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Mr. Allen sat in his office. He sipped from the coffee mug on his desk, and started up his computer. Mr. Allen was the CEO of Allen Insurance Incorporated, and he was a very rich man. He made four hundred-thousand dollars a year. While waiting for his computer to start up, Mr. Allen looked down at his watch. The time read 8:30. He had a meeting to go to at nine thirty. As the computer still had not booted up, Mr. Allen looked around his office. To his back was a large window overlooking New York City. From it you could see the Empire State building, and the north tower of the World Trade Center. Mr. Allen was in the south tower. There was one picture on the wall to Mr. Allen’s right; which depicted a thirty year old Mr. Allen, that was eleven years ago when Mr. Allen had just started his insurance company. Backed by his parent’s money, the company had quickly risen to become a giant in the insurance market. In front of him Mr. Allen could see the door to his office. A blank door, it was painted white, like the rest of the room. Mr. Allen glanced down at his desk. Neat and orderly, the desk had four objects on it, a computer, a coffee mug, a stack of papers three inches thick, and a nameplate. The nameplate was made of gold, and the words were inlaid with silver. It had cost two thousand dollars; Mr. Allen had hated to part with that money. The nameplate read Joseph T. Allen. The T. stood for Timothy. Mr. Allen had always hated that name. Back when Mr. Allen went to boarding school, other students had made fun of him for it. They said it was bookish.
The computer finally booted up. Mr. Allen looked at the screen. He went through his morning routine, first he checked his calendar. The electronic calendar read: Today, September 11, 2001, Meeting at 9:30. Plan for new fiscal year is due. Then, Mr. Allen went online to check the news. There was not much yet, as the day had just begun. The main story was that in an Albany police station, there had been a crime. Someone had walked in and stuck up the officers for their money. The police had followed and caught the man, but they still felt humiliated.
There came a knock at the door. Mr. Allen looked up. It was probably his assistant, Margaret W. Garden. She was strange, he had never shown any sign of emotion around her, and yet she still sent him a birthday card last February. That had surprised him, because he had never sent her a card. In fact he had never sent anyone a card in his life, and no one had ever sent him one. He lived alone in his penthouse apartment; he had no children or wife. Mr. Allen never spoke with anyone except on terms of business.
Also, Ms. Garden insisted on being friendly with him. Mr. Allen wondered if he had been too easy on her. Maybe if he docked her salary, she would realize he was not a kind person.
The door opened exposing the blue painted hallway outside. Ms. Garden came in. She was wearing a green dress, and looked as if she might cry.
“Mr. Allen, I have come to plead with you.”
“Make it quick, I don’t have much time,” said Mr. Allen curtly.
“As you may know sir, my family is very poor, and we have just had another child, my husband lost his job, so I desperately need money. My salary is meager already, especially for an assistant CEO of an insurance company. At15, 500 dollars, my salary cannot pay for all my family’s needs. I have come to ask for a raise. If you doubled my salary that would be great, but I do not expect that. I would like you to give me a bonus of 5,000. Please, at least until my husband gets a job.”
Mr. Allen tuned the rest out. He was not going to give her a raise; he was already too generous, giving her a Christmas bonus. How dare she ask that? Mr. Allen pretended to be interested, while instead looking up football scores with his computer. Finally she stopped talking.
Mr. Allen opened his mouth, “Of course I’m not going to give you a raise, I do all the work around here.”
Mr. Allen looked down at his Rolex watch, thinking of his meeting. The time was 8:45. Suddenly he heard a shriek. From Ms. Garden, came an unearthly scream. Mouth open she wordlessly pointed out the window at the object of her horror. Flying straight toward the north tower of the World Trade Center was an airplane. It crashed straight into the side of the building, immediately setting the building on fire. “What in God’s name…” Mr. Allen rushed out the door. He ran down the hall to the telephone mounted on the wall. It was already being used. People were calling home, calling the police, the fire station, the EMTs. Mr. Allen’s mind raced, wondering how he could get out. Suddenly the phone died from a low battery. People broke down, they were yelling and screaming. Mr. Allen raced back to his office. He kept his head. He could use his computer to contact the outside world. He rushed into his office, running past a weeping Ms. Garden. His computer was still on. Mr. Allen quickly sat down in his chair. He opened e mail, and sent out an e mail to all of his contacts.
“Help, I am trapped on the 40th floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center. The north tower has just been hit by an airplane. I am listening to the screams of my despairing workers. They say that the elevators and the phones are out. We are trapped. Someone rescue me.”
Even in his panic, Mr. Allen wrote his emails formally. More screaming came from the hall, Mr. Allen could discern from the shouts that not only had the phones died, but the phone lines were down, and the power would soon follow.
Ms. Garden ran out of the room yelling about something in her office. Mr. Allen looked down at his watch, purely out of habit, 9:03. All of a sudden, the screams reached a fervent pitch. Something had happened. Mr. Allen glanced out the window, thinking about the other tower. What he saw shocked him. Another plane was flying at the World Trade Center, flying this time towards the south tower. Mr. Allen let out an involuntary scream. He heard in the distance an out of this world type of wail. It pierced him to the core. Mr. Allen realized that it was his own scream. He could hear the renewed screaming, this time it was a lot louder. The plane hit several floors up. The shockwave knocked Mr. Allen off his feet. The fire alarms went off, there was acrid smoke in the air, and fire was everywhere, smashed glass, broken shelves and desks. Mr. Allen looked at his floor. His computer was a smashed wreck, fire pouring out of it, smoke everywhere. The power was totally out now.
Mr. Allen ran screaming from his room. He ran blindly down the hallway, in the direction of the emergency staircase. He could hear shouts, curses, screams, and yells, and could smell the rancid smell of burning flesh. Mr. Allen could see nothing except the smoke, and hazy figures running, on fire. The taste of the smoke forced its way into his mouth and down his throat. He swore, and kept moving. Someone in the distance sprayed a fire extinguisher, clearing the smoke for just a moment. In that instant, Mr. Allen happened to glance in the direction of Ms. Garden’s office. He gasped; he could see her legs sticking out from under a bookshelf that had collapsed on her. He could hear her screams for help. Mr. Allen looked towards the door to the staircase, it was so close. Then, he saw a piece of burning wood fall from the ceiling of Ms. Garden’s office, setting the bookcase on fire. He thought of her children, and her family.
Mr. Allen asked himself, “I can’t leave her in there to die, how her children will fare if I left her there?” A voice inside his head that he had not heard in a long time said, “Joe think about how you would feel if you left her in there to die. You can still be a good man. Renounce your selfish ways. You don’t have a family; you have nothing left to lose. She has everything to lose. Help her.” With that thought, Mr. Allen ran into the room.
Inside the room was more smoke. Mr. Allen could not see a thing. He tripped on something that felt like a chair leg. As he was falling, he felt the bookcase that Ms. Garden was trapped under. From the ground he crawled along the floor. Feeling his way along, he perceived an object ahead of him. He ascertained that it was the bookcase with Ms. Garden trapped under.
Mr. Allen called out, “Ms. Garden are you alright? Can you hear me, hello, Ms. Garden?” No answer.
Then, from out of the darkness came a soft rasping voice, “Mr. Allen, is that you, Thank God. Help get this thing off me.” Mr. Allen pushed himself to his feet.
“I can’t see is there anything in your office that I could clear some of this smoke with?”
“No, just try to feel your way around, I can’t hold up this desk much longer.”
Mr. Allen groped in the darkness until he found the bookshelf. He tried to heave it, to no avail.
“It’s no use, I can’t lift it. Is there an object in here I can use for a lever?”
Mr. Allen was beginning to despair; he could see that neither of them would get out of the building alive. He decided to try one last time to push the bookcase off Ms. Garden. He reached down, and lifted with all the strength in his body. Mr. Allen could tell that it was still not budging the bookcase. He heaved with all his might, and then, curiously, he felt an inhuman strength course through him. He felt adrenaline flowing through his veins. Mr. Allen lifted, and amazingly he felt the bookcase move. Lifting once more, Mr. Allen managed to push the bookcase up and over. Ms. Garden looked up at him with gratitude in her eyes. She pushed herself onto her feet. Just then, the ceiling collapsed, showering them with burning wood.
He was on the ground; he groped around, and felt heat all around him. Mr. Allen could feel pain wracking his body. He groaned. His shoulder felt broken. His ribcage was cracked.
“Are you alright”
Mr. Allen strained, and managed to raise his body from the floor. He looked about, could see nothing, and decided to call out again.
“Where are you?”
“I’m on the floor by the bookcase.”
From out in the hallway there was more shouting. People were yelling about the stairwell. Apparently it had been blocked by a burning desk that had fallen through the ceiling.
All around him was smoke, Mr. Allen strained to see something, anything. The smoke burned at his eyes, he fought back tears. There, to his left was a faint light, the window. A plan coming to his mind, Mr. Allen jumped into action. He ran through the room until his foot struck the bookcase. He perceived Ms. Garden on the ground, now unconscious from lack of oxygen. He picked her up and dragged her over to the window. Peering out, Mr. Allen struggled to see. A thought came to him. Lowering Ms. Garden to the ground, he prepared himself. He lashed out with his foot, and the glass shattered. The smoke began to clear, and Mr. Allen could see now. In the distance, he could see an emergency helicopter, flying toward the building, looking for survivors. They came toward the broken window. Just then another part of the ceiling broke, spewing fire from above. Mr. Allen could see a burning desk perched on the edge of the broken ceiling above him. He had to act fast. The helicopter was now hovering right in front of the window. They opened a door, and told Mr. Allen to jump. He looked at them, and wordlessly picked up Ms. Garden. The desk above him slid a few more inches, the ceiling cracked. The helicopter was now below the room. People were pushing a ladder towards him. As the ceiling gave way completely, Mr. Allen dropped Ms. Garden into the waiting arms of the EMTs.
The desk hit him like a freight train hitting a minivan. Mr. Allen felt the ground rush up to meet him. He could feel pain, felt the world fading quickly. He could see the light receding, giving way to darkness. Then everything went black.
During the course of the day, many people made great sacrifices. Most of their stories went untold. Mr. Allen’s story was never known, as Ms. Garden was unconscious throughout it. She suspected, but never knew of Mr. Allen’s sacrifice. There was no funeral for Mr. Allen, only the funeral in the minds of citizens around the nation. No one mourned Mr. Allen, for nobody liked him, and he had no family, but in the end, none of that mattered. Mr. Allen knew in his heart, as he died, that he had redeemed himself.