begin to fall from the sky hitting all around me. Only moments before there were many people around on the plaza like myself, but while I ran I saw nothing, no person, and no car. I made it back across to Dey Street and into the loading dock of Century 21 building (the TV photos of this building show it to be demolished).

I don’t remember from there when I made it to Broadway (about a half block east). On Broadway people were collapsing and crying. Much of this time is a slow motion blur. I remember a man screaming, “Fuck this, I’ve been to war for this country, not here.” From this position on Broadway I witnessed the first wave of people jumping from WTC 1. It is the most horrible thing I have ever seen. A doctor next to a group I was with fell to his knees, his stethoscope hitting the ground. Everyone seemed frozen and in shook. From there I heard but did not see the second plane hit WTC 2. The sound was of a nuclear bomb. My cell phone was 9:03AM.

At that point I began running north. I get to East 4th Street completely dazed. On Houston St. I saw the WTC 1’s needle crumble to the ground and heard on blasting radios that both of the towers had fallen. From there I made my way to the Williamsburg Bridge and made my way back home. Tens of thousands of people were walking across the bridge, a surreal exodus no one was quite prepared to cope with.

Now on Thursday afternoon I have made my way back to the city. I have seen co-workers and friends. The company I work for has been extraordinarily courteous and compassionate with helping all of the employees. The relief of seeing faces of others on my floor was a real blessing. I have done very mundane activities like going to the bank, going shopping that seem very important in order to move past the events of Tuesday. So many people where just minutes from the building, everyone trying to reclaim some sense of reality by describing how they got out.

I never thought I would work in the World Trade Center. But I enjoyed my work there. Like all artists, I needed the money, but I also made many friends and learned a good deal about other parts of life, other skills that I never knew I possessed. Sometimes during lunch, I would finish my writings. Some of those writings emanating out of the tower found there way onto funky websites all around New York.

The views of the harbor were magnificent and inspirational. I remember ending long days by looking out the windows and feeling so very refreshed and glad to be in such a beautiful city like New York. But that view is gone and so much has changed. Though I have felt such anger and frustration, more that ever in my life, I know I will survive. I made it out alive for a reason.

Those I email with daily always used to get my emails where I signed off “Your Man in the Tower”. Though nothing of the tower is still there, there is still the power of thought and doing something to change this world for the better that will float in the air forever. All we need to do is reach up and find it.

God bless to all,
Charles Waters