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“Dad, are we almost there?” I whined.
“Just a few more blocks, hang in there buddy,” he replied warmly.
I held on to my dad’s hand firmly, letting him guide me through the swarms of people. Peeking through the crowd, I saw many familiar faces that were all heading to the same place I was. Today is “take your child to work day” and about half of my class is heading to the World Trade Center, just like my dad and me. They all seemed really happy and I think we all knew that we were about to have a really great day.
I looked around the city that I’ve grown up in my entire life. My dad says I should be really proud to live here. He mentions the word “architecture” a lot. I’m not entirely sure what that means, it seems important. All I know is that the buildings are all so big and tall. I think even James from James and the Giant Peach would be impressed by how big the buildings were, and that peach he explored was really big. I started to get hungry, thinking about peaches and all.
“Thanks for being patient, we’re here,” my dad said, interrupting my thoughts of hunger.
I stared at the enormous building that towered over me, the North Tower of the World Trade Center. I had been here a few times before, but I was always surprised by how huge it was. My dad still held on to my hand, making sure I wouldn’t get lost in the sea of businessman. We entered the building, and the crowd that surrounded us started to disperse. The lobby was massive and welcoming, with everyone preparing for another day’s work. The sound of telephones ringing and people typing were calming, and everything was way different from my normal school day. Everywhere I looked people seemed to be so friendly. Women would look at me and give me a big smile, where the men would give me a quick wink and a grin.
I heard my dad talking to one of his coworkers about today.
“Today is my favorite day of the year, John. It’s not only the kids who love it; it’s all of the parents too. This is the one day of the year where I really feel like a child again, and all of my stress seems to dissipate.”
John, or as I know him, Mr. Mason, nodded in agreement. He and Dad talked a bit longer about “policies” and “conferences” and stuff, but I didn’t really focus on what they were saying.
“I have a meeting on the 104th floor at 8:40, so we should start heading up there now,” Dad said, heading towards the elevator. I had just realized that Mr. Mason had left.
“Dad it’s only 8:20 and I’m really hungry, can we please get something to eat?” I whined while my stomach rumbled.
“They have vending machines up there, so we’ll get you a quick snack and have a real breakfast once my meeting is over,” he replied.
We made our way to the majestic elevator located in the center of the lobby. A fat, bald man scanned my dad’s ID card and we were allowed to enter the elevator. The 104th floor was one of the top floors of the North Tower, so it took a really long time to get to the top. The floor numbers started to light up as more people entered the elevator. The doors closed and we started journey up.
On the way up, many different people left and entered. There were people of all ages and races, all with playful expressions across their faces. They would often glance at me, letting a smile slip before returning to their businesslike scowl. The elevator itself was special, with its red interior and gold accents. I felt really important, just like all of my friends who were also here on this most memorable day. While I was overall pretty happy, my stomach was not. It rumbled and rumbled some more, which caused my dad o glance over a few times, giving me his fatherly look. There’s nothing I can do about it, I thought to myself, and I returned back to my thoughts.
Eventually, we reached the 104th floor, and it was almost 8:40.
“I need to go to my meeting Adam, here is five dollars so you can go buy a snack at the vending machine. There should be one on the 105th floor if there isn’t one here. Meet me at the bathrooms by the elevator on the 104th floor at 9:00 so we can go get breakfast.”
“Alright Dad, good luck at your meeting,” I replied, already starting to look for a vending machine.
“Thanks Bud, I’ll see you soon,” he replied with a smile. Then he was off.
It was time to find food. I started my search, looking at every wall to see if I could find a machine filled with Poptarts. I was debating on whether or not I should get blueberry Poptarts or strawberry Poptarts when a tall blonde woman interrupted my thoughts.
“Hi honey, is there anything I can help you with?” she asked sweetly.
“Where can I find a vending machine?” I asked. My stomach let out another loud growl.
“Unfortunately, there are none on this floor, but if you take the elevator up a floor, there should be one to your right.”
“Thank you Miss,” I said as I hurried toward the elevator. She gave me a questioning stare, and turned around to head back to her office. I checked my watch; it was 8:45. I still had time to go get a Poptart and then meet up with my dad. I hit the up button on the elevator, and the elevator opened its doors right away. I walked in to find one other person, a young African American man, who gave me a welcoming nod as I stepped in.
“Where are you headed young man?” he asked with a soothing voice.
“I’m going to get food from the vending machine on the next floor,” I replied.
“Ah, I got ya,” he chuckled. “I’m quite hungry as well.”
Suddenly, the floor started to shake. The elevator lights went out, and I let out a girly scream. I blushed, embarrassed by the noise I just made.
“I think that might have been an earthquake,” the main said with his whole tone of voice changing. “Let me hit the emergency button and we should be out of here in no time,” he said, switching back to his soothing voice.
He hit the emergency button twice, but nothing seemed to happen. He started to tug at the elevator doors, slowly pulling them apart. Once fully opened, I found that I was staring at a brick wall with a ladder. I really didn’t like ladders and I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to climb it. I could also see a light glow coming from above, the 105th floor.
“We need to climb up this ladder to get out of the elevator shaft,” the man said. “Do you want to go first or do you want me to go first?”
My hands started to tremble. I really didn’t want to go up the ladder.
“Can you go first?” I asked as the rest of my body started to tremble. I just wanted to be with my dad.
“Sure thing,” the man replied. He started to make his way up the ladder. I slowly started to follow him, grasping each bar for dear life. Luckily, it wasn’t too far of a climb. On the way up, I heard faint screams that echoed throughout the elevator shaft. My stomach churned. I hope everyone is okay, I thought to myself. Soon, I found myself on the 105th floor, where people were scurrying around looking nervous.
“Hey bud, I need to go,” the man from the elevator said. “Do you know where your mom or dad is?”
“Yeah, I’m okay,” I lied. “Thanks for your help and all.”
I knew I needed to get down to the floor where my dad was, but the elevator wasn’t going to start magically working, so I started looking for a staircase. I started to follow the signs pointing to a staircase. There were too many people around though, and I felt completely lost. I started to smell a faint smoky smell, and I felt warmth overtaking me. What is going on? I thought to myself nervously. I wasn’t even hungry anymore; I just wanted to find my dad.
I found my way to a staircase that was in the far right corner of the floor. There were so many people already on the staircase, making their way downstairs. I squeezed myself into the group and followed everyone to the 104th floor.
I felt like I was in the staircase for an eternity. Nobody would move and there were too many people for me to move past anyone. Everyone was just scared, which made me scared. I was especially scared because I didn’t actually know what was wrong. I’ve never felt an earthquake before, but I felt like and earthquake wouldn’t be responsible for all of this.
After some time, I finally made it back to the floor that my dad was on. On floor 104, there was nothing but panic. Everyone was trying to find a phone to use, and everyone that was so happy before seemed so sad now. I couldn’t see my dad anywhere. I yelled his name over and over, but I didn’t hear him respond. I did, however, spot one of my friends who had come to the World Trade Center with his dad too.
“What’s going on?” I asked nervously.
“My dad said a plane hit the building. He doesn’t know if we can get out or not,” my classmate, Collin, said with tears rushing down his cheeks.
“Have you seen my Dad?” I asked hopefully.
“I haven’t, sorry Adam,” he replied.
I left him, continuously shouting for my dad. Smoke had been pouring into the room, more and more by the minute. At one point, I saw a streak of orange across the room, like the sun rising on a cool dawn morning. That’s when I saw the jumpers… it started with one man, who seemed especially weary. He looked at all of us, and then jumped off of the building. Everyone started to scream and I just stared. That was when I realized what was going on. I wasn’t going to live. After the first jumper, many followed. One by one, more and more men, woman, and children, jumped out of the building. I saw Collin grab onto his Dad’s hand and jump. I let out a stifled cry when I saw that happen. The orange streak of fire I saw earlier had grown and it was now a flurry of red, orange, and yellow.
The smoke darkened and I could barely breathe. I wanted water, I wanted sleep, and I really, really wanted my dad. I laid down, letting tears roll down my cheeks. I felt helpless. I considered jumping out of the building, but then I’d never get to see my dad again. Not only that, what if there was a miracle and we managed to be okay. Dad says miracles happen every day. That’s also what the priest at church says. If miracles happen every day, why can’t a miracle happen right now?
I was thinking about trying to go down the steps, but there was a fire blazing by the steps, so I avoided the steps. I could just lay under a small wooden desk thinking about my dad and my life. I thought about all times I’d been mean to my friends. I thought about all the times I had been mean to my little sister, who was only in kindergarten. I just sat and cried, apologizing for what I’d done, assuming that somehow those people I hurt heard my apologies and accepted them.
Suddenly, I heard my name. I couldn’t see through all of the thick black smoke. I coughed nonstop as the smoke entered my lungs. I saw flames start to erupt around me. However, I was positive I heard my name.
“ADAM!” a voice shouted. It was my dad; I know it.
“ADAM! Where are you?” the voice shouted again.
I ran towards the noise, oblivious of the flames around me, oblivious of the people I was shoving over and the lifeless bodies I was stepping over. I saw him. It was a figure, a figure covered in ash, but a figure I definitely knew.
“Adam, there you are!” my dad yelled. “Everything is going to be okay, just come to me,” he croaked.
I ran as fast as my tired, distraught body could run. I ran towards my dad, my comfort, and my friend. His face was now clear, and I felt comfort rush over me. I reached out to touch him, to hug him, to let him hold me and never let go. That’s when I heard the crack. Silence.
Litchfield Park, Arizona
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