|By Charlotte Bilton Carver
I stood barefoot on the roof of my Park Slope, Brooklyn apartment in my boxer shorts
and a tee-shirt, just pulled out of bed by a phone call from my boyfriend's sister telling
me that an airplane had just crashed into the World Trade Center. I quickly turned on the
news and watched footage of the tower on fire. I quickly had to go outside to verify the
unbelievable images that my television was showing me - I had to see for myself. Sure
enough, the first tower was on fire and a plume of smoke was in the air.
A handful of my neighbors were on the roof as well, and we all were in awe of what we
were seeing. Fleeting thoughts of getting my camera came to me, but I didn't. I was stuck
to the spot in disbelief.
Then, from seemingly out of no where, the second airplane crashed into the second
tower. I saw it, the explosion as it hit; I heard it, but my brain wasn't processing what
it was seeing. Some gut feeling allowed me to worry about my boyfriend Danny (Jederlinic)
and wonder where he was working that morning. He is an iron worker who had been working on
a job nearby the towers. But even that fear didn't seem real.
My neighbors and I alternated between checking our televisions and watching from the
roof. When the first tower fell is when I think it really hit me that this was happening.
I thought at the time that a bomb had gone off - there was an explosion as the huge
structure fell. The sky filled with smoke and an acrid smell, and ashes filled the air,
falling down on us. What I heard more clearly was one of my neighbors as he burst into
sobs - his wife worked across the street from the towers. I still don't know if she was
one of the victims or not. I hope not.
Then the second tower fell. We heard it, and from the newscasts, we expected it. But
the sky was black with smoke and you couldn't really see it well from my building. I began
to worry about Danny in earnest, and had a sense of surreal numbness. This couldn't be
happening. Not here. Not in America.
We watched our televisions and shared jumbled reports of the plane crashing into the
Pentagon, rumors of four, five, nine planes hijacked to the rumors of bombs going off all
We tried to call loved ones in other parts of the country but the phones weren't
working. We laughed weakly in a moment of black humor over our unlikely immediate danger
from the ancient armory across the street being an international target. We tried our
phones often. I called Danny's cell phone over and over. Nothing.
Then I found my solace as Danny came home from working on the Brooklyn side of the Bay.
He had seen the horror from an even closer vantage point, and was bursting with energy and
a feeling of helplessness.
That was the beginning of our day.
The World Trade Center towers were so much a part of our lives that I didn't really
think about them much. They were just there, as much a part of the skyline as my
fingerprints are a part of me. But now, having watched their demise, I can't stop thinking
about how much a part of my life they really were.
I have a photo, a tourist shot from the top of the towers that we laughed about as we
had them taken. A family member was visiting from out of town, and Danny was playing tour
guide as he took us on the tour of the top of the buildings.
The feeling I got when standing there looking down at New York was one of a shifting
perspective. Suddenly the busy streets below seemed small and insignificant. The activity,
smells, and sounds that just swallow you up while walking the streets of New York, faded
away to a photo quality view of the city from the sky.
Knowing the towers are gone, and knowing the crime that
has been perpetrated upon my country, I feel that same shift in perspective.....only my
daily life is the far away view suddenly faded into obscurity by the view offered again by
the towers, only this time, by their destruction.
That night I was able to reach my daughter Amiee (Carver), a student at LCHS. As we
talked about the crisis, I reminded her of the Mexican restaurant we had visited in the
Trade Center during her Fourth of July visit to New York. We had been given huge sombreros
as it was their Grand Opening, and had walked around the through the Trade Centers in a
day of fun and celebration.
As a resident of New York, I had attended concerts on the bay there, had walked through
the towers en route to other destinations, had had drinks in the clubs at the base of the
towers. It was just every day life.
Danny was called in and worked as a volunteer for the next two days at Ground Zero,
clearing away debris and assisting in the search efforts. The first day, his team found
five bodies. He spoke in horror of passing the body bags down the line. I can't imagine
how terrible that has to be for him and for the other rescue workers on the scene.
He came home covered in that fine white dust that was once the towers, in awe of the
environment in which he had spent his day. He said the television didn't begin to
translate the immensity of the tragedy. That it was just too big, too awful to understand
from the images coming to us through our TV screens. The steel beams that they cut through
were huge and tangled. As an ironworker, having built many buildings with those huge
beams, seeing them tangled and destroyed affected him deeply.
His brother-in-law, Donny Meeg, is a firefighter and worked on the site as well. He
still is working there on a regular basis, although by now it is more of a retrieval and
clean up than a search mission. I find a sense of pride in that two people close to me
were able to do something tangible to help in the rescue efforts as I helplessly watched
the events from home.
The one positive reaction I have with regard to this attack is a pride in my fellow New
Yorkers. I have often defended New York from the stereotypes of rude citizens and
dangerous streets. During this time of tragedy, my friends from smaller towns were able to
see proof positive of the kindness and goodness of the city of New York that I've come to
know over my five + years here. Watching them pull together and help one another, watching
the outpouring of kindnesses from New York citizens and seeing it broadcast around the
country was a small comfort.
And patriotism is back. Everywhere you look, you see the American flag. Danny and I
have it flying from the antennae of our car. The entire country as well as many of our
allies is flying the American flag and singing songs of patriotism.
As a mother, I often feel the sadness of being so far away from Amiee when she's in
school there in Kentucky. But as America pulls together in our humanity and as a nation, I
find comfort in feeling that Amiee is very near to me....that as Americans, we are all
part of something wonderful.
It is now over a week later. We all have questions. Can there possibly be any
survivors? When will we see justice against the cowards who did this? Will our economy
stand the impact, and what does our future hold? I can only wonder, hope and pray with the
rest of our country and our allies. May God Bless America, and may God Bless us all.
Charlotte Bilton Carver is another former Lewis Countian, now residing in
Brooklyn. Among her activities is editing an ezine, Eclecticity, at http://charlottecarver.com/eclecticity