Written by MOI!([Alatar the Wise
I'm rather proud of it. Have gotten all positive reviews so far.
I know. It's been 10 and a half years since 9/11. But I was, at that time, only 14. I was still a little young to really care about it. But, just in the past year the more I read about it and watched about it, the more I wanted to write something.
I first attempted a story of someone who WORKED in the North Tower.
Finished it, but it was a fail.
I then attempted a fireman's perspective, but it was a complete flop.
And then I tried this one.
This one had the drama I needed to really keep the story going.
This one had what I wanted.
“Come on, Eric! Truck needs washing!!” Justin’s powerful voice rang through the garage of the fire station. Eric, Justin’s younger brother by 2 years followed him out with a frown.
“It’s clean, Justin. I cleaned it yesterday...”
“Yeah but we’ve had a few runs since yesterday morning and this was supposed to be washed before the end of your shift last night. Now get to it!”
Eric sighed heavily, showing his frustration as he walked past Justin and grabbed the hose. He turned the water on and began spraying the dust and dirt off the truck. Justin grinned proudly as he watched his brother work.
“Can’t let New York’s finest drive around in a dusty truck, now can we?!” he said teasingly before turning to go back inside. Eric rolled his eyes at Justin and threatened to spray him with the hose, but resisted knowing it would only end in disaster for himself.
He was new to the fire station; 6 months into his probation as a firefighter. He’d just graduated from the fire academy and, with a good recommendation from Justin, became the newest recruit in Fire House 7.
The firehouse was in the heart of downtown New York City, near the financial district. If you stood in front of the garage, you could see the World Trade Center towers rising above the city. Then again, you could stand in Upper New York and still see them.
Eric glanced up at the towers, a look of awe in his eyes as he observed them. He’d always loved skyscrapers and these two towers were his favourites. He’d close his eyes as he’d imagine himself as a bird perching at the top of one of the towers and staring at the seemingly small world below. Better yet he’d imagine being Phillipe Petit, the tightrope walker who, in 1974, walked across a wire attached between the World Trade towers. He didn’t have a fear of heights like most people, but rather enjoyed the thought of risking his life by balancing thousands of feet above the ground. ‘If I wasn’t a fireman, I’d be working up there on the building...’ he thought to himself.
As he daydreamed and stared at the skyscrapers, the sound of a low flying plane broke into his thoughts. It was normal to hear planes and helicopters all day in New York City, but this... this was different. Eric looked around only to spot a fast moving, very low flying plane crossing over the city. He looked back at the trade center skyscrapers then back at the plane before a look of shock crossed his face.
“Oh shit,” he stated to himself as he watched the plane tip it’s right wing up slightly before ploughing right into the side of 1WTC, the North Tower. “SHIT!”he exclaimed again as he brought a hand to his mouth in shock. He watched fire and smoke explode from the building before turning to run inside. “JUSTIN!!! GUYS! WE GOTTA GET OVER TO THE WORLD TRADE CENTERS!!” he yelled, grabbing Justin’s arm like a hyper child and dragging him outside. Justin followed Eric and stopped as his eyes landed on the large black billow of smoke coming from the North Tower.
“Shit, we gotta get over there!” Justin exclaimed right as the firehouse siren started blaring. He looked at Eric then up at the towers. He looked at Eric again and put a hand on his shoulder.
“You should stay here... you’re not as experienced...”
“No way in HELL am I missing this, Justin! This is the big one you guys ALWAYS talk about and I’m not gonna sit in the firehouse and watch on the TV. I want to be right there. This is what I trained for!!”
Justin looked up at the buildings again then nodded, looking at Eric.
“Come on, let’s get geared up..”
Ten minutes later, the truck pulled up to the World Trade Center plaza. Justin, Eric and 5 other men jumped off the truck and looked up at the billowing cloud of smoke that was gradually filling up the surrounding air.
“This is gonna be bad...” Justin muttered, standing next to Eric as he stared at the building. Eric nodded and opened his mouth to respond, but stopped as the sound of another low flying plane could be heard. He frowned and looked around in time to see another large plane coming straight at the Towers. His jaw remained open as he watched the second plane plough into the South Tower. A large explosion of fire and smoke erupted and the sky instantly filled with black smoke. Screams and cries echoed from the surrounding area, but all Eric heard was the pounding of his own heart.
“Justin...” he began, his voice catching as he watched the tallest buildings in his beloved city now burning. “Justin, there’s people trapped up there. We have to help them...”
“We gotta wait for orders, Eric.”
“Eric! Chain of command! Chief gives us orders on what to do here, we don’t decide for ourselves!! Best way to work in a disaster this big.”
Eric frowned and looked up at the burning buildings again. This time he gasped and grabbed Justin’s arm.
“I see them, Eric,” Justin answered, his voice low as he watched the bodies falling from the buildings. He watched one until it hit the ground before closing his eyes. Eric stared in disbelief, unsure if what he just saw was real.
“Where the hell is the Red!? We gotta get in there right now!!!”
Almost on cue, Red; Deputy Chief of the firehouse came over to the men. He divided the group into two; 5 would go up the North Tower and the remaining 2 would get thrown in with another company. Red looked at the 4 men he’d chosen to go with him and put his helmet on.
“We’ve got orders to go up to the 40th floor. Reports are that there’s a few people up there who need a little extra help getting down. We’ve got to clear every floor as we come back down but we’ve got to keep the panic to a minimum. Come on, guys!” he yelled over the sirens and screams in the streets. He turned and ran for the North building with his 4 men right behind him. Eric followed, sticking fairly close to Justin as he looked up at the South tower. He stopped 10 feet from the North and stared up, the look of worry in his eyes. Justin, realizing his brother wasn’t right with him, glanced over his shoulder and stopped.
“Eric! Come on!!”
“The people in the South need help too...” Eric answered, not once breaking his gaze with the black smoke cloud surrounding the top half of the South Tower.
“Orders are we go in the North, Eric. The people in the South have rescue coming to them but we have orders in the North!!” Justin yelled, grabbing Eric’s arm and dragging him a few feet before letting him go. “Come on!!”
Eric once again stopped, this time watching Justin and the other 4. He glanced up at the South Tower then back at his group heading in to the North Tower.
‘Chain of command! Chief gives us orders on what to do here, we don’t decide for ourselves!’ Justin’s words rang in Eric’s ears as he watched the South Tower on fire.
“Sorry Justin. In this case, Chain of command doesn’t work for me,” he said quietly before running toward the South Tower. He slipped in behind a group of 4 going up the stairs. Ten minutes later, Eric had split off from the rest of the group and had run up the stairs with a bunch of other firemen. As he passed a door onto the 30th floor, he glanced in and noticed a woman trying to console a baby. He stopped and looked around before deciding to head in when the woman seemed to be alone.
“Ma’am, you have to leave now,” he said, pulling his helmet off and looking at her. He knelt down in front of where she was sitting and looked into her eyes. All he could see was fear and worry.
“I-I can’t... my husband... my husband’s not down...” the woman said, her voice trembling with panic. Eric reached up and gently put a hand on her shoulder.
“Where’s your husband?”
“100th floor. He... he called me to say he was coming down...”
Eric blinked in confusion as he watched the woman cradle the baby.
“Why are you here with your baby?” he asked as he stood and slowly stood the woman with him. She looked up at him as tears rolled down her cheeks.
“He wanted to show his son off to his coworkers... I came with him so I could bring our son home after...” the woman said, her body beginning to shake as she moved to sit again. “I can’t leave without him. He... he said... he SAID he was coming down!!”
“What’s your name, ma’am?” he asked as he moved to kneel down again. He looked into her eyes once more. She stared at him before looking back at her baby.
“Rosa... Rosa Mitchell,” she responded, looking at Eric. “My baby’s name is Finn.”
Eric smiled lightly, looking toward the door then at Rosa.
“Great. Okay, Rosa, listen to me very carefully. We’re gonna take Finn and get you down to ground level, okay?”
“Not without my husband...”
Eric sighed and went silent for a moment before looking at Rosa again. “I’ll get in touch with my superior officer on ground level while we’re going down. If your husband’s not down there then... then I’ll personally come back up and find him for you, okay?!”
Rosa stayed silent for a moment then nodded and stood.
“Alright,” she whispered, cuddling the baby to her. Eric exhaled a breath of relief before leading Rosa to the door.
“Stay close to me, okay Rosa?” he said, starting down the stairs with the other firemen. As they neared the 15th floor, the building began to shake violently. Everyone ahead of Eric stopped to brace themselves, causing a blockage in the stairwell.
“KEEP MOVING!!” a captain behind Eric yelled before shoving his way past the crowd to see why everyone had stopped. Rosa whimpered as the captain’s jacket brushed the baby’s head roughly. She cradled him close and huddled against Eric in fear. Eric pulled Rosa in front of him and kept his arms around her comfortingly.
“It’s okay, Rosa. We’re gonna get out of here,” he said, holding onto her tightly. When the crowd started moving again, Rosa looked at Eric.
“Can you... carry him for me for a little bit? I’m... I’m shaking... I can’t...” she stuttered through tears and panic. Eric nodded and motioned for her to go as he took Finn into his arms.
“Sure thing Rosa, now just keep going. This’ll be over soon.”
After going down another 5 flights, the building began to shake violently once more. Eric stopped and looked up as a faint rumbling began growing closer. The building continued to shake violently and debris had begun to fall as the rumbling; a sound that could only be described as 20 trains approaching fast at the same time as a thunder storm, grew louder. Eric cuddled baby Finn close to him before covering him with his jacket to protect him from the debris.
“GET OUT!!! GET OUT!!!” the captain began yelling as the crowd in the stairwell began moving fast down the stairs. Rosa looked to Eric as she was being pulled along by the crowd. Eric watched her then started down also. Suddenly, almost as if someone had pressed pause on a giant remote control to silence everything, Eric could hear a familiar voice close to him.
“Eric?! Eric, where the hell are you?!” Justin’s voice blared over Eric’s handie talkie attached to his jacket. ‘This is it,’ Eric thought as he moved down the stairs quickly while dodging pieces of ceiling. ‘This is it. I’m gonna die and the last voice I heard was my brother.’
“Eric! Answer me, dammit! Where are you?!” Justin’s voice was filled with worry and panic. Eric cursed the fact that he was holding a baby. He desperately wanted to grab his talkie and tell his brother what was happening. He wanted to tell his brother he loved him one last time. He wanted to tell his brother that he’d always been, and always will be his hero. But he couldn’t. He brushed the thoughts out of his head as he focused on being this baby’s hero.
Eric opened his eyes and tried to look around, but found he couldn’t move his head. He tried to move his arms but they were pinned underneath him. He stopped moving to listen for any sound but the air was completely still and silent. “Hello?” he called, his voice rough and raspy. He tried to look up toward the sky but stopped, not really knowing where ‘up’ was. He attempted to calm his breathing as he went over what had happened in his mind. The last thing he remembered was tripping on someone who had fallen in the staircase. He remembered cuddling his arms around the baby to protect him from whatever the loud rumbling was.
“Oh... oh shit... oh no...” Eric muttered to himself as he could feel a bundle by his hands. He held his breath as the bundle moved under his arms. The baby had somehow survived whatever had just happened, and was now trapped under him. Eric’s breathing picked up as he began to panic, knowing he couldn’t move his arms but knowing he had to get this baby out from under his coat. He tried to move once more, only to be stopped by a sharp sudden pain shooting down his spine. He stopped moving, trying to relax his body enough to try and figure out what was going on. After a few minutes of silently cursing the metal beam pinning him down, he froze as the movement from underneath him stopped.
“No... no no no... don’t go... don’t leave me....” he said, trying to move just enough to get the baby from under his coat once more. The bundle now lay completely still as Eric managed to free a hand. He couldn’t see underneath him because of a piece of concrete that his cheek was laying against, but he felt around until he discovered he was laying on a slab of concrete.
‘That’s right,’ he thought, a memory finally coming to him. ‘I was on the landing between floors 10 and 11...’
“Where the hell am I?” he asked out loud to no one. He looked around once more, his eyes growing more accustomed to this dark tomb he was in. He spotted a beam of light coming from somewhere above him, the light causing a little circle on his concrete pillow. Slowly, memories of what had happened started to come to him. He had made it to the landing between the 10th and 11th floors just as the staircase began crumbling. The walls seemed to have caved in, along with the ceiling. Rosa had screamed out for Finn but he hadn’t been able to locate her before everything went dark.
‘Before everything went dark...’ The thought seemed to echo in Eric’s mind. The best conclusion he could come up with was the building had collapsed. But that was impossible. How could a building that tall... that strong just collapse like that. More importantly, how did he survive it?
He tried to move once more, only to be stopped once again by a sharp shooting pain up his spine. The bundle that had once moved was now completely still. He moved his hand under the bundle, moving it out from under his coat as much as possible. After holding it for a few minutes, he realized the sad truth that the baby had died. Tears welled into Eric’s eyes as he clenched his one free fist.
“WHY, DAMMIT?!” he yelled in frustration as the tears exploded from his eyes and down onto his concrete pillow. “This wasn’t supposed to happen!!”
Thoughts of his brother suddenly filled his mind. He reached up slowly but realized soon after that his talkie was on the left side of his jacket, the side he happened to be laying on. It’d be broken after getting his full weight borne down on it like this. Thoughts of the ride to work earlier that morning came into his mind. He and Justin had planned to go see the Rangers play that weekend.
‘That won’t be happening,’ Eric thought to himself as he began to accept his fate. ‘If only I could have talked to him one last time. Tell him I loved him. Tell him not to worry, that I’m going to a better place. What I wouldn’t give just to hear his voice right now...’
He closed his eyes and tried to relax his body, knowing there was no point in moving around unnecessarily much. He felt a wave of exhaustion rush over him suddenly, as if he’d taken a sleepaid pill and it was just now kicking in. He allowed his body to relax completely, losing control of his thoughts.
‘This is it...’ He thought to himself. ‘Goodbye Justin....’
“ANYBODY DOWN HERE?!”
Eric’s eyes opened slowly as the loud voice echoed down through the crevices surrounding him. He listened for a moment and could hear someone moving somewhere above him.
“Help!” he tried to yell, but his body was too weak to yell. “Down here....”
“Can anyone here me?! Is anyone down here?” The voice seemed to be moving away. Eric’s breathing began to pick up as he realized his only chance to be rescued was walking away. He looked around as best he could before noticing a piece of metal pipe leaning against a metal beam beside him. He reached up as best he could and grabbed the pipe, pulling it down then releasing it. It pinged loudly and echoed for what seemed an eternity. He continued doing that for a few more minutes before listening.
“We can hear you!! Make the noise again!!!” the voice from above yelled loudly. Eric obeyed, pulling the pipe down then releasing it once more.
“I’m here!!!” he tried to yell, his voice a little more clear than before.
“We’ve got you! Just hold on! We’re coming!!” the voice yelled down. Eric looked up as best he could and noticed the beam of light had disappeared. A shadowy figure had replaced it and he could only assume it was the body of whom the voice belonged to. He closed his eyes, relaxing truly for the first time since this day had begun.
When he opened his eyes again, he was face to face with an emergency worker.
“Stay calm, buddy,” the emergency worker said, his eyes on Eric. “We’re getting you out. You gotta stay still for us. We gotta cut you out...” he explained, the remainder of his sentence being cut off by the sound of a metal cutting saw. Eric closed his eyes once more, images of Rosa and the baby flashing through his mind. As he opened his eyes, water was poured down his face by the emergency worker. He spluttered and coughed a couple times and looked at the emergency worker, but wasn’t able to hear anything other than the saw.
When he was finally free and strapped securely to a stretcher, the firemen and emergency workers formed a chain to pull him out. As he neared the surface, he could smell fresh air. He could hear excited cheers and clapping as he emerged from the rubble on the stretcher. He looked around as best as he could as he was carried down from the pile of rubble. Firemen from all different divisions cheered and clapped as he was carried to safety. Firemen who had been there all day were covered in dust; others looked like they had just arrived. Police officers of all ranks stood among the firemen, clapping also.
As they neared the end of the line, three paramedics met them and took the stretcher from the firemen. They carried Eric to the back of an ambulance and began taking his vitals. As they did, Eric closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. His crevice under the rubble had become hot and stuffy with no flow of fresh air. He never thought he’d be so happy to breathe so freely.
“Eric?” a familiar voice pierced his thoughts. He opened his eyes and looked straight into Justin’s face. Justin stared down at his brother, tear streaks down his cheeks as he leaned over closer.
“Justin?” Eric muttered, his voice strained and raspy. Justin nodded and put a hand up to verify that he was there.
“Never thought I’d see you again, lil bro,” he said, staring down at Eric. “Don’t you ever break protocol like that again.”
“I had to, Justin. A... a woman and her baby needed me...” Eric responded weakly. “They died... but they needed me...”
Justin simply stared at Eric with awe as the paramedics finished taking Eric’s vitals.
“You gotta go to the hospital now. I’m gonna stay and help out some more here but... but when I’m done.. Eric, I’m gonna come stay with you in the hospital, okay?”
Eric smiled as he reached his one good hand up to take Justin’s.
“You were with me the whole time I was down there, Justin. You kept me alive. Thanks...”
Justin squeezed Eric’s hand before stepping back and watching the paramedics load the stretcher into the ambulance. He watched until the ambulance was out of sight before putting his helmet back on and going back to help, knowing now that his brother that he kept so close was finally safe.