We faced west in our Brooklyn apartment to where the Hudson and East Rivers joined. Lady Liberty with hand high, reminded me to vote in the primary that day. My husband was dropping off our daughter at school, and then we’d head to the poll.
Our corner building with the deli and social club was a gathering place, but now, not even 9 am, wise guys blasted a radio and drew a crowd. It was early for election news. When I raised the window to shush the din, I heard the broadcast clearly. A plane had crashed into one of the twin towers. I switched on the TV to that exact image, then the screen went blank.
Brownstones across Henry Street obscured our view of events. I chose not to walk half a block where I could see it all. I’m an artist. I know the staying power of visuals. Instead I heard the second plane hit, the long, low rumble as buildings crumbled and fell, and the WNYC reporters with quivering voices who told of adults holding children out windows or jumping from heights to avoid the flames. There was no escaping these images.
My husband walked back under a shower of burning papers he first mistook for campaign leaflets. Singed stationery bearing the WTC address cluttered our stoop. He went into action, securing bottled water and canned beans, setting up air filters, and ushering our daughter home.
Voting saved some late to work, but posts of the missing showed many were not so lucky. Parents of our daughter’s schoolmates perished. Everywhere was loss. No place seemed safe. Each low noise set us on edge. Seasonal thunderstorms sounded like attacks. Anthrax appeared near my husband’s work. Fires smoldered deep.
For 13 years we’d talked about moving across the country to be near family, talked until no one believed us. We decided quickly now. On the 100th day after 9/11, we flew west over Lady Liberty with her hand high as if waving farewell.
That same day the fires stopped burning.
With a Perspective, I’m Christy Hale.