Friday, September 12, 2008

Lest we forget

I remember the day like it was yesterday, seeing the 2nd plane hit on the news on my office computer. Two days later, when the CEO of my startup pulled the plug, and put everyone out of work, we also learnt about the death of the fiance of someone in our office. She sat a few desks away from me, having spoken to him half an hour before his tower fell. He wanted to man the phones since everyone else had left.

I walked home. People crowded around open cars, the radios turned up, as radio hosts talked about planes still in the air. When I got home, we spent the whole day instant messenging to communicate with people, to trace friends and family members missing. Phones didn't work for days. This was the only way to talk to the outside world. Volunteers wrapped around blocks, getting ready to donate blood. Doctor friends showed up and waited for patients. Very few actually came.

My apartment was a wall of glass that looked directly south. The billowing smoke from the towers burned acrid and black for days and days. Outside firestations and police stations around the city, cars rushingly parked sat unclaimed for days, the owners perished in the collapse.

We spent the next seven days glued to the television, not really knowing what to do. Guiliani showed true leadership, and the city listened to every word. After seven days he stopped reading names of bodies found and said - Get out, spend money, shop, eat, do what New Yorkers do. The city needs you to get back on its feet. Then he went back to reading names of the dead. We aimlessly ate at restaurants and tried to do what we could to keep the businesses on their feet. When police cars and firetrucks passed by, people cheered on.

Two months later we had a fundraiser for a batchmate (Vamsi) that died in one of the planes. A few weeks after he had died, we had found out that his wife had committed suicide in grief. At the fundraiser, two friends who escaped from the 50th and 70th floors talked about what the felt when they realized that people were choosing to jump rather than be burned alive.

That day might always seem like yesterday.

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