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220 Stories to End
It was a cold, crisp September morning here in New York City. 'Why did I have to wake up so early?' I whined in my head as I continued down the sidewalk, rubbing my hands together in attempt to warm myself up. Sure, it would warm up later in the day, but right now it was freezing cold. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating just a little, but I was used to the warm, sunny weather in Florida.
For the past week or two, I've been staying with my close friend, Alfred. He's the one that invited me to go see sight seeing around the city, claiming that everyone should know about "the awesomeness of the best-est city in the universe". But even though he wanted to spread the "awesomeness" of the city, we haven't even gone out on the town yet. Until today. Since it's my last day here, we're planning spend the whole entire day wandering around town. I woke up extra early to get ready, and when I finally was feeling fresh, I found a note left for me on the kitchen counter, telling me to meet him at a local diner he always went to.
So, in short, I was ditched, and since Al had taken the car, I'd have to walk there. I gazed in awe at the World Trade Center, which was right across the diner, as I passed on by. It was absolutely stunning, but what amazed me most were the Twin Towers. They both gleamed in the sun as if they were polished every day, and they towered high over every building around it.
Finally, it was signaled that it was safe to cross the street, and so I did, straight to the seventies style diner. Unlike the buildings across the street, it had a vintage look to it, and, truthfully, looked pretty run down. I hesitantly opened the door and saw that it was close to deserted. There were a few people eating breakfast here and there, but compared to the sidewalks outside, it was nothing.
I spotted Alfred's blonde head, nodding as he was talking to someone at the counter. He had his back turned to me right now, which made a grin slowly creep onto my face.
'Perfect,' I thought as I tiptoed over to him.
See, countless times in the past, he had snuck up behind me and literally scared me half to death. One time he jumped out from behind a potted plant, making me jump... Right down a flight of stairs. But lucky for him, his older brother, Arthur, was at the bottom to catch me. I enjoyed every single rude word and punch Al received had from his brother that day.
Right when I was about to push him into the counter, hoping to get back for all the times he had surprised me, he swiftly turned around, like he knew I was there all along, and pulled me into a bone-crushing hug.
“Juliet!” he yelled a little too loudly for my liking. I'd usually be fine with it, but I mean, come on! It's eight in the morning. “I'm so glad that you came! I missed you!”
"It's only been, like, ten hours since you last saw me, Al," is what I tried to say, but it only came out as weird gurgling noises since my head was pressed into his chest and I could hardly breath.
He finally let go of me and turned to the person at the counter. “See, this is who I was talking about,” he smiled as he patted my back. Well, more like slapped. “I told you she was cute!”
I blushed at his remark and settled into the seat at the counter right next to him. "Oh hush, you."
The employee laughed in a sort of gravelly voice, then stuck out a plump hand. “Sam, the owner of this ol' place. Pleasure to meet ya.”
I nodded and shook his hand. “I’m Juliet, but… er… I guess you already knew that…” I trailed off and laughed nervously.
“Al here has been talking a whole lot about you!” he teased the blonde, but Al just laughed along with him. Sam handed us menus and, after a few minutes, he asked, “So what can I get fo-”
“The usual!” Al cut him off, looking very determined to get his food.
I scanned the list one last time. “Um… One blueberry pancake, some bacon and… Hm… can I have a sunny side up? Oh and how about a strawberry shake, too?”
“Sure thing!” Sam nodded as he scribbled the last of my order down, then went to the kitchen to get our food.
The two of us sat in silence after that, which was weird for Alfred, considering he was usually a lively chatterbox.
“So,” I began and Al turned his head to me. “How long have you been waiting here? I mean, I woke up and you were just... gone.”
“Oh sorry about that,” he blushed a little and scratched the back of his head shyly. “I got here at about... Uh... 8 o'clock?”
“I made you wait fifteen minutes?!” I practically screamed. “I am so sorry! I would’ve come earlier if I had kn-”
“Juliet,” he cut me off, placing a hand on my shoulder. “Don’t worry about it. It’s fine! Anyway, a hero would never keep a lady waiting!”
I giggled at his hero remark. Since I’ve known him for years, I’ve gotten used to him constantly claiming that he was a hero, but really all he is is a rowdy nineteen year old that constantly eats burgers and plays video games.
'Some hero you are...' I thought teasingly.
Sam swung the kitchen door open and placed our drinks in front of us. “Okay, the food’ll be out in a min'.” We thanked him and he went to go tend to the other customers.
I looked to see what "the usual" was, and when I saw the drink, my eyes widened. He looked at me in confusion. “What 'appened?”
“What size did you get?!” I exclaimed, staring at the cup that was probably a foot tall.
“The usual,” he replied, nonchalantly sipping at the straw. “An extra large coke!”
“Isn’t it a little early for coke?” I asked and the coke he was drinking sprayed out of his mouth and onto the counter. He grabbed my shoulders and started shaking me like I was in some crazy dream and I had to wake up.
“What are you talking about?!” he screamed dramatically. “Too early for coke?! Have you gone mad, woman?!” He suddenly let go of me and I had to hold onto the edge of the counter to prevent myself from falling off my seat.
“I-I didn’t mean to offend you or your coke…” I gasped out.
“It’s okay my Coke and I forgive you!” he patted me on the back and laughed really loudly. Then again, when wasn’t he loud?
We chatted about random things while we waited for our meal, but of course, he did most of the talking while I just listened.
“What’s taking so long?” I mumbled as I checked my watch. It was about 8:40, which means that we’ve been waiting for almost a half hour. Al was just about to open the kitchen door, when Sam burst through it, knocking Al to the ground.
“Oh sorry, Allie boy!” he apologized as he set two plates onto the counter to help him up. I was about to help Al get to his feet, but my eyes were glued to his food. The drink was odd, but this was just crazy. I swear that there were at least ten hamburgers on the plate. I knew that Al loved burgers, but isn't this a bit much?!
“Th-that's the usual?” I squeaked.
Al settled into the stool next to me again. “Mf mosss!” he said while he was practically inhaling all of the burgers. I guess that he meant to say ‘Of course!’.
“You know burgers make you fat?” I warned, since Al was usually pretty concerned about his weight.
“Burgers make you fat?!” he cried.
I was about to say something else when I heard a loud boom, like a firework.
'Why would someone be setting off fireworks right now?' I thought to myself as Al and the other customers got up to look out the window. 'It’s only 8:45 in the morning.'
They all stood behind the glass, looking terrified, so I got up to go see what was wrong.
“What happen…” I began, but I never finished. My voice died in the middle of my throat. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
The North Tower was on fire, coughing up bits of debris. Al grabbed my hand and quickly led me out of the diner, onto the street where the traffic had stopped so the drivers could see what was happening as they leaned out of their open windows.
We came to a stop not too close to the tower so we couldn't get hurt, but not too far either. We watched helplessly and in horror as people scrambled out of the building for their lives. Some of the unlucky few that were on the top floors jumped out of broken windows, so desperate for their lives, but they didn’t make it. They hit the ground with a sickening crack that seemed to echo around the world.
The two of us stood there, frozen in shock, horror, and a feeling of hopelessness, as numerous people roughly brushed past us, trying to find friends and family to see that they were safe. A pit of guilt started to form in my stomach as I watched these people, even though I knew that none of this was my fault. This was no one's fault... I mean, no one could ever do this on purpose... Right?
I held onto Al tightly, crying into his side. I was so happy that he was with me right now; so happy he was safe.
He slumped to the ground, as if he was melting from staring at the fire for too long. I crouched down with him, lightly placing my head on his shoulder. He kept his eyes glued onto the building for a little longer, then turned back to me, with tears in his eyes that were just dying to roll down his cheeks.
I was surprised by how hurt he looked. I've never seen him look so miserable. Even after the countless times his brother insulted him, even when I found him on the street with a bloody lip, rambling on about how he let a burglar get away... he seemed even more broken right this moment. It was like a part of him just died. But in reality, it did... This was his country. The country he loved so much, the country he's so proud of, the country that he would risk his life for. So when a part of his country is in ruin, he is, too.
I let him cry on my shoulder, and I blocked out the cruel scene in front of us, hoping all of this suffering would just end.
Later that night, I sat next to him on his couch, watching the news. We found out that 2,977 innocent lives were taken that day.
After the second tower had met its fate, I tried to persuade him to leave. I told him that there was nothing that he could do and that it wasn't his fault. He refused to listen, claiming that it was his fault; that he let everyone down.
"A real hero would never let this happen," he had said in a cold voice that I've never heard him use before.
I had to tear him away from the scene with him protesting like a little kid. I managed to get him in his car, and he finally calmed down a little, curling into a ball in the passenger seat and sobbing in his hands. As soon as I parked his car into the garage, he bolted out the door and collapsed on the couch, burying his face in a pillow, refusing to move for the rest of the day.
He gave a whimper when he heard the large number of deaths, his head still in the same brown pillow. I pet his golden blonde hair, but even then, he didn't budge. I smiled down at him sympathetically, before I went in search of a blanket, since I knew that he wouldn't even bother to get up later that night to sleep in his bed. I found one in a closet in the hall and draped it over the two of us, with me wrapping my arms around him and snuggling into his back.
I closed my eyes and quietly sang a comforting song in his ear as the news continued to drone on.
"All of the 220 stories of the Twin Towers have come to a tragic end today..."