first I didn't believe it. I had good reason not to believe it,
for the ghost of something was still standing. Much later I learned
it was probably the skeleton of the elevator shaft and the smoke
surrounding it, but at the time, it was too surreal. The dark
ghost faded and slithered down. Burnt clouds exploded in gray
and white rolling waves. Someone standing close to me was screaming.
A man at my feet was weeping. Another man in a dark blue suit
appeared beside me and suddenly I was standing on the single stair
just outside the Petco door, trying to get a better look. *What
happened?* I said. *The South Tower just fell down,* the man beside
me said in a perfectly calm, matter-of-fact voice, which I suspect
matched my own tone of voice.
South Tower had fallen. That was where Charlie's office was. That
was where I had just left a message. How was it possible that
his voicemail had worked?
over Union Square, people were standing in the street, crying,
whispering, staring. I was one of them. So much was incomprehensible.
didn't know what to do. My plan to walk down there and find an
ambulance driver didn't seem right anymore, although I couldn't
let myself know why.
needed a new plan.
decided to call my office again and talk to my boss. Maybe he
could offer some advice.
hands were shaking again, and I had trouble getting another quarter
out of my purse. There was some expression on my face that must
have reflected the horror in my heart because someone with a camera
took my picture. I tried to turn away from him.
dialed my office number. My assistant, Liz Ann, answered the phone
and immediately said, *He called. He's in Soho. He's walking uptown
and will meet you at Harper. Come to the office.*
voice stopped working. My throat closed and I couldn't breathe.
I heard something like a gasp coming from my mouth. I clutched
the side of the pay phone. *Catherine?* Liz Ann's voice was trying
to reach me. *Yes,* I said. *I'm on my way. Tell him to wait for
had to walk around stunned pedestrians to get back to the subway,
but by the time I got back on the Q train, I felt strangely elated.
Charlie was okay. A major catastrophe had occurred, but he had
survived it. I still didn't feel normal. And everything around
me was sharper, more in focus, brighter, clearer. I spoke to some
people on the train. I laughed with them over something. I told
them my husband had been in the World Trade Center but that he
was alive, that he was going to meet me at my office. The relief
was so enormous, it made me happy. Yes, happy. A strange word
to be using that day, but that was the most accurate word.
the 42nd Street stop, the conductor got on the intercom and said
that the entire subway system was shutting down. We were instructed
to leave all subway stations immediately. It was clear they thought
the subway was the next target.
climbed out of the station to see ribbons of news announcements
crawling across the tops of buildings in neon colors, describing
the attack we had just experienced. Televisions had begun to appear
in store windows so pedestrians could hear the latest news. Clusters
of people surrounded the storefronts. Other clusters surrounded
cars that had stopped in the middle of the street because the
news was blaring from car radios. There was no automobile traffic,
only foot traffic, and even then, we were stalled. Standing in
place, milling around, dazed. It was at 42nd Street that I learned
that all airplanes had been grounded, no planes were allowed in
the U.S. Wall Street was closed down. I started moving, heading
uptown towards my office, but I stopped every now and then to
see if there was any new news. Watching the president on one large-screen
TV in a storefront window, I asked a guy standing next to me,
*Are we at war?* He answered, *We are today.*
kept going. I kept passing landmarks or, as I started thinking
of them, good targets for terrorists. Times Square. Rockefeller
Center. Everything still felt surreal in a bright, clear way.
reached the HarperCollins building, where nobody was working and
everybody was talking about what had happened. I had messages
from Charlie's family and my own family on my voicemail and I
called people back to tell them he was alive. But I missed a message.
I don't know how. But there was one more. It was one from Charlie
himself and I would hear that one later on, when he got there.