Drunell's Personal Experience of September 11

New York City, September 11, 2001: A Personal Diary

On Monday morning, September 11, 2001, I awoke early and arrived at work around 8 a.m. It was a beautiful sunny day, with not a cloud in the sky. Everything seemed normal until 8:50 a.m. when I received a call from Okey (my significant other) telling me that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. We were both shocked. The scenario was unbelievable. "What a terrible accident!" I remarked. The World Trade Center is prominent on the New York skyline. Okey’s office was less than two miles away and visible from the street. He promised to go down to the street to confirm that the World Trade Center was burning.

After hanging up the telephone, I went to a colleague and repeated what I had heard, adding that it was a "rumor." It wasn’t that I didn’t believe Okey. I just didn’t want to believe that such a terrible thing had (or even could) happened. Someone at work turned on the radio. To my utter disbelief, I heard the newscaster confirm the event. The news also reported that a plane had hit the Pentagon, and a few minutes later the report stated that a plane had hit the second tower of the World Trade Center. At that instant, I knew it was no accident. It was intentional and it was terrorism.

Someone suggested that we turn on the television, and within the hour, the entire office gathered and watched the events unfold in disbelief. Management told us to go home, but there was no transportation. Subways, buses, bridges, tunnels and airports had been closed. Those who lived in Manhattan were asked to accommodate those who could not get home.

I was fortunate. I lived only a short distance away by New Yorker standards (40 blocks), and I am used to walking. I left the office building on 34th Street and proceeded downtown on Fifth Avenue towards my apartment. There were thousands of people around me. New York City emergency workers had already sprung into action. Sirens and megaphone announcements blasted through the air, as emergency vehicles sped through the city streets.

Within a block or two I was joined by my friend Sam and his son Will. Sam had taken a bicycle ride to pick to pick up Will from school. The three of us continued our journey home in shock. I live about one mile from Ground Zero, and Sam and Will live less than one-half mile from the towers.

By the time we got to 23rd Street, I could not believe my eyes. I started to see people who had escaped the World Trade Center tragedies and were heading uptown in the opposite direction. Some of the people were crying hysterically. Some were filthy from the debris and dust. Some were injured and bleeding profusely. Although the scenario is reminiscent of a surrealistic version of the movie "Night of the Living Dead," I soon realized that these were the lucky people.

When I arrived home, I turned on the television to watch the local news. It all started to sink in — the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had been attacked, and a plane had crashed in Pennsylvania. The devastation was beyond belief. I stayed glued to the television all day, wondering what I could do to help. Simultaneously friends, family and relatives began to call me, and I began to call them. There was an urgent need to know that those close to you were alive and well.

As the day progressed I felt more and more helpless. I realized that there was nothing that I could do about the events, and there was nothing that I could do to help. I was not qualified for rescue efforts at the World Trade Center. Though requests for blood had been made, blood centers were overwhelmed and could not handle another volunteer. Giving money is always an option, but I was filled with grief and wanted to give of myself.

The next three days are a blur, but my memory tells me that my actions and those of other New Yorkers were similar: I watched news broadcasts, injured people, felt the sadness and anger, and relived the tragedy in my mind — all in disbelief. Flyers and posters of the missing began to appear all over the City, as family, friends and loved ones walked the streets, made telephone calls, cried, begged, pleaded and prayed.

It is no easy task to make sense out of the fact that death can be so sudden and senseless. My feelings of helplessness inspired me to create the September 11 Quilts project, but it was prompted by a call from my friend Sarah Roberts. Sarah and I once lived in the same town, and we often made group quilts together. She wanted to make a memorial quilt and asked if I would like to help. I declined Sarah’s request and committed myself to a much larger endeavor — organizing the September 11 Quilts memorial.

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