By Nicole Margaretten, Communications Manager – Creative Content, Tanenbaum
Crying pierced through the classroom and I paused, graphite pencil in hand. As the crying turned into wailing out in the hallway, it was clear something awful had happened. I stopped drawing. The half-drawn taxidermy opossum stared back at me from the page as if asking – where is the rest of me? Feeling ungrounded myself, I walked into the hallway with other students at Pratt to the huge windows that faced the Manhattan skyline.
Both twin towers stood in the distance with clouds of dark smoke billowing from them. Red light flickered across the buildings and I felt sickened in my realization that it was flames. I couldn’t imagine what people were going through and hoped that people were getting out of the building as fast as possible, despite the rumors I was hearing. Part of me wanted to go to the trade center to help, but I also knew that getting there would be nearly impossible, and helping would be to stay away.
When the first and then second towers fell, the crowd around me at the window erupted in anguish and shock. I heard “Someone is going to pay for this” and I knew they were right.
I didn’t have a cell phone, so I went home to call my parents and I remember feeling better after speaking with them. As the day progressed, more and more people made their way back to Brooklyn, walking over the bridge. It was a joyous occasion when I found out my friends who were near WTC that day, made it back home safely.
Later that day, the air in Bed-Stuy was thick with chaos and debris. As I walked down the street I saw a man jumping on top of a van yelling that the end was upon us. In some ways he was right.
All night military fighter jets circled overhead, and every time I heard the planes, I thought of the towers. The loud jet engines shook my apartment building to its core, a building that would later collapse as well, within a week after I moved out.
I feel very grateful and fortunate that almost all my experiences were from a distance. NYC officials tried to downplay the toxicity in the air but my body told a different story, I had nose bleeds, headaches and got sick despite greatly limiting my time outside.
By the time I returned to my drawing, I decided to leave the opossum unfinished. It has an inquisitive look, which feels symbolic of our questions that remain unanswered, on that day and twenty years later.
Nicole Margaretten, Communications Manager – Creative Content, Tanenbaum