EYEWITNESS

September 13, 2001


by Aaron Mann

Today is the first time I have been able to get to a working internet connection. I am fine, though temporarily relying on the kindness of (not really) strangers for a place to live.

If you don't know, I live in TriBeCa about 7 blocks from the north side of the WTC. I am on the 43rd floor with a view facing South. Tuesday morning I was at my computer in the dining room when I heard what sounded like a sonic boom. I turned and watched in horror as an enormous fireball took out 20 or so floors of the north tower.

As I watched CNN, I looked up to see an airliner come in low. I instantly knew it was part of the attack. For a long moment, as it banked, it seemed lined up directly with my apartment. I watched as it drove itself into the south tower.

The 43rd floor didn't seem like premium real estate at the moment. So I put Sadie in her carrier and joined the hundred or so people in the lobby. Everything was calm, as we shared information with each other. The spirit of the people here is unbelievable. Around 10:00 we heard another sound. Our apartment building is located across the street from both Federal Buildings, so the first collective thought was another attack. Then, one by one, we looked up to see a brief clearing of smoke - and the south tower was gone. I decided that leaving was the best decision. Especially since a quick calculation told all of us that if the North Tower came down horizontally, like a tree would fall, it could hit our building.

Sadie's carrier is too big to carry the 30 or so blocks to my friend, C.'s house. So I went back up to my apartment to put her in my courier bag.

As I was emptying the bag to make room I looked out the window and watched as the North Tower fell. The dust cloud reached higher than my apartment. I could see it envelop block after block. As soon as it settled I left the building with the clothes on my back and Sadie in a bag. I joined the mass of people walking up Broadway - all of us expecting another attack, while the FBI and Police told everyone to get out. And in all of that, not a single person I saw panicked, pushed anyone, or was even rude. When someone would stumble there were several hands ready to support them.

That night, and every night since, I have been out with the people here. I don't know what is happening in the rest of the country, but the spirit here is amazing. Across the country, we have all watched the events replayed many times. It will be with us forever. All I can say from pretty damn close to ground zero is that the concern and love I have felt from family and friends the past days have been beautiful and words can not express my appreciation.

I was able to get into my apartment today and take some stuff out - it is now a 43 floor walk up. There is no power, water or phone service in the area. I may be able to get back in next week. But I am safe, eating and drinking well (hey, that's what New Yorkers do). So I urge all of us to direct our prayers, concern and thoughts to the victims still trapped, the people trying to rescue them, and the families and friends waiting to hear the fate of loved ones.


Postscript: Did just run into Bill Clinton on the street (I am still in the "residents-only" area below 14th street). I do wish that was dressed better when he shook my hand. Well I wish he was still President right now. If wishes were horses....

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