Thursday, September 11, 2014

I ran like a dirty rat

The view from my company's building was very similar to this one.
Photo taken in 2000 from The Empire State Building.
© All Rights Reserved by chid1528

September 11, 2014
Day 134

Every year on this day, we tell our stories, and each of us has one.  We share where we were that day, what we saw, and what we did.

My 9/11 story has many parts, but the element I'd like to reflect on today is the one where I ceased to be a human being, and instead took on all the characteristics of a dirty rat in the street.

When the first plane hit the twin towers, it seemed like an awful accident of some sort.  When the second plane hit as I watched out my window at work, people immediately started saying this was terrorism.  I balked.  "Don't say that!" I chided.  I was so upset that my coworkers were jumping to such conclusions.  "Maybe a news helicopter got too close, and that's the explosion we saw," I said.  But then we heard about the other planes.  Washington D.C. was under attack too, and at least one other plane was still out there.

Soon afterward, we were told our building, because it was connected to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, was a potential target.  Evacuation was not ordered outright, because no one seemed to know what we should do, but I decided to leave right away. 

I ran down 29 flights of stairs.

I ran toward the river, and away from midtown.

I ran uptown from 42nd Street to the 70s or 80s. 

I needed to get as far away from danger as I possibly could, and I needed to do so as quickly as my legs would take me.

MEANWHILE, all over the tri-state area, many others were doing the complete opposite.  They were running toward the towers, and toward the danger.  They were making every possible effort to get as close to the areas in danger as possible, to save lives, and prevent more lives from being lost.

The heroes that day were many.  They showed a spirit and an energy I can only admire from a distance.  Because me?  I was a rat.  I ran like a dirty rat as far away as I could, because I was so scared my life was in danger from just a possible threat I didn't even know existed.

Do I forgive myself?  Yes, just as I understand all others who did the same thing or similar that day.  But I live with the knowledge of my reaction, and I live with the direction in which I chose to run.

For all the heroes who gave their lives that day, or who ran down there to help as many people as they could, I will praise and thank you all until the day I die.  And on the day I die, I hope to meet those heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice.  I want to thank them, and hug them, and give them all my appreciation for their choices that day. 

They ran and they ran, and then they ran some more.

They ran from all over the tri-state area, on foot and by car, by boat and by train. 

They ran toward the danger, into peril, and into the flames and debris.

They saw the threat, but they ran toward it anyway. 

And so we all pause today to thank them once again, as we will next year on this day, and every year after, and every day in between too.  We thank them for the choices they made, and the sacrifice they knew they were making...for complete strangers.  We thank them for running forward for all of us.

In memory of Andrea Della Bella and Officer Paul Talty

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