THAT PLANE IS GOING TO CRASH
An exclusive eyewitness view of the horror and its aftermath
Editor's Note: Country hitmaker Rosanne has called New York City home for more than 10 years. Incredibly, she witnessed the horrific event at the World Trade Center towers unfold from only blocks away. Here is her amazing account of the terrible day, and the emotional aftershocks that followed.
By Rosanne Cash
I took my daughter Carrie to school on Tuesday morning, and stayed for a parents' meeting. Her school is in the West Village, in a straight path about 20 blocks north from the World Trade Center. From the school cafeteria, we heard a plane fly very low and loud. We looked at one another, somewhat alarmed. One mother said quietly, 'That plane is going to crash'.
In a couple of minutes, someone came in to say that a plane had crashed, into the World Trade Center. I could hardly believe this. My friend Olivia came up to me, white and shaking, and said that another plane had just hit the south tower. Everyone knew then that it was a terrorist attack, something every New Yorker had been expecting since the Trade Center was bombed in 1993.
A frantic feeling took over. I hurried to find Carrie, but the teachers asked us to let them take the children into the school chapel first to tell them what had happened. While they were in the chapel, I walked outside and around the school to Greenwich Street, which had a clear view of the towers, looming so large they felt close enough to touch.
The towers were burning. I could see wreckage sticking out of the north tower. People were standing in the streets, complete shock on their faces. There were no newscasters describing what I was seeing, or telling me how to feel; there was just silence and horror.
I tried to call my husband, John, to tell him not to leave the house, but there was no cellphone service. We left, and I started walking fast, gripping Carrie's hand. There were no available taxis, the trains were shut down, and I was desperate to get home to my husband and baby, about a half mile away. As we walked, a lot of people stopped on the sidewalk, looking back at the towers. I glanced back, but kept walking. The south tower was collapsing.
We saw a bus, ran to get on it and rode the few blocks home. It was packed. My husband opened the door, frantic with worry. I was sobbing. The phones were not working, and I was anguished not to be able to reach my parents and older daughters. Oddly, the only call that managed to come through was from my dad. He was extraordinarily calm, as he always is in crises, but terribly concerned. I asked him to have my sister call everyone else and tell them we were okay.
We packed our bags, and put aside water. We didn't know if this was the end of the attacks, or if chemical weapons had exploded with the planes, or if the Empire State Building, a mere twelve blocks away, would be the next target.
The drive out of the city was eerie. The streets were empty except for a few cars and a lot of police, ambulance and fire vehicles. When we got up to the George Washington Bridge, thousands of people were walking over it in complete silence. It was a searing, pathetic scene. We got up to our weekend house close to midnight.
The following day, John and I wandered around like zombies. I could not get the sound of the first plane out of my head, and the knowledge that seconds after I heard it, so many people lost their lives.
We went back to the city Wednesday afternoon. The smell was horrendous, like burning plastic and glass. And still, the only sound was fighter jets and sirens - the city, usually a cacophony, was empty and silent except for those two terrible sounds.
On Thursday, I walked to the spot on Greenwich Street where I had stood watching the burning towers two days before. Now there was nothing there but smoke. I walked to the command post where volunteers were handing out water to the rescue workers. I stood there for a long time, cheering the workers along with the other civilians. A station wagon came slowly out of the site with two dirty and exhausted fireman sitting on the open back door. As the car passed, I raised my arm high to them, in thanks and compassion. One of the fireman, though he looked fatigued to the point of collapse, instantly raised his arm back to me in a salute which conveyed perseverance and sadness - but not defeat. After he passed, I stood in that spot alone and wept for half an hour.
Today is rainy and chilly. As I write, the smell of burnt plastic is wafting through my window. There is now a central spot for volunteers at the Javits Center, which is where I am going today.
It still unfolds, in the most surreal and sad way. My daughter Chelsea has three friends whose parents did not come home from work on Tuesday. The stories are endless; everyone has one, and we are all compelled to repeat them over and over. And it still does not make sense.
Those of us who did not lose a loved one are full of gratitude and cherish our families so, so much. I am overcome with the concern and love I have received from friends and family. People I barely know have called or e-mailed just to see if I was doing okay. And, though unspeakably sad, somewhat traumatized and a little fearful, I am more than okay. My family and I are alive and well, and I am renewed in my faith of the inherent goodness of most of the people of this world.
I have been a New Yorker for over 10 years, and I have never been so proud as I am now. I have witnessed and been a part of a union of minds and spirits, as people take care of those who need help and comfort. Everyone wants to be of service.
I am happy to say that I have not heard a single word of retaliation or hatred. I cannot imagine wishing this destruction on any other person on earth, even the most hateful and coldhearted. I do not believe in further violence - in robbing more children of their parents, in putting more holes in this precious planet, or in the horror of thousands more people devoting their days to searching for pieces of human bodies. I believe in justice, civilized and honorable, and in peace. Peace to all, and let it begin here, in the city which has suffered the most, and let it begin with you and me.