I am sending this in on behalf of my son, Danny. Danny was 23 years old when he worked on the 55th floor of 2 World Trade Center when the first plane hit. He has suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder since then. He struggled to go right back to work after just one week for the securities company he had worked for. Everything became difficult, and I am thankful he took to writing to help express his feelings. Many years after he wrote the attached story out of the despair, he finally decided to do something positive with his life. He pulled himself out of the emotional ashes, went back to school first to finish college (it had not been the "thing" for him before) and then decided it was time to help others. So he even went to graduate school to get his degree in school counseling, which he felt would lead to helping others. He worked with at-risk high school students for a year and is now in his second year of working with elementary school children in a public school in Brooklyn. His journey was not like others. It was long, bumpy and quite challenging. He will never forget that day but each day, he tries to put aside his own feelings to try to be the "rock" for the little ones that may be suffering from their own traumas. I am thrilled that he has come such a long way. Things looked so dark for such a very long time. At this time, he just got married last summer and he and his wife (a 5th grade teacher in Staten Island) are expecting their first child in September. This will be the biggest blessing and hopefully will change all of the negativity that is associated with that month for him.
I have been an elementary school teacher myself for the last 26 years. I support the UFT and all of their efforts. When my son sent the e-mail to me about sending in stories, I was thrilled. This is all very difficult for him still. At this point I am hoping that what has changed his life so drastically and so negatively can now be used as a learning experience for overcoming tragedy and using his experiences to understand those of others. One of the things that baffle him (and I guess all of us) is that there is just too much apathy about the events of that day from those who don't seem to have been directly affected. He cringes when he thinks that people have forgotten. I guess when he saw this request, it made him feel that someone is taking notice that for those who were directly involved in the day it will always remain important and seem like it was only yesterday.
"The Day the Earth Cried" is written by Daniel Caiazzo. Wouldn't it give him the much needed confirmation that people have not forgotten about this day for him to see it published? I am hoping that is a possibility.
The Day the Earth Cried
It was the most beautiful Tuesday morning and I when I had gotten out of bed I thought that it was just too nice to go to work. Then I remembered that everyone in my company was going to the Yankee game that night. I knew that I definitely wanted to go to the game so I got dressed in jeans, a fatigue colored Tommy Hilfiger shirt and sneakers. I remember as I was leaving the house my mother noticed the sneakers and asked me why I was wearing them; it was unusual for me to wear them to work. When I told her that I was going to go to a baseball game that night after work she understood and told me to have a great day and a good time at the game. On my way to the train I was excited about going to the game. I was happy that I had just gotten my CD player back from my friend and could once again enjoy the music, I always hated going on the train without it.
I got to work, just another usual day. I was waiting to see my boss Michael who was coming back from vacation. I was in charge of his area while he was gone and I felt good that I would get a chance to show him how things had gone while he was away. It was just about our usual time when I wanted to go get something to eat and I started yelling to my friend Jack to go get something to eat. He told me to wait a few minutes because he had to make a few more phone calls. While I was waiting for him, Michael walked in and he started talking about his trip. I leaned back in my chair; happy that he was back, happy that I had a great job, and even noticing that Michael had a great tan.
All of a sudden, I felt the whole building shake. It shook so hard that it felt like I was on a roller coaster of some sort. I remember Michael screaming, “Get out, get out!” I ran to the elevator, none of them were working. I went back to the staircase to see everyone else heading down the stairs. The stairways were very narrow for such a huge building and they were dark. As I went down to each floor, there were more and more people coming in, I had no idea what was going on! As I got a few floors down, I started yelling for Jack because he was a big man and I was worried about him. I wanted to make sure that he was OK. I didn’t hear him and so I went back up, fighting my way through the crowds, to the 55th floor and found that he was OK and was starting to make his way down. However, I saw my boss Donna on the top of the steps, shaking, not moving and crying. When she saw me all she could say is, “Danny, I don’t wanna die, I don’t wanna die!” I put her arms around my neck and I started dragging her down the stairs with me. Some people in the staircase were very scared and were screaming and crying. Others were so uncertain of what was going on that they were just being herded down the steps with everyone else. It felt like I was in the staircase forever. By the time we got to the lobby, it was chaos. People were running and screaming all over. I finally got Donna to calm down and then I tried to see where we could get out. The front entrance was blocked because of all the debris that had landed there from the other building. We made our way to the back entrance right across from Century 21. As we got outside, I felt like I was in a movie. People were running and screaming. There was total chaos. I finally looked up and saw the other tower, Tower I; it had a big hole with lots of smoke and fire coming out of it. I saw people falling, jumping out of the windows from the top. I could not believe my eyes. All I could do at that point was stare. I didn’t even think it could be true. It was a surreal scene from a movie. It was one big horrifying nightmare!!!!. I went deaf for a few minutes. I was frozen in fear.
I continued to look up at the horror as Tower I was being engulfed in flames. Then I heard something in my right ear and as I turned my head around to the right, I saw a plane heading straight for my head. I heard a crazy, loud screeching noise and then a sound like an engine revving up. The noise was deafening, it was nothing I had ever heard before. The plane had sliced right through my building, Tower 2. The whole building went up in a fireball and things started flying all around. People started diving under cars because they didn’t know what was happening nor where all the rubbish was coming from.
I had seen the plane when it was coming and when it hit the building. I started running because this fireball was like a tidal wave coming right for me. As I was running from the building, I kept on looking back and saw my building engulfed in smoke and flames. It was the most staggering thing I had ever seen. These 2 strong buildings, buildings that had held thousands of people every day were now balls of fire, cracking and crumbling like a sand castle breaking on a beach. Now I saw people from Tower 2, from the highest floors, jumping out of the windows because they chose not to die in the ball of flames. They might have thought that there was some hope if they jumped. I can not even imagine what must have gone through their minds right before they took such a drastic step. I can not even imagine!
I remember thinking to myself that this could not possibly be happening. This was not how life was supposed to be. This was not how death was supposed to be. This was not how so many lives were supposed to end.
My mind was numb from the images of death and destruction, from the total chaos that I was witnessing, that I was in the middle of. It looked as if the plane had crashed right into the middle of the building, somewhere near the 55th floor. Only 5 0r 10 minutes before this, I had been right there. If Michael had not yelled for us all to leave, I would have been right there where the plane had hit. All of this was terrifying, horrifying, petrifying.
With all of these horrible going on, I will never forget the scene of watching the firemen, young kids like myself, only 21 or 22, driving towards a place that everyone was trying to get away from. The looks on these young men’s faces were incredible. Their expression showed that they knew they were never going to be coming out. They knew that this was going to be their last call, that they would never see a beautiful morning again, never get to hug their loved ones again. I will never forget the looks on their faces.
As I kept moving, I ended up towards the FDR drive under the Brooklyn Bridge. People all around me were crying. I saw people staring up at the buildings, screaming and then passing out. Big, strong men; women of all colors were crying, heartbroken in shock with the madness that was all around. I tried to use my cell phone, I finally realized that I needed to get in touch with someone in my family, it was not working. Finally I got a call from my cousin Brian and from my friend Frank. They had seen what was going on on TV and they tried to call me immediately. I asked them both to call my house and let my parents know that I was OK. At that moment I realized that I had to get out of the city. I realized also that I was near the Brooklyn Bridge and if I could get on to it, it would lead me out of the city and towards home. First, though, I had to walk back towards the chaos to get to the entrance of the bridge. I knew it could be dangerous, but it was my only way out. As I started to walk, the scene of the buildings burning and crumbling became etched in my mind. As I walked onto the bridge, I had to wait to cross it to get onto the walkway because there were army tanks and trucks driving into the city. As I got to the walkway, it was filled with what seemed like one million people. I took another look at the buildings while I started to walk. Everyone on the bridge was walking at once pace. You couldn’t walk too fast or too slow. People were talking to each other, sharing their feelings and their stories with strangers who would now have common memories.
As I finally made it to the other side of the bridge, I was thankful that the planes did not come crashing into the bridge, the safe passageway that would get me home. I took another look back at the city, the city that inspires so many people, and all I saw were flames and smoke. I kept turning around, thinking that maybe, just maybe one of the times I turned around things would be back the way they had been at 8:30 this morning and that all of this was only a nightmare. As I stared at the city from the Brooklyn side of the bridge, I saw my building, the building that I had been in jus a short time before, come crumbling down to the floor. It seemed like the whole world gave out one combined GASP, while watching such a horrible scene. It was the kind of horror that not even the creative geniuses in Hollywood could have thought up. I couldn’t believe that my building was now becoming just a pile of rubble. I didn’t know what to do or where to go and at this point I realized that I was petrified.
I was petrified and in a state of shock, but somehow I knew that I had to keep going. All I wanted to do was to make it home, get into my front door and be with my family. My phone rang…it was a miracle, a call was coming through, it was my father, telling me to get to the Grand Army Plaza library, he would meet me there. Thank god for phones, thank god to be able to walk to meet the man that would take me back home.
I found myself walking through a neighborhood that I was not very familiar with. It was a neighborhood that I probably would never have driven through, let alone, walk through. It was a neighborhood that might not have welcomed a white kid in under other circumstances. But for today, everyone was out, trying to help anyone passing through. People were working together to help each other, that was something that I finally realized as I continued walking in the bright sun that was shining even on the most terrible of days. I had taken my shirt off because I was sweating. My arms were bleeding. Some guys in a jeep called me over to sit in their car and relax for a few minutes. They must have seen that I needed some help. They gave me some water. They were listening to the radio and then we all heard it, Tower 1 had now fallen and crumbled to the ground. At this point, I didn’t even feel as if I was alive. I felt like I was having the most dreadful nightmare of my life, but for some reason, I also still knew that I had to keep going.
Finally, I reached the Grand Army Plaza library and I saw the white car, gleaming in the sunshine. It seemed like a mirage in the middle of the desert, my father’s car, my safety zone. I realized that someone had been walking with me, someone I didn’t even know, he was still with me. He came into the car with us and we drove him home. When I finally got home, I didn’t believe anything that had just happened. I went inside and found my mother crying her eyes out, hugging me like she had never hugged me before, holding me tight like she would never let go. She started asking about some of my friends from other companies who were there. She told me that my aunt had called hysterical crying because she had been the one who had gotten the job for me in the World Trade Center. She had felt that anything that happened to me was her fault. Until she knew I was alright, she was inconsolable.
My aunt was in the same business and she knew many of the people that I worked with. Her best friend, Lori’s husband had been in Tower 1. She had been worried about him, too. Lori knew me, and I knew her husband Louie. He was a great guy, friendly to everyone. Lori was so happy to find out that I was fine. However, she never got the same phone call about her own husband. Louie had perished with other members of Cantor & Fitzgerald
in Tower 1. She would never get a chance to talk to her husband again, her children would never get a chance to hug their dad again, I would never get a chance to hang out with a good friend again.
In my house now, everything finally hit. All that I think I’ve imagined is on TV, it must be true. I look at the crumbling building over and over again on TV and I realize that I had just been there a short time before. I can’t explain the feelings of seeing those images replay in my mind over and over again, still to this day, four years later. I can’t explain how that day has completely changed everything in my life. The events that happened on that day were terrible, there many negative repercussions. Believe it or not, some good things have come out of it as well.
It’s hard to explain to people the way it feels now, but one thing I could say is that it feels as if it was just 4 minutes ago instead of 4 years. It’s hard to explain to people that a piece of my soul is gone because of what happened on that day. When I look in the mirror I don’t even know who’s looking back. Where did that 23 year old kid go? That’s not who I am anymore. Some things I wish I could get back. I wish I was more like that kid in many ways. He had no fear in the world, now I fear everything. I can’t explain to people how it feels, as if a piece of me died on that day, too. I can’t begin to express my feelings that no person should ever witness so much tragedy, death and disaster in one lifetime, let alone in one day. All these feelings take over my body sometimes. I feel like I can’t even breathe. My heart starts to thump, the noise is in my ears, the sweat starts to pour out of me, my knees get weak and I just want to cry, to scream and hope that it all goes away. These feelings are still strong; I feel that they will never weaken. I feel that I will have to make them a part of whom I am and who I will be. Sometimes, it is so frustrating to keep on getting these feelings because at times I feel I can not take it anymore. I do try to talk to myself to think that things will get better. It just doesn’t seem to have happened yet.
September 11, 2001 was one of the worst days in the history of the world. For me, it is a day that has changed the course of my life forever and if someone asked me to sum up my feelings about that day in one sentence, I would say that was “The Day the Earth Cried!”