The weather was beautiful on this Tuesday morning. The sun shone above and the wind was a little breezy. It was a typical morning observing people from various cultures moved around, and rushed to get to their destination. Today was perfect for the New York City primary election. I decided to leave early than usual to spend an hour or more on the World Wide Web at my school, Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) before my first class started. After I waded through the colorful New Yorkers of all sizes on the sidewalks and made my way down into the Lexington Avenue 125th Street Subway Station, I boarded the middle car of a Brooklyn-bound four express train.
While leaning against the metallic door of the train, I listened to the conversations of everyday people. A white man with a receding hairline, who could have been a schoolteacher, told this elderly black man with a brown jacket that a plane hit the World Trade Center. By the tone of his voice, it did not sound too serious. I was thinking to myself how the pilots did not see those tall buildings. The two men soon changed the topic to sports and I stopped listening to their conversation.
After I transferred to the Shuttle on Grand Central - 42nd Street, then caught the number two Seventh Avenue Express, I knew something was wrong. The vibe I felt was a great deal of panic and nervousness. Most of the people looked lost like they never been in the city before. This was the first time I saw New Yorkers in this emotional state.
The train pulled into the Chambers Street Station, but the doors would not open. I knew something was definitely wrong, but I do not know how serious it was. The passengers waiting to get off were puzzled. I observed them looking around trying to determined what was the problem.
"Why won't they let us out?" A tall woman wearing glasses cried.
After five minutes, the train proceeded to move to the next station. It was Park Street, and the entire station was full of thick white-gray smoke. The sight of this reminded me of the many grills at the annual block party in my Harlem community. The train moved slowly passed the station and it stopped in the middle of the tunnel. This was the worst place to be during an emergency. I felt trapped and I was trying my best to keep my composure under these circumstances. I reminded myself that everything was going to be all right, just stay calm.
The smell of the smoke got stronger and I started to panic because of the bad air ventilation inside the train. There was no way out and no way of knowing how long I was going to be stuck in the tunnel. A pint-size Latino woman clothed in a black sweatshirt, probably in her late thirties, was on the floor crying. A light-skinned passenger clad in army fatigues left his seat to console the woman. Whatever he was saying to her appeared to be working because she wiped her eyes and looked calmer. The feeling was frightening to know that I cannot do anything about the situation. I do not want to die on the train and the thought of it really made me feel timid.
"Get my train out of here, let's go!" The conductor said on the radio.
When the passengers hear that, they began to feel relieve. I glance over at the pint-size Latino woman; she had a slight smile on her face now. Slowly the train was moving through the tunnel full of smoke. About a half hour later, the conductor instructed us to exit the train from the first car. I noticed we were in the Fulton Street Station and I had no idea that I was about to enter a new world.
Above the surface, debris was falling from the sky and burying the city. A white police officer standing in front of Duane Reade was giving out facemasks to people. I quickly took one and began walking up the dusty block feeling puzzled. I still did not know what happened in the city, but it looked like somebody dropped a bomb here. That second, a roaring sound pierced the sky above. I was thinking a bomb was about to drop, and everybody on the street including myself ran.
"In the blood of Jesus," An overdress West Indian hollers, as she falls to her knees looking up at the sky. I saw nothing but horror in her paper bag-brown eyes.
Several New Yorkers and I dashed inside a medical center for shelter. Inside, it was something out of a scene from ER. Doctors were moving around frantically, giving out bottles of water and juices. They were also taking the elderly and the evacuees from the World Trade Center I assumed with injuries to emergency rooms. As I sat on the floor in the hallway, I was thinking this was the first time I am experiencing a small taste of war. I did not have a cell phone, and the people I saw with cell phones were having problems connecting, trying to contact someone. They were shaking their cell phones, freaking out. Looking at all this, I knew there was no way for me to contact my friends or any family member to let them know I was secure. There were many working people here possibly from the World Trade Center or Wall Street, covered in soot staring at the walls in disbelief. It looked like they do not have a soul in their bodies. It felt like a career-ending blow to the heart hit New Yorkers in the heart.
A medical assistant with long hair and caramel skin directed some people to other rooms to keep the lobby clear. She was young-looking, maybe twenty-two years old, and very polite. After the lobby was clear, I approached her.
"Excuse me, I just came from the subway and don't have any idea what's going on."
"Oh, two commercial planes crashed into the World Trade Center." She informed me. "It's all over the news."
"You can't be serious; I was on my way to BMCC. Is it safe to leave now?"
"I don't think it's a wise decision for you to go out there."
"I really don't want to be in the hospital."
.... There is more of this story ...
True Story /