On this 10th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy of 2001, may we remind ourselves to never forget the horror of the terrorism we faced. Our country united like never before, and we gave of ourselves like never before in the early aftermath of the mega-tragedy, and then slowly but surely we divided again. A quote I use in my manuscript about 9/11 is one we ALL can live by:
Here's his story as copied from my manuscript:
Bill Kilpatrick had been heading for the Battery Tunnel, in his truck, when his life suddenly changed, he insists, forever. Bill had trouble telling his story, and called me. I had given out my cell phone number, in trust… I heard the pain in his voice…pure agony... I lived it with him. He felt terrible that he couldn't recover the bodies of those who jumped from the towers, so that the loved-ones of those people could have a body for a funeral. What he witnessed while attempting to help will play out forever in his mind.
In Bill's words:
Driving south toward the Battery Tunnel, I was waiting for the traffic light to change. I was on the West Side Highway when I heard a jet to my left side, and I became puzzled, knowing that jets are not permitted to fly so low over the city. As the traffic light changed to green, I started moving, but kept my eye on the low-flying jet. It appeared to be heading toward the WTC.
I drove by the walkway, near Vesey Street, and saw the jet tilt to the right, just slightly enough to be directly on course with the North Tower. In immediate reaction to this sight, I screamed out loud, “Pull up! Pull up, Dear God, pull up! Please pull up the jet!”
It slammed into the Tower.
Passing Vesey Street, I almost hit a few people who were running through the streets, toward the Tower. I attempted to pull over to my right, by Battery Park City, but there was no place to park, and I could not make a U-turn. So, I kept moving toward Battery Tunnel, then finally, said ‘to hell with this’ and pulled my SUV onto the sidewalk, and jumped out.
A passerby said to me, “Don’t leave your vehicle there. They’ll tow it.”
I looked at him incredulously, and said, “You must be joking, Pal! Do you see what the hell is going on here?”
He said it wouldn’t matter, that ‘they will tow it anyway.’
I didn’t care. I started running toward The Towers. There were people running, screaming and crying. Some people were yelling up to the Tower occupants, those hanging out of the high windows, and screaming to them to not jump.
“Help is on the way,” they yelled up to the tower occupants.
I knew the people in the towers couldn’t even hear them. I also knew help would be helpless.
I didn’t hear the second plane incoming. The coffee cart guy on the corner near the Towers was packing up his cart, getting ready to move out. At that moment, I heard the loudest BOOM I’ve ever heard in my life.
All hell broke out. Debris was everywhere, falling and flying through the air. There was a crystal-like substance that stung my eyes. I kept on trying to get closer to the Towers, but it became clear that I couldn’t. It became clear that this event would change the entire city...the world.
I kept looking up as much as I could between the debris and smoke falling down on us…then I saw people from the top floors of the Towers either falling or jumping to their deaths.
I was across from the South Tower, near the parking lot, where there were bodies all over the place. Many were burned and charred and some just black with soot or gray dust.
I lost it. I just lost it at this point.
I didn’t collect my thoughts, I just acted on auto-response, and tried to move some of the bodies.
The cops were screaming at all of us to move away. “Run, and get out of here,” they yelled. You were allowed to stay in the area only if you were a cop or fireman. I am neither, just a New Yorker.
For the first time in my life, I felt completely helpless and useless. I started crying uncontrollably, and panic attacks started. There was so much happening…people were confused and in shock. It seemed we all lost sense of direction. You knew where you headed, but not where you wanted to go.
There was suddenly a sea of fireman around and fire trucks coming from every direction…the tunnel, West Side Highway…from the FDR…it seemed the whole city was suddenly there.
I ran back to my truck and it was covered with paper and other debris. I figured I’d better get it out of the area, so I got onto the FDR, and that’s when the South Tower fell. I pulled over and watched with everyone else, in horror. Then, we saw the second Tower come crashing down, too. There was nothing any one of us could do.
It hurt so much to watch the loss of life. Why did this happen? I still cannot believe this has happened. The entire scene is an image my eyes refuse to accept, yet I see it over and over again. A feeling of emptiness overwhelms me since. I find it difficult to not cry everyday when something about the tragedy is mentioned. Any small reminder takes me right back to the live scene and causes me to have the same, awful, helpless feeling I experienced while watching.
I wish it all could disappear from my life forever, but it will all be with me until the day I die.