A Loud Boom

          I don’t remember which came first, the shudder of the building or the loud sound. They probably came at the same time.

          I don’t remember how long it took before someone ran into the word processing center where I worked and told us that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers. It seemed like seconds but was probably at least a minute or two.

          In whatever the order, there was a loud boom; our building shook, and then there was quiet. My coworkers and I looked at one another.

          I remember saying, “What was that?” Someone else asked, “Was that thunder?” What it had sounded like to me was as if a huge, metal trash dumpster had been dropped onto the 24th floor above me. That would have explained the reverberations of the building I had felt, but I knew there was no construction going on up there. Had something possibly exploded?

          Someone ran into the center and told us that a secretary, who had just come to work, was hysterical, saying that a plane had hit one of the towers and that it was like a war zone out there. One of our phones rang, and it was our supervisor, calling from home. She screamed to the person who answered something about seeing it on TV and for us to, “Get out of the building!”

          What? My initial reaction was to go downstairs and see what was going on—more out of curiosity than alarm. I went to the elevator bank, along with a few other people who had the same idea. As we descended, though I didn’t consciously think it through, I know I assumed a light plane had smashed into the tower. I imagined a small hole in the building, with the back end of a plane sticking out. Our conversation, as we headed down from the 23rd floor, was tinged with nervousness, but not fear. When the elevator doors opened to our lobby, I took a quick right and walked through a side revolving door.

          As I passed through that door and out onto the street, three things went through my mind. The secretary was right; it did look like a war zone. It also looked like a movie set…for a disaster film. And it was like going through the door in The Wizard of Oz, walking out into a world that was unlike anything that I could ever have possibly imagined.