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We were greeted by emergency workers, mostly firemen, directing us to the escalators leading down to the ground level. There was a jam up by the escalators, so before I went further down, I left the crowd and went over to the two-story windows overlooking the plaza. A security guard started to stop me. Within just a few seconds, a long conversation occurred between our eyes, but there were few actual words spoken. His eyes said, *Don't go there.* Mine responded, *I'm going there.* He decided to ignore what I was doing. The fear in his eyes released me. I went and looked out. What I saw looked unreal. There was opaque light. Fog. Falling dust. Gray things. Reddish things. Twisted metal. But mostly what I saw was an absence of life. The plaza was usually crowded with people. They weren't there.

 

I returned to the crowd by the escalators. There were two of them. Usually one of them goes up and the other goes down, but neither of them was operating. People were going down on foot. I chose the one closest to me. So did an overweight woman ahead of me who collapsed not far from the bottom. People grew upset, calling for others to climb over her before they did themselves. Some emergency workers climbed up and carried her off.

 

The rest of us were routed through the mall and underneath to the exit by Border's Bookstore. At this exit, there were two escalators with a staircase between, and I chose the staircase, feeling I'd have more control on regular stairs. We were sent across the street to a spot between the Millennium Hotel and the cemetery.

 

After crossing the street, I turned around and looked up into something surreal. Both towers were still standing. Both towers had smoke pouring from them. I could see flames from WTC I. The fire gave off an eerie sound. It wasn't until that moment that I realized that WTC I had not fallen into my building.

 

Policemen started instructing us to move away from the area. *Hey, buddy, move it,* one of the said to me. But then he must have seen some expression cross my face and softened. *I just came from that building,* I said, pointing at it. I asked him what happened to it. He told me a plane had hit it. *No, I don't mean Tower I,* I said. *What happened to my building, Tower II?* He said, *Planes hit both towers.* That's when I thought I might be dead. Maybe I was actually dead, and death or my own dying brain was easing me into death's realm by making it seem like I was alive and looking up at the Twin Towers burning.

 

The police officer asked if I needed medical assistance. I said no, I just needed to rest. He asked several times, but I kept telling him no, I just needed to rest a minute.

 

I looked up at the burning towers again. I knew it was something I would never see again. The sight of those Twin Towers burning was -- I hate to use the word, but there's no other word for it -- magnificent. It was just ---- magnificent.

 

I reached in my pocket. I pulled out the pack of stale cigarettes. I took off the wrapping. I was going to start smoking again, right then and there. Then I realized I had no matches. It took me a minute or so to find someone who could give me a light. Then I leaned against a car on the corner of Rector and Church and smoked a very stale cigarette. Nothing ever tasted so good.

 

When I was done, I started walking, heading towards Broadway. Just before the intersection, I remember seeing a women's shoe, what looked like a piece of an airliner seat, and large pools of blood. I thought then the blood must have come from a passenger who was thrown from the plane, but now I wonder if someone on the ground had been hit with debris. For just a moment, I looked back again at the World Trade Centers burning in the sky, but then turned away, fearing that I would see someone else jump to their death.

 

I couldn't get a signal on my cell phone. As I headed uptown, there were hordes of people heading down to the World Trade Center. I was definitely going against the flow. Many emergency vehicles were also headed to the area. Fire trucks, police cars, special response vehicle, ambulances, unmarked cars with flashing lights. I asked an officer what he wanted me to do and he asked that I get out of the area. He said he thought the Brooklyn Bridge was still open. I considered for a moment what I should do next. I thought Catherine would probably be at work, so I decided to head up to Midtown.

 

There were thousands of people on the street. I remember asking myself if this could be normal. Then I started talking to a guy I met along the way. He told me the MTA had shut down the subway. Some businesses were in the process of closing, although not many yet. I passed Canal Street into Soho. I was starting to get the feeling that I was a bit player in a bad sci-fi movie, although Godzilla had not yet screamed in out of the sky. I headed up Crosby Street. My cell phone still couldn't get a signal. I was even trying to get an analog signal but had no luck.

 

Going north up Crosby Street, I noticed a man and a woman around my age run out of a building and start looking south towards the World Trade Center. I stopped and asked them if they lived in that building and they said yes. I explained that my cell phone didn't work, that I had been in the World Trade Center, and that I would like to use their telephone to let my wife know I wasn't dead. It was amazing. I didn't even know these people and they invited me up to their apartment at once. The apartment was on the third floor. We took the elevator up and on the way, it gave a jolt. I'm sure it wasn't much of a jolt, but a shudder of fear or memory stabbed through me.