September 11th, 2001

Have you ever tried to tell someone about a nightmare? But my mother told me to write. So, here I sit.

I can’t believe what my eyes have seen in the past week. I want to rip them out, and if I knew the memory would go with them I might just do so.

I am not sure I would even like to tell a story. But I suppose it’s a necessary part of getting over this.

September 11th, 2001 at 8:52 a.m. I walked from the N/R line in SoHo – from Prince street to Spring – where my office is located. I picked up a bagel from across the street. Upon entering the building, I saw a low-flying plane. It was headed at the World Trade Center. I thought nothing too much of it. Why on earth would I? I’m an American (I would later think), and I continued upstairs.

About 1 minute later my boss runs in and says “I think a plane just hit the World Trade Center!”

My God, my brother began his job yesterday. My God, I wonder if I will eat my bagel now. My God, I need to call Gerry and see if he’s heard about this. My God, why didn’t I stop them. I wonder if I’ll be able go away this weekend? My god, my brother is down there. FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK.

I pick up the phone thinking that on this clear day in September the pilot just missed. Yes, he must have missed. Fallen asleep at the wheel, lost site of the runway. Missed. I call my brother. He is down there. He might know more. The lines are full. (As they should be.) I boot up my computer. I get on line. I do what anyone else might do – wait for someone to tell me where to go or what to do.

Another woman runs in, “A plane just hit the other tower!” Panic. I pick up the phone again. I call Ryan’s cell. I can’t get through. I can’t get through. I can’t get through. My brother is down there. My little brother is down there. I can’t get through. I run to the window. Redial redial redial redial. I watch the World Trade Center burn. THIS IS THE PLACE I LOVE. THIS IS THE PLACE I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO BE!

I can’t take photos of this. No photograph will ever capture this memory, this nightmare. None. The mere thought of photographing this made me feel horrible. It was too pornographic.

I have my dad’s number on redial. I have my mother’s number on the other. I have a very, very wonderful friend talking me through all of this, (I thank you, a dear soul) helping me out, as my coworkers were doing a lot of the same. I get through to my mother. I tell her, “I am doing what I can to find him.” I can’t imagine what she is going through at this point. (I am so sorry, Mom).

I hang up with her. I am still phoning my brother. My cell phone seems to be my best out. (Thank you, AT&T). My father calls.

My father is not an overly emotional man. And he has had a rough few months. If you know him, you already know how close this strong man might be to giving up. He says, in an eerie, calm voice, slowly but steadily, “Michele, I am so scared.” We hang up. I continue to call. I get through.

I found Ryan.

He’s told to stay put, that it’s not safe to leave. I tell him, “leave anyway! Head a few blocks up towards me. Just walk up Broadway.” He says he’s going to wait until they let him go. (I let him go. If I hadn’t let him go, this might not be happening. He’s my little brother, I should have taken better care of him).

I hang up. I have good news for Mom. I call her. I tell her he is fine. He is down there, but he is fine. She wants to call my father. (I am so very sorry, Dad).

My coworkers and I are standing at the window watching the World Trade Center burn. And there is this woman over the radio, her voice still haunts me, and probably will forever. I will never be able to put into words, to explain just how horribly terrified she sounded. (I am so very sorry, you poor woman, if I could hug you, I would).

“My dear God, the building is falling.”

It sounds so meaningless. But it brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it. I suppose she made it my reality, as I have seen nothing more terrifying with my own eyes. Like right now, I have to look away for a bit..

The Comfort of Strangers

I am on a train, miles from nyc, headed to Toronto to visit someone I hardly know. I don’t know why I am doing this. I can’t imagine living without my friends and my family. But they scare the shit out of me right now. They really do. And I am not sure why. Perhaps they’re too close to me right now. Is that possible? Is it actually possible? There is a part of me that wants someone to tell me why I am acting the way I am. But there are so many others who are so more effected by this and they need the help more. But I hope that it goes away sometime soon.

“My dear God, the building is falling.”

My brother is down there. My little brother. (I wanted you to be a girl when you were born, did you know that? And for a second, I have to admit, I was disappointed when mom told me you were a boy. But I was six years old and I hope you can forgive me for that now). My baby brother is down there.

The next two hours are a total blur. I am wiped. I try calling him over and over again. And I get nothing. I sit in the window and watch the papers float over the city like snow. And I feel horrible now for thinking it was beautiful. A cloud comes rolling up Broadway as if it alone were about to destroy this magnificent city. People are running for their lives.

People are running for their lives.

“A plane just hit the pentagon.”

Oh my god, my older brother is there. I call my mom. There is only so much strength I have been granted for this life and I feel as though that day might be the day it ran out. What happens then? I get through after about 30 tries. “Have you heard from Rob?” “Yes, he is fine.” “Ok. I have to find Ryan still.”

“The other building is falling.”

I am watching these huge, magnificent towers fall to the ground and my mind won’t really allow me to comprehend. Thank you, mind, for numbing me to the horror as I sit watching. And I am angered. New York… I love New York. I moved here – to be HERE. They just ripped its heart out.

My coworkers are looking for numbers and contacts and names and family members. It’s not really happening. This isn’t really happening.

In the past week, I have seen love stronger than I could ever have imagined. I have seen strangers come up to strangers just to help out. I have seen the homeless realize their life isn’t so bad in comparison, to that day. I have seen people hug who have never met. I have seen people let someone (and me) say something irrational and nasty and let it be. And I do hope people aren’t able to forget this. At the forefront of all of this hatred, I have seen love. And because of that, I am here right now. I refuse to give up and I refuse to let these bastards win. And because of this love, they have lost.

I can’t imagine what others may have seen that day. I am having trouble comprehending all of this myself. And I do hope that someone is there for them when they return somewhere better. And I have no doubt someone will be.

I can’t say what hasn’t already been said. I can’t imagine what others may not be writing. I just hope that I can somehow help out.

I am forever devoted to this city.

And my little, baby brother is ok. Damnit, little guy, I love you dearly.

This is for you.

20 Comments

  1. That post was so beautifully written and captured me so completely that having just read it, I don’t even know what to say except that there should be no apology for it’s length. That story should be shared and shared and shared. In it’s raw truth and with all of those details, I felt like I was there. Beautiful, Mihow!

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  2. That post is still as amazingly touching as it was almost 3 years ago.
    I just realized right now, that was the last time I saw you too.

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  3. Today’s post is amazing. I wasn’t in NYC, but in Wash DC on that scary day. I can only imagine what it must have felt like that day. I did get to go to Ground Zero when I was in NYC two weeks ago for the first time since everything happened. I still can’t believe what happened. I think you captured what we all felt.

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  4. This morning, I have decided that Michael Moore should be censored after all in order to keep me from writing totally melodramatic rants like this one after watching one of his movies. We must stop Michael Moore.

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  5. Sign me up and tell me where to send the donations :)

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  6. You see, now I was only kidding. You must not start anything.

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  7. Will always come at a price! Can you stop Moore? No!Can you make a differnce? Yes!We need to beat him at his own game!America is lazy! but just by doing a little evryday will make the differnce.what can we do????

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  8. One reads Noam Chomsky’s, 9/11 (suggested reading this morning by a loved one named Toby). One becomes irate on a Wednesday. That’s what this one is doing today. Here.

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  9. I remember that day well, michele.
    I was in London not knowing what to do with myself with anxiety.

    I haven’t seen f9/11 yet.
    Hopefully I will see you and toby soon as I’m in SF for a week in August

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  10. thanks for reposting that. i hadn’t discoverd you at that point, so i didn’t get to read it the first time. it was nice to read something so moving and real. i haven’t been to nyc since 9/11, so for me sometimes it still seems so surreal. i remember when it happened thinking that it felt so like a movie… how could something so horrific happen in a place i had stood a few months earlier. … again, thanks for sharing.

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  11. I was safe and in germany when it happened and it was still devastating. I can only try and imagine how it was for someone to watch it live and worry about loved ones. thank you for sharing it!!

    and I thought you might like this site.

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  12. Thanks for that link, Kim. I hadn’t seen it before.

    Danny, Toby and I would absolutely love to see you when you’re here. When are you here? Drop us a line or an email or an AIM.

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  13. I was about 20 blocks north of you, taking my daughter to school, She looked up and said “plane” (she was 3, not too chatty yet) and I didn’t even look up. It took me months to piece it together and realize later that what she saw was the first plane.

    What a terrible day.

    And your post is painfully evocative. I wish we didn’t have these memories.

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  14. Little Star in the Sky July 1, 2009 at 8:27 am

    I just found your site today while I was trying to remember Bella di vita soaps. Your post is still very real and raised the hair on my arms as I felt your fear & helplessness. At the time, I was here tucked (safely?) in the security of my office at PSU getting ready to travel to Altoona Campus for a day of teaching. I remember my own fear & helplessness that day and how I watched (and) as others, reached out to comfort…..

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  15. 8 years later and I still have the images of that day ingrained in my mind. I was a junior in college and spent that entire day staring at my tv. My roommates and I tried desperately to figure out what was going on. Why was this happening?

    I can only imagine what it was like to be in NY that day with your brothers at both the WTC and the Pentagon.

    We will never forget.

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  16. What a thing to endure, and how beautifully you wrote about it. How amazing that the strongest thing for you, after it all, was the love. It truly *does* conquer all.

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  17. This was beautifully written Mihow.

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  18. I don’t even know how I found your website but, here I am.

    And I know even less what drew me to the very beginning of your archives but, again, here I am!

    I found myself running with those you saw running; I felt frantic all the while you were trying to contact your little brother; and I felt gratitude for my sisters as I enveloped myself in the love you so eloquently described!

    I am inclined to share where I was when this occurred: as an elementary school teacher in California, I was readying myself for the day ahead. Seemingly to be an ordinary day, I spent one of the most heart-wrenching days of our nation’s life, trying to grasp what had happened while, at the same time, trying to help 36 adolescents understand a devastation comparable to one we had only just read in our history books.

    Thanks for such a stunning tribute!

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  19. Hello!
    No “Next Post” button? :(

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