My 9/11 Hero

Kayla Tull, Guest Writer

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It was and still remains the worst day of my life. After the planes hit, I recall bodies scattered around me and the cacophonous sound of screams ringing throughout the remains of the Twin Towers. Smoke so black and opaque that the simple task of breathing quickly became strenuous. And as I, Georgia Miller, and my husband stand at ground zero I recall the terror of  9/11 that revisits me almost every day.

***

“Let’s go, girls. You don’t want to be late today!”

“Coming, Mom!”

Dropping the girls off at school is always my least favorite part of the day. Because I’m a single, working mom, I’m constantly judged by all the other moms. While they all pull up in their Mercedes, BMW’s, and Audi’s, I drop my girls off in our rusty Tacoma. With their hair knotted and uniforms un-ironed, Lily and Mia hop out of the car and head toward the doors of the School For Young Performers.

I served in the Marines for six years, with two tours to Afghanistan, and one to Iraq. Now I’m working two jobs as security detail to pay for my girls’ tuition. Raising two gifted musicians by myself is fatiguing sometimes, but Mia and Lily are what keep me going. Normally, it’s only a seven minute drive between their school and my job at the World Trade Center, but with today’s Manhattan traffic it’s looking more like a thirty minute drive, and I’m already running late.

***

As I enter the doors of the South Tower, I’m immediately greeted by my coworker, Grayson. “What’s up Georgy? Ready for another day of action?”

Grayson knows I hate when people call me Georgy, and is clearly being sarcastic since practically no safety threats ever come our way. “Always!” I reply.

“Alrighty then, let’s get going. Badge?”

“Check.”

“Handgun?”

“Check.”

“Incredibly handsome partner?”

“I seem to have left that one today!”

“Oh whatever, you know I’m handsome and one day you’ll let me take you out!”

Since the day we were paired up, Grayson has been asking me out on dates. It’s sort of become part of our routine. Him asking, me jokingly refusing. It’s not that I don’t find him attractive, I just don’t think I could put myself through the possibility of someone leaving me again.

We step into the elevator, and Grayson hits the button for floor 105. We’ll make our usual rounds today, which include a perimeter sweep of the floors 105 to 108. Ever since the North Tower bombing, security has really been tight.

Grayson normally takes the south side of the room near the back wall, while I take the opposite by the windows. As I look out into the distance I notice what seems like a low flying plane. Pull up. Pull up. I think to myself as I see the plane, descending lower and lower. As I’m looking out the windows of the South Tower, I begin to realize this plane is heading straight for the other tower. Within seconds of that thought, the plane crashes into the building, and for a moment time stood still. Silence filled the room as the tumultuous sounds of American Airlines Flight 11 piercing the North Tower echoed, and everyone stopped to gaze upon the destruction.

Grayson now stood beside me, eyes fixed on the building. Massive holes now plagued the North Tower. The immense holes now disgorged smoke and flames redder than any flame I have ever seen.

“We gotta get everyone out of here. Let’s go” Grayson says sternly.

But I couldn’t remove my eyes from the building. My mind was blank, other than the thought of is this really happening?

            Grayson reaches for my arm, and in a harsh tone yells, “Georgia! Let’s go, now! We have to get everyone out!”

I wipe the tears from my eyes, and begin evacuating everyone off of the floor.

***

It had been about fifteen minutes since the crash, and Grayson and I managed to evacuate a crowd down the stairs. As I rounded the corner of the next flight of stairs onto floor 69, my biggest fear became a reality. A deafening sound pierces my ears as the building rumbles and the United Airlines Flight 175 collides into our tower. Horrifying screams fill penetrate the now smoke-filled room, and my first instinct is to find Grayson. People are now running full force down the stairs and trampling one another; I’m scanning the stairway for Grayson. My heart is pounding, because I know the entire building is about to come down, and I can’t find my partner. Nevertheless, I begin helping people up, and start running down the stairwell.

When I make it to the 30th floor, I’m gasping for air. The mixture of fire, smoke, and building debris feels like it has filled my lungs. I still can’t find Grayson. I’m seconds away from collapsing, when someone grabs me and picks me up off the ground. As this unknown figure embraces me, I’m too weak to force them off of me and collapse in their arms. Something about them feels familiar.

***

As I regain consciousness, I look around and am shaken after perceiving that I am now in a hospital. That same stranger that was holding me is also no stranger. It’s Grayson; his eyes filled with tears, his face black from fumes. “Hey there Georgy”

“Grayson? I thought you were dead,” I weakly reply as my eyes fill with tears.

“I’ve still got to take you on that date, so I’m not going anywhere.”

***

Just three months after the crash, Grayson and I finally went on that date. After that day I decided to longer live my life in fear. I’m reminded everyday of the gift of life. Without Grayson, I easily could have died in that terrorist attack. The greatest decision I have ever made was the decision to marry him. He has been the greatest father to my girls, and will always be my 9/11 hero.

 

 

Bibliography

Hampton, Wilbur. September 11, 2001 Attack on New York City. Candelwick Press. 2003.

Giuliani, Rudolph. One Nation Remembers September 11, 2001.” Time Warner Publishing. 2001.

Taylor, Alan. “9/11: The Day of the Attack’s.” The Atlantic. 8, Sept. 2011.

History. “9/11 Timeline.” https://www.history.com/topics/21st-century/9-11-timeline. A&E

Television. Networks. 21, June. 2011.

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