Sept 11, 10 years back: An eye-witness account – Part 2

               … I saw many crying, some praying and almost all trying to call up their near and dear ones on their cellphones (soon they discovered that the lines were jammed). As we were talking about whether it would be safe for the fire-fighters to enter a burning building at such a height, I saw a figure jump out from that height. At first because of the smoke we couldn’t make out that it was a person, but soon we understood what was happening. Soon there were others too following suit – People were trying to escape from the high temperatures inside the buildings and jumping to their deaths! And there was nothing we or anybody else could do. It was a poignant moment.

              I realized soon that this is going to be a massively tragic event. The entire area was filled with people from the nearby buildings who were asked to evacuate. Surely, there must be thousands still trapped in the twin towers, since those were the tallest and housed hundreds of offices. One by one, we were meeting survivors from the other towers. There were many who said that there had been people who were being evacuated from the towers via boats on the other side.  (That’s encouraging…I thought and I started praying and hoping for the minimum casualties).  It was interesting to see the reactions of people around. The other female colleague in the group, R, became kind of nervous. Our project leader started swearing, while another guy was eyeing pretty women even in these circumstances! Our project manager remained calm, composed and advised us to stick together if we were asked to vacate the area by the police or if something happened.

              And that something happened sooner than I thought. Even as we were observing all this, suddenly the ground shook like an earthquake and what I saw caused a lump in my throat – a massive cloud of debris, dust, glass, stones and all kinds of things was flying at us and threatening to engulf everything in its way! The towers were falling and that’s what caused this huge earth-shaking duststorm. Even though it takes a full minute to write or read this, in reality things happened in a jiffy. The next thing I remember is grabbing R’s hand and running in the opposite direction to the cloud taking God’s name. And though you may laugh at this now, I said a silent goodbye to my family in case I’m dead. At that point, frankly speaking, there was no thought other than running for our lives. Still holding R’s hand, I started running towards the sidewalk thinking of avoiding a stampede in the middle of the road.

              After running for quite some time, we dared to look back to see if it was safe to stop and catch our breaths. Though the cloud of debris was still in sight, it did not seem to be chasing and drowning us down. We still walked on incessantly. On the way, we saw many who feared the worst for their loved ones working in or around the twin towers and were frantically trying to reach them by phone. We too joined the queues for the phones and tried dialing our family phone numbers back in India. None of the numbers would work. In the meanwhile, R and I met other members of our team.

We walked all the way from my office to the train station.

We walked all the way from my office to the train station.

              After a while, we came to know from the authorities that the subways will be closed soon (as there was a real danger of terrorist strikes there too and also there might be flooding). We had to get to the nearest station that was still open around that time and that was near Madison Square Garden (Penn Station) or the 42nd street station. In a nearby McDonalds, we sat down to grab something to eat and also to try to catch the news on what could be happening. By that time, we came to know about the attacks near Pentagon too. Downtown New York didn’t seem to a safe place at all and we all wanted to reach our homes in New Jersey as soon as possible.

(Continued…in Part 3)