Student Account of the WTC Attack

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Big Foot

Student's First Hand Account of the 9-11 WTC Attack,
An E-Mail by NYU Student Justin Marx.

(Editor's note, this account is from an E-mail, thus the conversational tone. )

I can safely say that last week was one of the most intense times of my life (and I hope that's as intense as it ever gets!). That morning I got up after lying in bed listening to sirens going by for a half an hour (I live on second avenue, which is one of the most direct southbound avenues to the World Trade Center, so all the emergency vehicles were passing by my apartment), but I wasn't sure what was going on -- I just figured there was a big fire somewhere. When I got up my roommate said that he had heard a really low-flying plane, and he was wondering if that had anything to do with all the sirens. Then another roommate's sister called to find out if we were all okay, which is when we turned on the news. This was about five minutes after the second plane hit. We went up to the roof of my building, where we used to have a great view of the World Trade Center, and watched the rest of it happen from up there. When the first building fell, it was kind of hard to see because the hole was pretty far down the building, and most of the smoke was covering the building. When it fell, we could see something happening but it wasn't until the smoke cleared a little that we realized it had fallen down. Nobody could really believe it had fallen down, and it didn't occur to any of us that the other one could collapse, too. But soon enough it became apparent that the fire on the remaining building had consumed the entire width of the building, and that it would only be a matter of time until it fell. Nonetheless, when it did fall, it was far more horrifying than the first one, because we could see it clearly. Something inside the tower exploded, and the whole thing just collapsed into itself. People watching on the roofs around us were screaming and crying, although we were far enough away (a little under two miles) that we weren't in any danger. I guess it was just the thought that everyone above the hole would have had no way to get out, and that we had just watched them die. certainly something to mess with your head for a while.

About an hour later, when we decided we needed to go out and give blood, the whole east village was in chaos. The ambulances, police cars, fire trucks, and FBI continued to speed down second avenue for hours after it happened, and everyone was outside trying to get a bearing on what had just happened. There was a monumental cloud of smoke and dust covering the entire part of lower manhattan, bigger than I ever imagined two buildings could make, but for the time being the wind was blowing all that out to brooklyn and the ocean. People were in lines half a block long waiting to use the public phones, and lines were starting to form at the hospitals to give blood. The hospital we went to didn't have too many people in line when we got there, but after about ten minutes, there must have been 200 or 300 people lined up. There were so many people that they decided to give everyone a time to come back, and I was told to come back at 5:45, and when I came back later, they had run out of donation bags, and had filled all their storage capacity anyway, so they said to come back in a couple days.

The next day the national guard closed off Manhattan below 14th street, so that if you went above 14th, you had to show proof that you live there to get back. So my neighborhood was pretty much a ghost town, since everybody just wanted to stay inside anyway, and no one could come into our neighborhood. By that time the wind shifted and brought all that smoke and dust (and presumably asbestos) north into my neighborhood, and that's when i decided I needed to get out of town. The next day I went to my girlfriend's house in upstate New York and stayed there until Sunday. It was almost worse coming back to town on sunday, because by that time it had become pretty clear that no one was going to be found alive down there. There are still hundreds of homemade missing persons signs all over the village, with pictures, physical descriptions, and which tower and floor they worked on. It rained yesterday, and after it stopped raining, I saw new, dry signs put up, despite the fact that it's been ten days since this happened. Union square has been turned into a massive memorial, with thousands of candles, flowers, and signs, and impromptu candlelight vigils.

One of the most frustrating things about this was my inability to do anything to help. Both times I tried to give blood, I was turned away. When we decided to go down to Chelsea Piers to volunteer to help with the cleanup, they had stopped taking everybody except construction workers and welders. When we wanted to donate food and water and dry socks to the rescue workers, they already had more than they knew what to do with. Luckily some people I know have put together a benefit concert, the proceeds of which will go to the New York Times 9/11 Neediest Cases Fund, and will be dedicated to helping children who lost parents last week. I've been asked to play in the concert, so I finally feel like i'm going to do something positive.

I've attached a couple photographs that I took from my roof last tuesday morning. They're pretty self-explanatory. That photograph of the first building collapsing was taken by accident -- I was just taking a photograph showing people on other roofs, and the building collapsed just as I took the picture. In the last photograph (labeled "aftermath") you can see little gray dot in the top right area of the picture, which is a fighter jet.




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