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Kemberly Richardson reflects on the 12th anniversary of 9/11

September 12, 2013 5:58:27 AM PDT
Monday September 10, 2001...go to bed; next day is primary day, assigned to polling place in lower Manhattan. Have to be at work in the afternoon. Fall asleep in NYC apartment.

Tuesday September 11th, 2001...phone rings, wakes me up. Father "They got us, they got us, are you okay?" What are you talking about? "Turn on the TV, are you okay?" Go to living room, turn on TV. Think, wow this is a pretty realistic look at what would happen if someone attacked NYC. Father, "a plane hit the World Trade Center, are you okay!" Thought, what IS he talking about? World Trade Center, where I had my high school prom. Father, "a plane hit the tower." Hang up; something has gone terribly wrong, what I am looking at is real! Hang up phone, call newsroom. Can't get through. Try again, lines busy. Try again, can't get through. Get dressed, slightly on edge. Go outside, seems okay, NYC is okay. Try to get a cab, try again, try again. Start walking to work. Why are there so many people walking in the streets? What is happening? Helicopters, sirens, helicopters. Tired of walking, try to hail a cab. Get one. Radio explains what is happening, planes, buildings on fire, people stuck. Accident? Terrorism? Go under tunnel at UN, look towards UN, what is going on.

Get to newsroom, everyone frantic, live coverage, live, breaking, developing story, what is happening? Terrorism, it appears it's not an accident. Where are my colleagues? Where are my friends? Who works in the towers? Who lives near the towers? Who is in lower Manhattan?

Need to get there, must get there, need to find out what exactly is going on. Phones ring, someone is crying. Get a camera, head towards a NYC hospital. Wait for the injured to come, wait. Wait. Wait. No one comes.

Head towards lower Manhattan. Streets closed, can only go so far. Stop and park. A stranger, a man, "please find my daughter! She looks like this." A woman, "please find my son, he works in tower 1!" "Have you seen him?" Have you seen her?" We will reunite these people, we will reunite them. Come back to live truck. Windshield, windows, live truck covered in missing person flyers. Stop, stop, think, think.

Go home, back to NYC apartment. What has happened, what is going on? Get in bed. Cry, cry, cry. It's raining. Think of all of those people who are still alive, trapped in the debris. It's raining, they are hurt, injured and now it's raining.

The days and weeks that followed. The flies, so many flies in the city. Cry. Back to work. Canal Street, can go no further. Walk the rest of the way. The white dust everywhere. Everything covered in white power. The pile, the pile. Jagged metal, sharp glass, smoke, smoke. Firefighters, police, the white dust. What is going on? Cars in the middle of the street. Missing person flyers. The search for survivors. See raw video of those who decided to jump from the towers, what is going on? Cry, cry. Children, children. The flies. Firefighters, police from all over the country. Standing on West Side Highway, no cars. Tents on West Side Highway. Makeshift kitchens to feed folks helping to find the survivors.

Are you ok? Cry, cry. Mother, "Please leave the city; come here where you will be safe!" I can't leave, I won't leave. Anger, anger, who did this to us! No survivors. No survivors. Funerals, funerals, are you okay? Please move out of the city! I won't, this is MY city! They keep searching, no survivors. Funerals, hundreds gone. Suspicious package here, another there. Colleague takes medical leave, not doing good, cannot go near lower Manhattan anymore. Funerals, caskets, families can't make sense, trying to make sense. Still more than a decade later, trying to make sense.

KEMBERLY RICHARDSON


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