by Arina Bocharova
It was an ordinary morning. I went down to the first floor of the fire station for a cup of coffee before a new workday. The weather was fine, not like yesterday. Almost all week in New York it was raining and there even was a hurricane, and today I am amazed at how blue the sky is. It was around 8:45 in the morning when I brought a cup of coffee to my mouth, and I clearly remember these numbers on the clock in front of me, because already at 8:46 I heard a loud rumbling right above my head. Immediately in our department, the alarm went off. I knew that this noise was only two blocks away from us, and we would go to this accident. Everyone started fussing and gearing up even before the call. While we were getting dressed, we were told one of the most terrible pieces of news of my life – a passenger plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.
We arrived at the scene of the tragedy a few minutes after the collision. Burning debris and ash were falling from this blue sky, making it very difficult to get to the building. When we nevertheless managed to enter the northern tower, I started seeing terrible things on the very first floor of the building. There were burned people everywhere, with a great fear and panic in their eyes. In all those years of my work as a fireman, I never would have thought that someday I would be a witness to such a terrible and chilling sight. The last 15 floors of the 110-storey building were engulfed in flames, the realization that all the floors above the 93rd floor were doomed came long after my legs carried me upstairs. But before I could leave the lobby, the familiar sound pierced my ears again. Later I learned that at 9:02 am, another passenger plane crashed into the south tower. I heard a strange noise in my ears and then total silence around, which lasted just a few seconds after the second collision. It was the moment that I realized all the agony and seriousness of the situation. In the eyes of my colleagues, I read the same emotions. We wished each other good luck, and then, accepting our fate, we moved to help those unfortunate people who were in the World Trade Center building.
More than three hundred of my colleagues died that day, but me and several of my friends managed to survive. We were on the 20th floor when the south tower collapsed 53 minutes after the collision. We were trying to get a young man out of the fire who could not walk on his own, so our way to the exit was very slow. For about half an hour we were trying to lower him down the stairs when I felt a strong wind, vibration, and roar. We were almost over the second floor when I realized that the north tower was crumbling. When we got to the lobby, I realized that the exit was blocked. I looked up and saw a piece of blue. It was the very sky that I so diligently examined in the morning. And then I realized that there was no longer the north tower above us, but we survived. Every year on September 11, I remember this day, as if it were yesterday, I remember my friends, the victims and the guy who helped me to stay alive. And of course, I remember the blue sky, which was especially bright that day.