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I Was There
“Bye Mom!” I called as I hopped out of the house, it was about 8:30 am and I was going out for my morning jog. My iPod pounded music into my ears as I made my way down the busy New York streets.
My breathing became ragged as I reached the park and I stopped for a rest. It was a beautiful September morning and it felt good to get my heart pumping.
Once I’d recovered I walked further down the streets, enjoying myself. I watched a little bird flying up to a cloud, and then it was interrupted by a plane. It was getting lower and lower then the wing hit a building. My heart stopped, my mouth dropped, and my eyes got huge. Oh. My. God. I looked searchingly at the building. What the heck was going on? The building was alight although the one next to it was perfectly fine. Shoot, the Twin Towers were on fire.
Still in a trance, I started running. Not away, but towards. I willed myself to sprint as fast as I could. This couldn’t be happening. Oh God no, this wasn’t happening. I prayed and prayed, ‘Please let my dad be safe, let him get out okay. Please, please, please.’ Smoke was billowing from the top of the tower. I kept running even though I was pretty far away from the towers. Tears brimmed and tipped out of my eyes. People were screaming a running, as confused as I was.
Ambulance, police, and fire trucks whizzed by, trying to get to the fire. I fallowed the screams that could be heard from everywhere as I got closer. I tried to keep going but I couldn’t. I stopped and took a break. I could barely breathe. But had to keep going, I had to find my dad. I started running again, the sight of the top of the building fanned with black smoke kept me going. I was close. Almost there. Then screams echoed off the street corners and I looked up. Another plane was heading straight to the other tower. Then it hit with a huge ball of fire and smoke.
I kept running and as I approached the World Trade Center, I heard a horrible crashing sound above the blare of screams and sirens. I looked over and saw bodies falling from the towers. Every time one hit there was a huge crash. I sobbed and ran up the building. I tried to talk to the firefighters. I tried to ask them where my dad was. But they were busy talking on their radios. I tried to get in the building but the adults told me to get away, get away now.
I snuck into the lobby. I watched firefighters walk around, trying to find out what had happened. Sprinting, I went up the stairs, counting floors to my dad’s floor. But I was sure I’d never get there in time. It was floor 50. But I kept going. 5, 10, 15, ‘No, I can’t do this,’ I thought, ‘this building is going to collapse before I get there.’ Tears flowed down my face but I kept going up the stairs. People ran down the stairs, firefighters told me to stop. But I didn’t. I kept going.
I checked my watch. It was 9:30. Who knows how long it would take to get there. But I kept going. I finally reached his floor at 9:55. Finally. But now smoke caked the air and I couldn’t breathe very well. I ran into the department he worked in and prayed he was okay. “Dad?” I choked in the dust.
A horrible rumbling sound came from all around and the sound of the other tower tumbling to the ground deafened me. Dust, smoke, and ashes clouded my vision, stinging my eyes. I shut them quickly and searched with my hands for my dad.
But it seemed empty. Everyone must have gotten out already and I couldn’t help but start to panic. Heat in the room was building and I couldn’t stop coughing. Then, as I was about to leave, I stumbled across something soft. Investigating, I felt a face. But I couldn’t tell who it was because of the smoke was stinging my eyes. I pulled and yanked at the person but their leg was caught under a cabinet. I shoved and yanked, trying to loosen it, while fire crept into the room. “Come on!” I shrieked and thrusted the file cabinet back. I wrenched the person to the stairs as quickly as I could, but the person was heavy and the smoke clouded my vision.
My coughs echoed to the sound of crackling fire as I pulled him down the stairs. Sparks exploded from a door and footsteps pounded towards us. Firefighters burst into the staircase and spied me. I could barely see their red uniforms as one picked me up and gave me oxygen, sprinting down the staircase; the other was left with the person I’d tried to rescue. Before we turned out of sight, I caught a fuzzy glance of the man’s eyes that were polished with a thick film of everlasting anguish and misery. Then they disappeared.
It was 10:15.
The firefighter bounded down the stairs, cradling me in his arms. Although he held me gently, each time his foot hit a stair my body hit against his and my burns scorched with pain. We weren’t going to make it out. I was so sure I was going to die in this horrible place. ‘At least I died a hero,’ I reflected to myself, ‘Wait, no, heroes save people. Heroes don’t save dead men. They don’t leave their dad’s to burn in flames. They don’t run up 50 floors to move their dad’s body to a hallway. What a beautiful death, engulfed in flames and ashes. Well, he always wanted to be cremated.’
Tears streamed down my face, whether for grief or my body’s reaction to the smoke in the air, it didn’t matter. I was facing the end. I even realized I may be dying the death I’d always wanted, to die in the arms of a hot guy. I couldn’t be certain of his appearance but the fire was definitely making him very hot. I relaxed and waited for the building to collapse on top of us, evaporating what was left of the determination that had driven him and me to come into this building.
I smiled as I remembered that the last words I‘d said to my mom were, “Bye Mom!” At least I’d said goodbye. I recalled that the last thing my mom had said to me was, “You’re going to regret wearing a push up bra instead of a sports bra on your jog.” I attempted a chuckle but I ended up in a coughing fit.
All at once, I was surrounded in light and people. Running people. I was out of the tower. In the grainy sunlight I sobbed, thanking God for getting me out. But it was all too perfect for him to be satisfied. The building groaned and started moving. The firefighter immediately ran as hard as he could away. Feet slapping the concrete and screams pierced my consciousness and I realized I’d never get away fast enough if the firefighter had to carry me. So I leaped from his arms and dashed away from the crumbling building.
I watched smoke whisper at my heals, it billowed behind me like a wave, ready to crash and consume me. I knew I was too slow. I knew I wasn’t fast enough, but I ran. I ran like I had never before. Adrenalin pushed me into super flight mode, because you can’t fight death when it’s reaching for you, breathing down you neck, luring you in. All you can do is run and hope you can cheat it. Pray you can cheat it. And maybe you will. Maybe I will. Maybe death will. Or maybe you will trip and fall, and never see the light at the end of the tunnel. Never see another day. Maybe you’ll never embrace what you had until it was stripped from you. Or maybe a hero, a real hero, will save you. A guardian angel that thinks you deserve to live. Too bad I didn’t have a guardian angel. Too bad I didn’t get another chance. Too bad I didn’t embrace life when I had it. Too bad I was never the one to tell my mom that dad was dead. Too bad… I died.