There are a few things that still haunt me, though, from 9-11-01. One: sirens. It seemed that for days there were sirens wailing non-stop, all day and all night. It became a constant background. They went on and on. They sounding like screaming.
And since I was at home when it all happened, not due to teach until later in the day, I decided--after the towers collapsed--to run to the school, to help. I could not call anyone; neither my home phone nor my mobile worked. I saw masses of people, fleeing Manhattan, walking through the streets (when you leave lower Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge you end up in my neighborhood). One man stands out in my memory: South Asian, covered head to toe in ash, he asked me where he was. He had no idea. He thought he was in Bay Ridge.
And there was the smoke and dust. The air was acrid, for weeks it seemed. The wind blew directly from the site of the WTC across the Hudson to Brooklyn Heights. In this neighborhood we were undoubtedly exposed, for days on end, to toxic dust. I remember it coated the buildings, the windows, and the cars parked on the street.
But the oddest thing of all is that as I stood on my roof watching the second plane hit, and then the towers collapse, it all seemed to happen in silence. I have no recollection of any sound.