Sunday, September 12, 2010

Guest Blog -- In Remembrance: My Story of 9/11

September 11, 2001 was a day none of use will ever forget. We all remember where we were when we heard the news. We all have a story. My sister-in-law, Emily Happell Williams, who was living in New York at the time, graciously agreed to let me repost hers here. Following is her account of that day.

I loved my brief time as a New Yorker. I was totally out of place there having been raised in the south, but I seemed to fit right in, or else I just wanted to fit in so badly because I absolutely fell in love with the city. It was everything I wanted Nashville to be. The concerts/clubs, culture, food, attitude, subways, etc. After a few months, I considered myself a New Yorker & never wanted to go back to the south. I suddenly had no fear, a confidence I had never had before, & often wouldn't think twice about riding the subway & walking through dark alleys at 3 or 4 in the morning. I definitely put myself in situations that my mother would have had a heart attack if she'd known.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

In the summer of 2001, I went on tour with some friends of mine in a band called BOTTOM. I sold merchandise & helped roadie. They were on the second stage at the Vans Warped Tour & also played clubs at night, sometimes playing 2 shows a day. We lived in a van & traveled all around the country. It was truly one of the best times of my life. I saw some great sights, great bands, met some awesome people, and especially loved hanging out with the girls in the band. The scenery was incredible. It made me miss TN a little.

When we got back, I was in between jobs & places to live, couch-surfing in different places. On the morning of September 11, I was staying at my friend Dan's apt. in Brooklyn. He was a Tower friend & dated a good friend of mine. He lived very near the foot of the Manhattan Bridge. I had a part time job that a friend hooked me up with & was getting ready for work when I started hearing sirens. Dan lived right across from the fire station, so this was normal, but the sirens had been going off for what seemed to be like 10 or 15 minutes. After realizing that this was really odd, I turned on the tv just to see if there was something going on. Boy, was there. A picture of the World Trade Center with a plane sticking out of it. As I stood there dumbfounded, a second plane hit. I didn't even know what to think. I went into Dan's room & woke him up, saying, "Dude, 2 planes just hit the WTC!" He turned over, rubbed his eyes & mumbled, "wow, they held up well" (I'll never forget that line!) It just DID NOT dawn on us what was happening. I watched the TV for a couple more minutes, then went back in there & said, "dude- really... you better get up... this is fucked up!"

Well, for some reason, we decided to go check it out. I realized I was probably not going to have to go to work. As it turned out, the subway that I would've taken runs directly under the WTC. It is a very good thing I was running late. So, Dan grabs his camera, and as we're getting ready to leave, we look over at the tv before we walked out the door- the first building fell. HOLY. SHIT.

I'm thinking, OK, it's probably not a good idea to go down there... But we'll just walk down to where we can see from the foot of the bridge. And it's our duty as amateur photographers to document whatever the hell is going on, right? And we still had NO IDEA what was going on.

So we're walking, as Dan snaps pictures here & there of the flooding of people coming into Brooklyn. You can see the Brooklyn Bridge from the Manhattan Bridge, and both were packed with people with a look on their faces of, well, I'm not sure how to describe it. Like I said, no one knew what happened yet, the severity had not sunk in. At least for me- and yeah, I admit I'm a little spacey, but in my mind I was thinking- surely with all these people in front me- SURELY everyone got out in time, right? Right?... It was just so surreal. People were eerily calm. We walked up onto the bridge about 1/4 the way up. We were the only ones walking against the flow. There was one other person there taking pictures. We felt bad taking pictures of such a horrible event. But we did anyhow. We knew we weren't doing it for money or anything (and it still sickens me that people did and still do). We stood there quietly watching when the second building started to fall & I heard the biggest, loudest, simultaneous GASP... I just stood with my hand over my mouth in shock. And then I heard some weeping here & there. Dan didn't want to take a picture of it, but I said "just take one & we'll go back". So he did & we did.

Walking back- a blank look on faces, some worried about how they were going to get home & what a bother it was. No trains, no cabs, no cell phones, nothing. Lines at every pay phone. Ironically, the voting places were still open for some local election. We went to the grocery store, bought some beer & went back to his apt. where we filled a buch of pots up with water, still not knowing what the hell had happened, or what was going to happen next. We climbed up to the rooftop & just sat there. We watched the trail of smoke drift closer & closer to us until we could smell it. Indescribable. Disgusting. Sad.

I finally got a hold of my Mom. It was her birthday. "Uh, happy birthday Mom..." :( She said, "Are you ready to come home yet?" I said, "yeah- maybe". I didn't really want to leave NYC. I had been struggling the whole time there, but I loved it so much & I didn't want to give up. I had put my Mom & Dad through so much worrying. I owe them everything for putting up with my ass & loving me unconditionally throughout the whole time I was a mess. So, after a couple of days, I realized there was nothing there for me except my friends. No real job, no place to live, negative amounts of $, and an asshole named Sean who... was really mean to me a few days before the 11th & I never wanted to see again unless he was dead (that's another story). So as much as I loved my friends there, I gave in & decided to move back to Nashville.

I took a Southwest flight out that next Saturday with one my best ex-boyfriends & good friend, Fernando seeing me off after going to the hospital to say goodbye to his beautiful mother, Aida (RIP- much love). I cried so hard on the plane flying by the tip of the island. The smoke trail still burning. The Southwest girl handing me kleenex. They were so sweet. I got home & didn't talk to anyone except a few close friends for 2 months. Just sat in my mom's garden & cried. And sat. And cried. Couldn't watch TV- it was all over the place. Couldn't even look at the magazines in the grocery checkout.

I'm very glad that I moved back. After all, I wouldn't have met Allen if I hadn't! And Tennessee's not such a bad place after all. I've discovered all kinds of cool places I never knew were here. Fall Creek Falls for one. That place is incredibly beautiful!

I still sorely miss NYC, but I have a new appreciation for Nashville. It's getting better here. Night life is slowly getting better, more bands are playing here, and I got back in touch with some old friends. But most importantly, I'm with my family & I got to be with my grandparents before they died. Pop was so cool. Great stories he told me when we were alone, but unfortunately in my state of mind & having been given all kinds of happy pills from a shrink, my brain did not think to write them down. I am still kicking myself for not recording my family history.

Below are the pictures that Dan took that day. They are not easy for me to look at still & my heart continues to go out to all those affected, especially a sweet girl named Joyce Carpeneto, who worked at Tower & had just gotten a job in one of the towers. I'm sure some of you reading this knew her & how wonderful of a person she was. I wish I could have gotten to know her better. She was one of the good ones.

And there you have it

Looking across to the Brooklyn Bridge. If you look closely, you can see the people walking across into Brooklyn.
looking across to the Brooklyn Bridge
me on the Manhattan Bridge
on the Manhattan Bridge
after the 2nd building fell
outside of a church
She was waving for people to come into the church.
outside a church
Brooklyn intersection
waiting to use the pay phone

On the rooftop watching the trail...
On the rooftop. And yes- I used to smoke.

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