I work on the top floor of a five-story building and some days, but not often enough, I trek up and down the stairs several times for exercise. The staircase is dull and colorless of course, since its main function is to give people a way to exit the building during an emergency.
Walking down the stairs is easy, but on the way back up my legs start to hurt after the third floor and by the time I make it to the fifth, I’m huffing and puffing and stop to catch my breath before going back into the office.
Inevitably, I think of 9-11 and the people who were in the Twin Towers when the planes hit, and who walked down dozens of flights of stairs to safety. Then there were the ones who tried and didn’t make it because of health issues, such as obesity or frailty.
I think of my own two daughters who, because of mental disabilities, have a hard time walking and I cringe when I imagine them in such a situation because it would take good fortune or a miracle to get them to safety. My comfort is knowing I would never leave their side.
On the morning of 9-11, about ten minutes before the first plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center at 8:45 a.m. (cnn.com), I called a magazine in New York to check on a submission I had sent them. A few minutes after I got off the phone, my boss broke the news that a plane had hit a building in New York.
I wondered if the magazine’s headquarters were located in the World Trade Center, and felt horrible not knowing if the woman I had just spoken with was enduring a nightmare. I later found out the magazine was located elsewhere, but nine months later received an official rejection letter in a warped looking envelope apologizing for the delayed response due to “recent events.” The Anthrax mail problem that cropped up after 9-11?
I still have a copy of The Charlotte Observer from Tuesday, September 11, 2001 that I’d carried to work that day, not knowing it would be last “normal” news day for quite some time. I stuck it into a drawer at work where it remained until recently, still fairly crisp and untattered, crossword puzzle undone.
On that day in Charlotte, Elizabeth Dole began her campaign for the U.S. Senate and cameras were catching drivers running through red-lights. On the sports page, Michael Jordan “all but confirmed he would return to play in the NBA.”
In Miami, Hurricane Erin was likely to bypass the U.S and in Sacramento a former security guard suspected of killing five people shot himself to death during a gunfight with police, but not before leaving a video suicide note boasting about “the hell of a show” he’d put on. “I giveth and I taketh away, that’s how it goes in (expletive) life,” he said.
Coward. Just as the orchestrators of 9-11 were.