this is not fiction

This is the first step to healing.

My morning subway commute takes about twenty minutes door-to-door.  And in those twenty minutes I usually scan a section of the morning paper, read a chapter of a book, or write out my daily to-do list.  This morning, in the time it takes to get to work, a plane crashed into the side of the World Trade Center.

By the time I emerged from the underground in Union Square, there were hundreds of people gathered in the park and on the streets staring at a large smoking, flaming hole in the north side of the taller tower.  And by the time I got into my office and in front of a television, a second plane had crashed into the other tower.

So instead of watching the media telecast, which was useless, I stood by the top-floor windows of our office building and watched the twin towers burn while picking up bits and pieces of what had happened.  And with all of us watching and speculating and grieving, the second tower that was hit burst into a cloud of smoke and sparkles, exploding all the way down the base.

For the next twenty minutes or so we watched as the remaining half of the downtown skyline billowed and blazed.  And even as thousands of people looked on, willing the building to stay whole, it too exploded and collapsed in front of our eyes.

I can't honestly say I remember too much of what happened after.  I know the office was closed and people were sent home.  Those living outside of the city found friends to stay with.  I walked fifty blocks north, amidst crowds of other homeward bound New Yorkers, to my apartment.

My only real vivid recollection of the walk home was approaching the Citicorp building on 53rd and Lexington.  I noticed as I drew close that there were people lined up out the door and around the block, all holding papers of some sort.

My first thought was: shit, it's a bank run.

But as I got right next to the line, I realized that the forms they were filling out were health datasheets.  And that all of these people were in line to give blood.

I personally have never given blood before.  I've never had a fondness for needles.  Nor for the sight of my own blood.  But as soon as I saw that line, I was determined to make my own contribution.

It started as an intention but it became a crusade.

I spent the next 3 hours walking up and down the East side trying to find a blood bank or hospital that would take me.  Never having given blood before, I had no idea what my type was and all of the places were so overwhelmed with donors that they didn't have time to test me.  So then I spent a considerable amount of time walking from pharmacy to pharmacy trying to find a blood-typing kit to find out for myself.  No such luck.

So tomorrow, tomorrow I am going to go give blood.

I'm back in my apartment now.  And it's strange to be so sequestered from what's happening all around outside.  Phone calls are slow, but I've managed to get in touch with enough friends and family that they can spread the word.  I've been on email constantly - receiving well-wishes and extending them.

I'm trying to keep my mind occupied.  I refuse to turn on the TV.  Although I am unable to recall if anybody I know worked in those towers, I'm sure that names will come to me.  I've lived in New York City for five years.  I've worked for three of them in a finance-related industry.  There is no question in my mind that I know people who were there.

This summer was my five-year college reunion.  And in anticipation of the festivities, they sent us a bound book with all my classmates' bios and contact information.  I know if I open that book and start looking, it's going to be a long, long night.

It's already been a long, long day.

I am fine.  I am not okay.


also read: the day after.


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