I had sworn never to go back to that spot. The place I stood so long ago, watching the burning towers, listening to the agonized screams of terror and pain. And yet here I stand forced here by my editor to write a god damn article about the memorial. I was here to remind people what happened that fateful day, and yet, I have been running from those very memories myself, ever since. So now I am back where I was 10 years ago, and the memories overwhelm me despite my resistance. For the first time in a decade, the tears I have held back for so long trickle down my face and I am ashamed to have broken my vow, but I can hear his words once again.
“Davee, you must stay here,” my father said seriously, as he pulled on his suit and equipment. I shook my head unwilling to have him leave me. “Listen, Davee! I’m going to give you a real firefighter’s mask in case it gets really bad; you remember how to use it right? I want you to stay here unless your life is in danger, and I will come back for you,” Pa said quiet, but urgently. I knew I had no choice but to obey but I protested anyway, “But why must you go pa?” “Davee, I’m a firefighter, my job is to save people and put out fires, and that up there is one mighty big fire. I have to do my job,” he told me gravely, talking to me like a man as he always did, then added in a softer voice “but I will come back and I’ll tell you all about it; I promise.” He handed me the gas mask, and a radio. “This way you can still hear what’s happening and know that everything is ok,” he explained. I nodded, using all my will power to be strong and brave for him, and not to wail for him to not to leave me, as I so longed to do. He hugged me, and said, “Be brave”, I hugged him back with all my might wishing I could hold on forever. But he eased away from me and climbed back into the fire engine, waved once, and began driving back towards the roaring fire. I watched my father in that big, red engine with the shrieking sirens speeding away from me and toward those soaring high, blazing towers, with the black smoke spewing deadly toxins into the air. And I stood with my head held high, believing and being brave, just as he asked me to.
I was standing on that sidewalk less than a mile from those flaming towers listening to reports of death, watching people cursing, crying and praying, and continued in my vigilance to be brave despite the horrible things that I saw, and heard. My eyes hardly left the tower waiting for those flames to disappear, and for my father to return to me, with a grin on his ash- covered face to say, “ Well, we did it again, my boy, we did it again.” So the terror that I felt when I saw the first massive, indestructible tower start to fall and saw the deadly smoke rushing towards me was beyond anything that I had ever imagined. I didn’t think, I couldn’t think, the smoke was coming, I turned and ran like the hounds of hell were chasing me themselves. I was weaving between the fleeing, screaming crowds, pelting as fast as I could away from that impending threat of death when I felt a second rumble, which I ignored and continued my sprint of terror. I only stopped when I could run no farther, I collapsed onto a shop doorstep. I caught my breath and clutched the radio my father had given me to my chest, having abandoned the smoke-eaters mask. Gasping, I looked up into the sky and was startled to see not one, but two enormous building’s missing from the polluted sky. Then, at last, realization dawned upon me what had happened. Both the towers had fallen, burning, smoking to the ground, and my father had been in one of them.
“PA!” I screamed into the radio, adrenaline suddenly pumping through me. There was nothing. “PA!” I screamed again, but once more there was no reply. Icy fear began to climb through my limbs, winding itself through to my heart until I began to shake with fright, freezing my body and the air in my lungs. I held my breath unable to believe the thoughts coursing through my mind. He couldn’t be gone, could he? He couldn’t die! How many times had he gone to an inescapable fire, and escaped? How many times had ma cried with fear, and he’d come home? Pa had told and showed me everything about firefighting, and I was going to be one, just like him, so I knew there was absolutely no way he could not not come back! They had all the equipment that ensured they always survived! I knew he couldn’t be gone! He promised that he would come back!
The commotion the radio was broadcasting was incomprehensible, the static, the yells, the sound was deafening. So if I had not been listening so hard, with radio now pressed to my ear, I probably would have missed what happened next.
“Davee” the single word came in a rasping cough, barely audible above the tumult occurring in the background. Could he have imagined it? But no, again the rasping voice came, “How you doin’ bud?” My heart pounded in my chest. He was alive! That was my dad’s voice and he was talking to me!
“I’m doin’ fine, pa. How you doin’?” I choked back into the radio.
There was a pause, and then, “Listen, kid, be good to your ma and take care of – cough – her. I love you, little ma….” He was cut off, the racket of the background radio filled my ears once more, and a sick feeling in my stomach told me what I had refused to believe before. Even so, I listened, searching for some hint, until I heard those final words “none alive” and I knew. I knew my pa, the greatest man to ever live, the hero of my heart, and the city, was gone….forever. I was never going to see him again, never ask him how he was doin’, never sit on his lap by the fireplace listening to his stories. And although the streets and radio was buzzing with noise, silence crashed upon my ears. I saw all, but heard nothing. How could this have happened?! Why had this happened?! Was it just a plane crash? Could this have been on purpose?! How could those seemingly indestructible buildings have both collapsed, simply because of plane crashes? Had someone purposely taken my father from me? I saw the burnt, blackened people being treated with first-aid, I saw the weeping men and women holding the limp, lifeless bodies of their loved ones, saw their gaping, wailing mouths, screaming their pain to the world. And the hate and anger, the fury that came over me was enough to knock the breath out of me. I was so mad at those wailing, screaming people! Who did they think they were that they should mourn?! They had simply lost a loved one; I had lost my world, my center, my everything. It was that moment that I wiped the tears streaming down my face away, hardened my heart, and swore never to cry again, never to love so deeply and openly, and to never return to that spot, that street, that place. That was the day that I grew up, the day I became a man.
Written By: Writerreyes (16 years old)