The Day a City Went Dark, and I Was Given Light

September 11, 2017 — 163 Comments



Kids – who needed them?

They drained your bank account and destroyed your dreams.

Every time I saw an overzealous mommy delirious over her mewling poop machine, I knew it had to be an act.

Taking care of ME was a full-time job. Plants died in my care.

I was living in New York City – the epicenter of everything. I milked that shiz like Bernie Madoff at a Ponzi scheme party.

I hobnobbed with pseudo celebrities. Life outside the velvet rope was not worth living.

I was a die-hard urbanite with the a full-throttle addiction to Broadway plays, ethnic restaurants and designer shoes, supported by a bullshit corporate job. If I combined them into The Sacrosanct Trifecta – went to see a play and ate Vietnamese food in a pair of Jimmy Choos – I spontaneously orgasmed.

I brunched (yes, I used it as a goddamn verb) at the Odeon in Tribeca. If a family came in, I’d move my table. I’m here for a cocktail and to maybe make a little eye contact with Robert DeNiro, and I don’t need to hear your squalling rug rats. Just because you had to go fuck up YOUR life doesn’t mean I don’t get to enjoy my warm goat cheese salad.

“Excuse me, hostess? I’m pretty sure I smell shit in that kid’s diaper, or maybe it’s just my friend’s penne gorgonzola, but, either way, just move us.”

My boss was a psychopath; a vulgarly successful multimillionaire with a God complex and a nasty temper. Do you know what it’s like to be paid six figures for a high-powered position and have Hitler’s brother throw a stapler at your head because his bagel had seeds on it?

When the corporate bourgeois aesthetic has you by the throat and you find yourself addicted to Jimmy Choo shoes, you do worse things than when you were addicted to smack.


A Gorgeous Tuesday Morning, Early Fall 

8:50 am:  I had just dodged a paperweight when my phone rang. My brother was saying something I didn’t understand.

What was he talking about? He was recovering from lung cancer; those pain meds and the pot he smoked incessantly took him on verbal joyrides.Today, he was babbling about a plane.

“I have to go. Can I call you later?”

9:05 am:  My boss emerges from the inner sanctum. He always watched the news while he ate the breakfast that may or may not result in an inanimate object being hurled in my direction.

I was on hold with London. If I didn’t get these curricula vitae faxed over soon, I would surely have a desk accessory lobbed at me.

He yelled for all of us to get in his office, NOW. The TV screen showed…what was that? Was that a plane jutting out the side of a building? Engulfed in beautiful brilliant red and yellow flames, blazing wildly?

Above and below these violently beautiful hues was the blackest smoke I’d ever seen.

The dark of things and people gone forever.

9:21 am:  Port Authority closes all bridge and tunnels. My boyfriend was in New Jersey. No way to get to him. No way to get out of the city tonight.

9:31 am:  President Bush does nothing to reassure us. I want to hear that this is an accident; that an alcoholic air traffic controller got blackout boozed up when he walked in on his wife fucking the pool boy.

He tells us there is an “apparent” terrorist attack on New York City. Apparent? Whew. That means nothing; that’s like the “apparent” phone number I give men in clubs.

Breathe. Apparent, apparent…

9:37 am:  Hijackers aboard Flight 77 crash the plane into the western facade of the Pentagon in Washington DC. There is no more uncertainty.

New York City is under attack by terrorists.

9:59 am:  The South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses.

What are we supposed to do? Do we stay? Do we leave?

The rumors fly and claw at us like the crows in the “The Birds:”

The terrorists are now targeting Times Square – WHERE WE ARE.

The company’s human resource director voice comes through the speakers, giving us instructions on how to evacuate safely.

Too late for that. Full scale bedlam has broken loose. We’re all going to die, and we know it.

We just don’t want to die here, where we loathe each other so much.

Get. Me. Out. Of. Here.

For some reason, the elevators have been turned off. The staircase is jammed.

I can’t breathe. Too many people. Too hot. No air. Everyone is pushing. I fall. A man helps me up. We both fall. People step over us, on us. We use the wall and each other for support to get up. He’s my life line.

I lose sight of his face. He’s just a detached arm. A hand, clasping mine.

I try to help the people who are down. But if I stop to help them, I get knocked over by frantic people behind me.

I can’t breathe. I’m going to suffocate and die in this staircase. I’m going to die in the staircase of a building of a job I hated.

I hear screaming.
It’s my own.

I see light – is that the street?  I push, push, PUSH. We’re bottlenecking at the edge. We’re crowning like the desperate head of an infant, one…last…PUSH.

I’m OUT.

All around me – chaos. The subway stations are shut down. The streets are pandemonium.

I begin the long walk home, on shaky legs, to my apartment downtown. As I walk, I pass people walking uptown. They are bloody. Torn. Disoriented. Covered in white dust and black soot.

I realize…these are the survivors.

The air in my neighborhood is black and filthy, like the inside of a chimney. Soot flecks fall from the sky and land on my hair. From the front of my building, I have a clear view of the wreckage.

And I know, in that moment, the people of New York City –

We’re all going to die today.

I don’t want to die. I’m young. I still have shoes to buy.

No cell service. No land lines. No communication with the rest of the world.

I want to talk to my mom. I want her to know I love her.

I don’t particularly believe in God, but that moment – I decide to believe. And then, I do the oddest thing.

I fall to my knees. Right on the unyielding, abrasive, soot covered pavement. I was never religious before, but this moment feels like church to me.

“Dear God,

Please, please, don’t let me die. I know I haven’t always lived my life correctly. But if you let me live, I’ll be a better person. I’ll recycle. I’ll rescue a dog. I’ll drive a hybrid.”

I thought a moment.

“I know I might have pissed you off with those abortions. Since you made me so freakishly fertile that I got pregnant even on birth control, did you – want me to have a baby? I promise, I won’t interfere with your plans again. Just please. Let me live. I’m not ready to die.” 


I lived.

I got pregnant 16 months later. I kept my bargain with God.

Me and Him – we’re good.

In 2003, I gave birth to my son.

I had been given clarity, on September 11, 2001.

My son is the constant reminder of the good graces of God.

And I am grateful, not for the tragedy that day, that singular moment in history when searing images and heartbreaking stories changed the world forever,

but for the moment of clarity it afforded me. Which changed my world forever.

Dedicated to those who lost their lives - and gave me one.

We watched this happening – and still didn’t believe it was happening

This post is dedicated to the memory of those who gave their lives that day.

Where were you when it happened?
Talk to me. I’m listening. 

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163 responses to The Day a City Went Dark, and I Was Given Light


    This was the very first thing I read this day and I’m sure it will go down as the best and most moving 9/11 story I will read – so totally unique in its honesty. I hope you won’t mind I reblogged and tweeted.


    Reblogged this on cabbagesandkings524 and commented:
    Samara Writes with her usual unblinking honesty and clarity of 9/11 and life.


    Loved it this time too. One of the most incredible days ever.


    I can so relate to that connection between a tragic event and the life that comes out of it. I love your unique perspective and captivating storytelling. My dad was living in New Jersey at the time and watched this unfold from the balcony of his home. He is an artist and was supposed to deliver a draft of a painting he did for a magazine cover at the WTC. I can’t remember why he ended up not going, but I was on the phone with him living it with him and through his eyes as well as what we all saw on TV. Your post brought me back to that day.


    Samara. My god. Incredible account of your experience. Wow. I was at my home office looking at the same perfect blue sky, but in Ohio. Incredulous. Driving home today from visiting family in Dayton, the same September true blue confection of sky and clouds, a canopy over I-71. Is it really 15 years? It changed us all forever.


    I love you.

    Usually I go social media silent on this day, I cannot handle the brutal retelling of the day we all witnessed. My brain cannot handle the reading of the names of those lost, by those left behind. My heart cannot stand the breaking, the shattering, the searing pain.

    but you. you made me read again. to relive this day in a way i hadn’t before.

    I love you.


    I had just been hired to work in intelligence and, after that day I was, for the next decade, in the front lines in the law enforcement end of the “war on terrorism.” My family also lost a member that day – my second cousin (an in-law by marriage who I did not know) was on UA Flight 175. He had left Boston with plans to surprise his son who had just embarked on his freshman year at UCLA. I remember feeling it was a surreal experience to watch those towers come down. I had just been standing at the top of one of those towers only a few months earlier on a family visit to see my uncle who was living in New York at the time. Because I was living in Vancouver on 9/11 I had just been woken up by my work telling me to get my ass to the office because of what was happening (flights en route to the US had been diverted to Canada and I had to help with response). I turned on the television and saw the one tower burning and within moments I watched in horror as the second plane hit the other tower. I remember thinking “am I seeing what I’m seeing?” I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be in New York on that day. It must have been a truly frightful experience.


    Must be so scary to the core…


    I was in history class of all places that day. In my junior year of high school before I transferred out. My cousin Patricia worked in building 2 & was late to work that day. (Due to some otherworldly forces) & because of my cousin Mike making her late for work. (He was supposed to be driving her into NY that day but overslept/got up late.)

    Sorry I got to this late. & Thank you for sharing this. A lot of here on the east coast, especially in our tri-state had friends, relatives, knew someone etc, or all 3.
    Love you sugarplum & miss you.
    Sorry I’ve been so damn busy & in my depressive hole. It’s been a weird year so far. But good things on the horizon.
    I’ll spare writing you a novel here & save that for email or something.
    Just know that I love you.


    I loved your unique presentation of how you were affected. I too, loved your honesty. Loved it. Where was I? In Colorado. My boss too, watched the news on his huge wall sized TV and when the first plane hit, he called us all into his office and we numbly witnessed the other plane hit as it was taking place. My heart caught in my throat. My brother was a UA pilot and frequently flew that route. As if sensing it, he called seconds later to tell me he was on vacation and not flying and would I please contact our siblings to tell them he was okay. Watching it as it happened, even on TV, was a surreal experience. I would later quit my job shortly thereafter and volunteer for Red Cross. I didn’t get to go to NYC, because ARC doesn’t send just anyone out there without training and I had no experience in the areas they needed, but I handled donations and did whatever else I could to help. I would later go on to work other disasters, including Katrina. 9-11 made me question my purpose in life and I was motivated to making what was left of it count. Katrina, however, was the last disaster I worked.

When I see the orange light, I have a BLOGASM...

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