Just like it happened yesterday, I remember exactly how that morning played out for me. I was at our campus ministry building catching some extra moments of sleep before going to my Spanish class when a fellow student came in and asked if I heard what just happened. We turned on the news wondering what in the would could have gone wrong for a plane to hit one of the World Trade Center Towers. Then, we saw the 2nd plane crash into the South Tower, and we watched in horror as the rest of the day unfolded. I was inundated with news, which was my only source for information on what was happening.
I tried imagining what people were feeling and thinking — people who were there in the middle of the chaos, and people who weren’t but had family or close friends who were. My brain couldn’t fathom what was seen first hand.
Do you remember that day?
A Bird’s Eye View
I know I’ve said before that I have amazingly talented students who walk through my door. This year is no exception, and I am seeing creativity in most of my students that I’ve never seen before. After reading a paper recently written by one of my students, I felt it necessary to post it today (with her permission, of course). Somehow this student came up with an idea that I consider incredibly creative, and through that idea she was able to capture a few moments of that horrific day in a different way than you have probably ever heard it, sprinkle in bits of humor (yes that’s what I said), all while keeping the integrity of what we stop to remember each year on September 11.
The assignment was simply to write a story from the point of view of an animal. That was it. I gave no other directions, and this is what she wrote. I hope you take the time to read it and see the gift this girl has.
Bird’s Eye View
by Kelsey H.
“So I said to her, I said, ‘Gretchen! Leave that fry where it is. The five second rule doesn’t apply here; in New York everything’s covered in-” The pigeon was stopped mid-story by a rumble in the ground. A loud crash was heard milliseconds after the rumble. A blast of smoke darkened the sky. The pigeon and his crow friend exchanged perplexed looks.
“Let’s go see what’s going on.” They both glided into the air.
As the pigeon and crow flew up to a tall roof, they almost fell out of the air when they saw what had happened. A plane crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The crow flew away in the opposite direction of the intensive damage, but the pigeon was paralyzed with fear. After a moment of awe and shock washed over him, he started looking around for help. He was relieved when he saw first responders, but his mind still raced. How many people were hurt; how many people were dead?
He flew directly through the smoke to assess the damage. The firemen wouldn’t be able to get to the 98th floor without using vital time. As his toes landed on a burning hot piece of rubble, he heard another crash. He looked south and made out what seemed like another fire through the smoke. He quickly helped whomever he could see from under piles of rubble by lifting or pushing anything away that trapped a soul and made his way toward the inferno.
Another plane had crashed into the South Tower. This wasn’t an accident. Somebody was attacking New York. Who would do such a thing? The World Trade Center wasn’t only a place of employment for government officials. There were innocent citizens in the building. The pigeon landed on a much lower level in the South Tower and saw everything aflame. He panicked. He was so small, how could he have helped?
The sounds of people’s screams seemed to flood into his head through his ears, and the world spun around him. Through the devastation he tried to think. As he found a reasonable answer, he ripped through the flames and wreckage and headed to the Hudson. He found a flock of herons, the ones that normally lounge in the north cove marina, squawking in terror and running around like a chicken with… well there was no time to dwell on that. He flew around them, circling, while giving authoritative instructions on how to help.
“Find the biggest trash containers you can lift, fill them with water, and bring them to the World Trade Center! The South tower is up in flames, we need to extinguish them in as little time as possible!”
His directions seemed to give most of the birds a sense of order and purpose. They nodded and started off immediately in search of garbage pails and containers. The pigeon flew back to the North Tower to continue helping the injured or trapped. He felt his emotions climb up his throat. Grief, rage, despair, helplessness and other emotions of differing intensities all threatened to surge out of his eyes and quench the fire themselves, but his determination prevailed. He asked all of his flying brethren to help him lift the office equipment that had fallen and trapped workers. He was helping an ashen woman out from under a fallen beam as he heard more crashes and felt more rumbles.
Tears swelled up in his eyes when his thought process jumped to yet another attack. When he dared to look outside, he was more devastated than if he had been right. The South Tower was imploding; walls and entire floors were collapsing and the entire building fell to a massive pile of debris. The pigeon saw people jumping out from windows that were crumbling beneath them. He let out a scream that harmonized with every single falling angel and mirrored their descent. He swarmed toward one flyer in a suit and motioned to other birds nearby to help the pigeon keep the man from becoming concrete art. They all grabbed him with their talons; his shirt, his arms, his hair, there were at least 10 birds pulling toward the sky with all their might, and the most they did was slow the fall down. The birds couldn’t stop the man’s fall, and to make matters worse, more and more people were falling. The vermin of New York were outnumbered. Though every living thing tried their best to stop this disaster from becoming a catastrophe, their beloved city was falling to pieces right in front of their eyes.
The pigeon sat on the edge of the wreckage on the 92nd floor, and his eyes glassed over. It was useless. He wasn’t able to save one life, not to mention the lives of thousands of others. Powerlessness drowned him. He felt numb, dismembered. Then he felt the floor beneath him start to creak and become unstable. He got out from under the damaged roof merely seconds before the North Tower started to fall, too. As he was treading air, he watched the entire North Tower join its brother in the streets below. His desperate concern simply turned to petrified horror. He lowered himself to the ground and just stood there, staring into the dust and debris watching the firemen and police try to save the thousands of people who worked in the Twin Towers. It was hopeless; how does a pigeon not even a whole pound in weight help thousands of heavy humans? The pigeon backed away from the wreckage until he hit a wall. He sat down, not noticing the people running from all directions, and he stared at the disaster that had happened before his eyes. How could somebody do this?
His world was in shock; the people around him were in shock. He later learned that there were more attacks that turned out to be unsuccessful. The news reporters were having a frenzy, blaming it on an Islamic hate group, but it didn’t matter to the pigeon. What was done, was done. People were dead for no justifiable reason, and families across the nation lost loved ones.
After the eleventh of September 2001, people became fearful of their normal surroundings. A memorial was built in what was named “Ground Zero” to commemorate the 3,000 people who died. The pigeon visited the memorial and on every Tuesday, the day the event happened, he dropped flowers to honor the fallen.