I thought again about my brother, a lawyer who worked for a firm on the 86th floor of one of the towers. I wracked my brain to remember which tower he worked in -- and whether his had gotten hit first, leaving no warning or chance of escape, or second, where I assumed his chances would have been better. Tower 1? Tower 2? And which was which again? I dialed my wife and asked her to find out where he was. We were having increasing difficulty making and receiving calls as the downtown network was overloaded.
As flames started to lap out of Tower 2, I began to calculate how I could help financially support my brother's family.
Then a moment of absurdity broke my chain of thought. A woman jogger with earphones on passed me with self-absorbed athletic focus. As she dodged the people in her path, she seemed oblivious to the crowds looking toward the east with necks craned and jaws agape. I wondered what could possibly be in her mind. She didn't miss a stride as I watched her gallop further south, zigzagging through the crowd.
Only in f**king New York, I thought to myself. I snorted at the dark humor of it.
Then people started to fall -- or jump -- from the burning towers. First one would fall, and then two at a time, each body a tiny but unmistakable form plummeting against a backdrop of chrome and glass. Every time one fell, the crowd gasped.
We began to see people emerging from the smoking holes, desperately trying to scale down the outside of the buildings. Some made it only a few feet; others managed to climb down a floor or a floor and a half before they lost their grip and fell.
I had never witnessed anything so horrifying.
Ron had left. He had taken a last ferry that departed the harbor and was headed east for New Jersey. I, on the other hand, couldn't seem to move. Whether I felt I needed to witness what was happening or was too much in shock to leave, I don't know. But I stayed there for another 45 minutes until I couldn't stand it anymore and the people stopped coming out of the windows.