#59 | Monday, September 17th 2001
At home, in Jackson, Mississippi, safely asleep in bed. My boyfriend called with the news and woke me up; I don't think I really believed I wasn't asleep for another hour. I leaped out of bed for the computer (useless -- all news sites were swamped), then showered faster than I ever had in my life so I could get to the office and find out from CNN exactly what was happening. I found out that it's really hard to drive and cry at the same time.
Here in Mississippi, we're so distant, physically and metaphorically, from New York; but it hurts just the same, for all of us.
Atlee | 24 | Mississippi
#55 | Monday, September 17th 2001
My wife Amanda and I had just been married in Memphis a week earlier, and were due to catch a 10:20 AM (CDT) flight home to Pittsburgh after driving back to Memphis following a honeymoon on the Alabama gulf coast. Memphis International closed about fifteen minutes before we arrived to check in "due to terrorist attack in New York", according to the counter agent. News trickled in from fellow stranded passengers - the Pentagon was on fire, a plane had crashed outside Pittsburgh, there were eight planes unaccounted for, or was it six, Chicago was being evacuated, and so on. Fortunately, all of our parents still live in Memphis, so my mother came by to pick us up to plan the next move. I realized that this was all real when I saw my mother starting to cry - she doesn't get rattled by much.
Nobody rents cars to 24 year olds (which we both are), which doesn't matter much anyway because by the time we left the terminal all the cars were gone, too. Neither Greyhound or Amtrak could take us anywhere we wanted to go, either, so we started to look to buy a used car. Used cars were starting to fly off the lots, as well - we missed out on one 1990 Honda Civic that was purchased by an airline pilot on his way home to Detroit between the time we called to ask and the time we got to the lot.
From there it's the standard quickly-buying-a-new-car story (which we settled on after realizing all the used cars we'd looked at which were remotely appealing and realistically affordable without financing had something seriously wrong with them). In Memphis, Amanda had noticed the outpouring of support from communities visible in flags and signs, and decided to take pictures of these on the trip back through the midwest.
Brian | 24 | Pennsylvania
#53 | Monday, September 17th 2001
I was standing outside of the Family Court in Queens, NY. Other students in my law school class and I were waiting for our professors to arrive and lead us on a tour of the court. A man ran down the steps proclaiming, "They just bombed the World Trade Center! They smashed right into it!" He looked wildly at everyone standing on the steps. Mothers trying to calm their children and smoke cigarettes before their court appearances did not appear to welcome this "crazy" man's exclamations.
I immediately dialed the number of a former supervisor who I knew to work in Building Seven of the WTC (later collapsing as well). I got no answer. Suddenly, other students began to dial the phone numbers of friends and family and lovers who worked in the buildings or the area.
My professors arrived and seemed disappointed that the class would not see the court on a "normal" day. They lead us to the metal detectors (customary procedure) and within two minutes, we were told that no courts would be in session. Soon after, a police officer in riot gear addressed the waiting room:
"Attention everyone! We are now evacuating the court house. Everybody move!"
So, we did.
Buffy | 24 | New York
#46 | Monday, September 17th 2001
all morning i had my eyes glued on the tv ... around noon i started to feel sick, i needed to stop watching, stop listening, but as long as i was sitting there i couldn't tear myself away. someone suggested we all head out and give blood, so the office (five of us) took off around one o'clock in the afternoon to make the drive out to a blood bank. when we went past it, while looking for a place to eat, there was a line of people out the door and the parking-lot was crammed with cars.
we found a grill a few blocks down - groups of people were huddled around the restaurant, talking in low, whispered tones. finishing lunch just before two, we headed back to the blood bank. some volunteers were handing out pamphlets and saying we should expect a three to four hour wait, i checked my watch, 2:15 ... i asked for some water and took a place in line with the people from my work.
after an hour we were almost at the steps of the blood bank, a few tv vans had pulled up and were getting shots of everyone milling around in-line. a newspaper truck swung by and started giving away papers ... they already had pictures from new york. just as we were about to start up the steps, a woman came outside and told everyone that people were packed inside, and they wanted us to back up so they could give everyone more room. we backed up all the way across the parking lot, when we finally stopped moving backwards i realized we were now further away from the steps then when we had started ... my watch said 3:00
two people from the office split just after that, now it was just barbara, our manager, and nancy, one of the partners, and me. we handed the free papers around a few times and waited, the line was going even slower now, a half-hour later we were back to the spot we'd first started at, another half-hour passed and we were at the foot of the steps again.
at this point another woman from the clinic came out and said the wait would be three to four hours once we were inside the building. the steps were the wheel-chair accessable kind, that wrapped around the front of the blood bank three times, we were at the end of the first wrap. nancy, barbara, and i looked at each other ... i started thinking, "what if i wait all day and don't get to do anything" ... "what if this is just a huge waste of time" ... nancy and barbara decided they'd had enough. "we'll come back tomorrow" ... that made sense, we could show up early tomorrow and give. i took a step out of the line to follow nancy and barbara down the ramp, suddenly i could see myself at home - watching tv, wishing i had done something about this. a feeling of helplessness washed over me, i froze. i thought about all the people three thousand miles away - people trapped, fighting for their lives, holding on by a thread ... people who didn't have a choice, people who wouldn't have any more choices. i shouted at barbara and nancy, i told them id be staying, id see them tomorrow.
i let out a small sigh as i watched my co-workers leave. the line advanced another two feet up the ramp. someone had left a wallstreet journal next on the guard-rail next to me - a wallstreet journal takes hours to read, end to end. i got hooked on them taking a class on economics up at the university of washington. i snatched the paper up and tucked it under my arm. a woman came by with snacks - oreos, nuts, and handisnacks. cheese and crackers seem'd like the best way to go, but i wasn't hungry yet, so i shoved the little pastic package into a pocket.
another half an hour passed and i was inside the clinic, it was a mass of people - sitting, standing, packed in shoulder to shoulder in some places ... no one knew where to go, you simply payed attention to who was ahead of you and followed them ... an elderly man about four people ahead suddenly took off down a corridor and about twenty of us followed him. a doctor stopped us after about thirty yards, and all of us had to slowly worked our way back out to the lobby. i nudged my way around the crowd and saw the guy who was ahead of me at the information desk talking to the receptionist. i slipped though the crowded lobby and took a place behind him. i saw the girl who had been behind me, made eye contact and pointed at the receptionist, she nodded and started moving towards the desk. after a few minutes the receptionist handed him a medical form and looked up at me. name, birthday, and social security number later i was holding a donor form and shuffling off to the back of the clinic to wait in another line. my watch grinned 5:30 back at me.
whether you like it or not, by standing in line with the same people for hours you slowly start to get to know them. the gentleman ahead of me was a forty year-old european. the day's tragedy had completely crushed him. there were tvs in some parts of the waiting area, every now and then he look down from the reports, shake his head, then turn and ask me "why?" in a hurt and angered tone. i never knew how to respond to him, actually i don't think i needed to, the question was on everyone's lips.
the girl behind me was a nineteen year-old student at the san francisco city college. she was a broadcast major, "but i don't want to do the news. i want to be an on-air personality". all the schools in the city were closed today so she had gone with her housemates to give blood.
by 6:30 we were in the regular waiting room, several tvs were on and we were all watching the same reports that had been flooding in throughout the day. the same footage, over and over. everyone was quiet, focused, contemplative. the tables in the middle were stacked several feet high with magazines and newspapers, i picked up a year-old newsweek, paged though it, and made small talk with my european friend.
by 7:30 we had been herded into the donor room. about twenty tables had been setup and nurses were scurrying around tending to everyone. the smell of iodine was almost overwhelming ... a girl wearing a white tank top started to cry, a kid who had been speaking russian outside fainted. we were all moved into private rooms where a nurse gave a quick consultation and pricked our fingers. back outside we all showed off the small bandaides they gave us. while we were waiting for a table a phone started ringing behind me. around the tenth ring a nurse suddenly looked me in the eyes, "can you get that, tell them donor-collections," she asked. i walked behind a small divider, found the phone, and picked it up.
"donor-collections," i said.
"hi, i have a rare blood type and i recently took a trip to east-asia. i want to come in today and i was wondering if .."
"can you hold on for a second," i asked.
but she continued, "i just got back a month ago, but i was really wondering if i could go down and ..."
"you're going to want to speak to a nurse," a said quickly, "let me get you one."
"oh, i thought you were a nurse."
i grabbed an nurse who was walking around and told her about the call. about twenty minutes later the same phone rang again, but this time everyone in-line turned and looked at me. i gave a small grin and walked over to answer it, then found another nurse.
about ten minutes to eight i was standing at the front of the line, waiting for a table. i started hopping from foot to foot, id eaten almost nothing, except for the cheese and crackers id been saving, and had been on my feet for the last six hours ... then a nurse called me over. it took about twenty minutes to give blood. the woman who stuck me took forever numbing my arm, and trying to get the tubes sorted out. i thought i was going to put my toes through the bottom of my shoes, i was clenching them so hard.
i ended up on a table next to a rather striking indian woman. she worked at a downtown law firm, and did kick-boxing and karate in her spare time. the local news crew was still inside and decided to film people giving blood. the woman on my left was very adamant about not wanting to be taped. she told me she was going to punch the anchor man in the nose, if he came near her ... they'd given me a ball to squeeze while i was lying there, i offered to throw it at him instead.
after losing a pint of blood i lay on my back for a few minutes. a nurse brought me some water. then, after my head felt like it was the right weight again, i sat up, slowly collected my newspaper and jacket. after that i made my way to a counter where they had drinks and some food. on my way there, i ran into my european friend, they'd given him two stickers, "be nice to me i gave blood today" and "today i saved a life", on red and white hearts which he'd affixed to his shirt. he grinned at me, i grinned back, then he headed for the door.
i sat down at the counter and asked for some orange juice. a few cups and a rice crispy treat later i started feeling a lot better. after about ten minutes of orange juice and snacks, my stomach decided it was going to get a real meal, or it was going to get my liver ... so i left the counter, waved to the last of the people id spent the day in-line with, and headed out the door. i caught a cab a few minutes later and gave the address of my office. i still had to get my truck and make the trek back home. my watch said 8:30
for everyone who didn't have a choice.
Vladimir | 24 | California
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