“9/11” Sarah Evans, Welwyn Garden City, UK

September 11 October 26, 2011 21:22

topic: 9/11 medium: TEXT

as submitted for the “9/11” Open Call

New York to London

It was just a normal office day, eating a sandwich at my desk ahead of a busy afternoon.

‘You seen this?’ Justin asked.

I turned towards my colleague. ‘What?’

He had BBC News up on his screen: a plane colliding with a building which then disappeared amidst plumes of smoke.

‘New York,’ he said. ‘One of the twin towers.’

A group of us were gathering now, gazing on in silent confusion.

But what? An accident? Terrorists?

The scrolling strap-line delivered breaking news. Rumours of a second plane, a second hit, the second tower.

There were estimates of casualties, measured by the dozen. ‘Must have been more people than that just on the plane,’ someone said.

‘Oh God,’ I thought. ‘Cathy.’ My heart thudded to my throat.

But no. My sister’s flight – New York to London – was yesterday evening, I was sure of it. She would be home by now. Even had she still been there the chance of choosing that particular slot of time to take in the tourist view from the World Trade Centre was extremely low.

But still. New York felt a whole lot closer.

But still. We all had busy jobs and slowly we drifted back to work.


Almost four years later and I travelled into the office as usual. I had a busy day ahead. I was head down working on a report.
Lucy turned up late. ‘Screw up on the Tube,’ she said, slumping down into her seat. ‘Gas explosion or something.’

I paused and nodded and carried on.

‘Have you seen this?’ Chris asked.

He had a news channel up. It showed a sketch map of London scattered by red stars. ‘A number of explosions have gone off across the capital,’ the strap-line said.

I stared at the details and one of them leapt off the screen. King’s Cross. Piccadilly line. 8:55. My husband took that route to work, and although I knew that he should have passed through earlier my heart thudded uncomfortably. I picked up the phone and dialled and while I listened to the ring I saw how all around me people were doing the same. The phone switched to voice-mail. I kept my voice even as I left a message. ‘Hope you got to work OK. Let me know.’

He rang back two minutes later.

He was fine; I was fine.

The day progressed. I rang my mother thinking she’d probably not even have heard, to find she was relieved to hear from me. Around the office we worried about an absent colleague and felt collective relief when we discovered he was off sick. Police advice was to stay put. All meetings were cancelled. The canteen offered free soup. We worried about how we would get home. The number of reported explosions decreased from seven to four. The estimate of casualties rose from absurdly low to more grimly real.

Terrorists ran the rumours. Suicide bombers.

New York to London: it felt very close.

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