This, lightly edited, is the email I sent to my family in other places on September 12, 2001.
I was in the subway when the first blast happened, and some people got on my train and started talking about a plane crash and brushing broken glass from their clothes and hair. I pretty much ignored them. Then I got out of the train at City Hall and started walking across town. I heard a lot of sirens and a helicopter and at the next intersection I looked up and saw the flaming hole in the first WTC building. I looked back down and started walking quick to work at BMCC to call Beth to tell her to stay home (cell phones were not working, pay phones had long lines, people were running up the street crying).
Then I heard an echoing explosion, like a series of 3 or 5 loud rippling bangs, and I looked up and saw the huge cloud of smoke and flame (and large pieces of debris–people next to me said they saw people falling in the air, but I don’t think I saw that–not clearly) coming out of the second building.
I ran to work and called Beth–I wanted to tell her to stay home, because the subways would be a mess. At that point I thought it was just something like a gas fire. Somebody told me that a plane had crashed into the WTC, but I didn’t really believe it.
Then they started evacuating the college.
I walked out the North Entrance (about eight blocks north of the WTC) and saw two of my students, one crying and both pretty freaked out. I started walking with them, telling them I would help them get to Brooklyn, and that we should get out of the area, but we would be OK.
We made our way East and South and when we got to Broadway, turned South to go to the Brooklyn Bridge. Then we heard a loud noise like a subway train or a jet plane was going right down the street. Everyone stopped and looked around.
Then people were running north, towards us, from the south (the WTC, about 6 blocks south and 3 blocks west) I saw some running police and firefighters, running away from the WTC, then more and more people, a big crowd. I lost track of my students. I looked south where the people were running from and saw a huge cloud of smoke and debris (many stories tall, taller than the surrounding buildings) billowing and rushing up Broadway behind the mob of running people. I turned and started running. I saw a pair of high-heeled shoes that a woman must have just abandoned to run faster. Then a lady next to me fell down and people started trampling her. I got behind her and picked her up and she ran away. I thought I might fall or get hit by broken glass so I hid in a doorway and covered my face. Then the leading edge of the cloud was past and the air was dusty but there weren’t people running anymore.
I looked south and I couldn’t see where the Brooklyn Bridge was. Just the cloud of dust. So I turned north. I wanted to get out of Manhattan.
I walked towards Canal Street. People in the crowd were saying that nobody was being let out of Manhattan, that all the bridges were closed by trucks and troops. I thought “I don’t care. They can’t keep me here. I am going home.” I got on the Manhattan Bridge. As I was walking across I looked back and saw only one tower of the WTC standing. Then I heard that subway sound again and I looked again and saw the second building coming down. People in the crowd were saying that more planes were coming, and that they were going to attack the bridges next. I kept looking over the edge of the bridge to check the distance to the ground in case I had to jump.
I walked all the way to Brooklyn, and kept trying to call Beth on my cell phone until the battery died. When I found a pay phone with not a long line, I tried that, but the call wouldn’t go through.
So I just walked the rest of the way home. I was covered with the dust and ashes, and when I walked in I had to keep telling Beth that I was OK. Then Beth went to get Julie at school. I am just so happy we are all OK. (alternating with incredible anger at the bastards who did this, and those who are celebrating our grief and fear)
I talked to a lot of people, and I saw a lot of New Yorkers comforting each other, even strangers. At one point I was having some trouble breathing (mostly anxiety, some asthma) and a guy came over and helped me. Then I was OK, and I said thanks, and he walked away.
I feel so bad for the many people who lost loved ones.
Just thought I’d write it all down.