Simone heard the screams first, and then, deafening silence. She managed to clear some of the debris from her eyes and straightened her legs around as she struggled to pick herself up off the carpeted floor. Her eyes were coated with dust granules that made her vision quite blurry. She grabbed onto the desk as she tried to regain her balance. She swore she felt the building sway. She had no sense of time and was unnerved by the sudden and inexplicable quiet. Where was she? She recalled sitting at her desk putting the final touches on a presentation, but now couldn’t remember what it was about. She continued to brush dust off herself and her clothes, but even as she did, more settled quicker than she could keep up with. Her mouth was dry and she felt a thick film of something nasty forming in her mouth, on her gums, tongue, and teeth. What she wouldn’t give to rinse her mouth out.
The screaming returned and she noticed people rushing past her door towards the stairs. She decided to follow them, and on her way out she noticed a calendar lying open on a desk. The date on the calendar read Tuesday, September 11, 2001. She knew she would never forget this day. Her office was on the third floor so she didn’t have far to go to get out of the building and onto the street. A sea of weary, frightened faces blurred past her. People were pushing and shoving each other in their search for safety. She noticed a man slumped on the bottom step with his shoes missing. He must have slipped in his stocking feet and slid to the bottom. He didn’t look well. His hands trembled and he had trouble rising. Simone maneuvered through the crowd and held out her arm to help hoist him up. He grabbed onto her with such force and rose to his feet. Upon standing, he was thrust into the racing crowd and she quickly lost sight of him. She looked down and swiped the film on her watch and noticed it was barely 9 A.M. Panic poured through her. She reminded herself she was in a strong building in the middle of New York City; she would be fine. Breathe, breathe.
She heard someone say, “What the hell happened,” and she tried to piece the morning together in her mind. She remembered that while on the third floor she heard a thunderous boom. It sounded like the whirl of a massive engine, but she quickly dismissed the idea as impossible. She made it to the street and the scene was like nothing she had ever seen. There were people running in every direction. Police, fire, and other rescue vehicles covered every inch of the street. There was chaos everywhere. Heavy soot fell in big chunks from the sky like snow. Everything as far as she could see was buried under a blanket of grit. She broke out into a furious run and without warning, leaned over and threw up. She caught her reflection in a broken window and froze. She looked like an angel who had risen from ashes. Every piece of exposed skin was covered with a thick, gray dust. She felt like death. At that very moment something or someone spoke to her. She heard the words, “Hope will rise,” and she knew it would.