My workday on September 11, 2001, began strangely.  Members of my staff were huddled around an old portable television set and not in front of their computers as usual.  I was informed that something terrible had happened in New York City, and my first reaction was that they were playing tricks on me and I went directly to my office without hesitation. As I was called back into the central office, my mood changed as the seriousness of their faces gave me pause.  The horror of watching the second plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center and discovering the destruction of the Pentagon will never leave me while my memory cords lengthen.

It did not immediately dawn upon me that my oldest sister, who worked in Manhattan, might have been in the vicinity of the conflagration.  When it finally pressed upon my mind the very personal possibilities of the attack, I realized I was unaware of the location of her place of employment and its proximity to the so-called Twin Towers!  Frantically, I sought to reach my younger brother who is very familiar with the geography of the city—realizing I had no digits for my sister’s work or cell phone.  When I finally reached my brother, he told me that my oldest sister was in the lower level of the World Trade Center, talking with our next older sister, when the first plane crashed into the South Tower.  Apparently, she had taken off abruptly to try to exit the building!

For a full twenty-four hours, none of the family knew of my sister’s whereabouts, and I was unaware whether or not my sister had been able to escape the exploding, burning and crumbling edifices.  I felt helpless as I scanned the various television news networks to see if I could catch a glimpse of my sister’s familiar countenance and ambulatory cadence—to no avail.  Relying on our personal faiths, we did not relinquish hope and confidence in my sister’s ability to flee the scene, despite the awful devastation and the loss of thousands of human lives.  Needless to say, I was ecstatic to hear my sister’s voice via telephone the next day, albeit she was clearly still disturbed over her unspeakable ordeal.

What follows is the text of the email my sister sent me that relates her experience less than forty-eight hours after the dreadful affair.


This is what I wrote to a friend with whom I attended college and worked.  It was just what my fingers could quickly type.  At some point, when I can, I will ponder that day and its meaning and write something that hopefully would go beyond a mere recount of that horrific act.

Again, thanks for your prayers and concern.  God bless.

 I was coming into the WTC on the PATH as I usually do since I moved back to my house in South Orange.  I was looking for a magazine in the lower level. I went up the escalator and heard the policeman yelling to get out of the building.  I ran over abandoned shoes and ran as fast as I could.  I exited the building to hear someone say that a jet had hit the tower.  I turned around and saw the crater in the building, which was on fire and smoking.  It was terrible.  The policeman outside said to go north.  I started north, but feared that the building would fall like a giant tree.  God told me south, and I started to run south and just before I got to my office building, the second plane hit the second tower.  However, I thought I was hearing a bomb or that the first tower had indeed fallen.

When the second hit tower fell, our building shook and we were evacuated into the dark soot and ash.  We couldn’t breathe or see well and went back into the building that we just evacuated.  We were strategizing as if we really could and left the building after the soot had settle somewhat.  We were going towards the water.  Well, after we left the building and were on our way, the second building crumbled and then, we were being pursued by a cloud of furious smoke.  We ran and ran and ran to the Staten Island ferry terminal, boarded the boat and got safely to Staten Island.  I had been running all morning.  I managed to hitchhike across the bridge to NJ after taking a taxi with six other people to Outerbridge Crossing near Perth Amboy, NJ.  A policeman picked us up to take three of us to the NJ side, where I called friends to pick me up.  They took me back to their place in central NJ.  I got home on Wednesday at 11:30 AM and went to church at noon to thank God.

Anyway, through the wonderful mercy of the almighty Lord, I was delivered from the clutches of evil.  Alleluia.  Thank You, Lord.

Thanks for your concern and prayers because I was indeed in the midst of a horror and was protected by HIM.

God bless.”

My sister passed away earlier this year.  She never was able to elaborate on her experiences that horrific day, nor did she bear witness to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

About mdbwell

Pres., Project for the Beloved Community, Inc.; B.A.--Wesleyan University; M.Div.--Yale University; Ph.D.--Boston University; Summer Study--Harvard University; Social ethicist; Ordained minister; Advocate for the poor
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