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SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
“Mom, how much longer until we get there? We’ve been walking forever, and I’m tired,” I whined.
“Only a few more blocks, Melody. The restaurant is approaching,” Mom reassured.
“Oh my gosh...” I groaned. I rolled my eyes, wishing I were back home with my friends.
It was our second day in New York, and we’ve been sight-seeing all the attractions. We were headed to a very famous breakfast restaurant in Lower Manhattan, which had to be 5 miles away from our hotel. Even this early in the morning, the traffic was bad so we couldn’t take a cab.
“Mommy, I’m hungry!” Mason cried.
“Oh shut up, Mas. We’re the ones walking,” I glared at my little brother.
He started to giggle and sucked on his thumb. My stomach growled as a whiff of bacon and eggs hit my nose. I picked up the pace, shoving the stroller along with me so my parents would follow. I saw people stopping and looking up, but my stomach instructed me to keep going until we reached the source of the delicious aroma of food.
“Oh my god, you guys are so slow. Hurry up!” I snapped.
I set my hand on the cool, bronze door handle. I’m about to rip it open when I heard a roaring plane engine. My instinct was to look at my phone. I checked for any emergency notifications, but nothing showed.
Mason shrieked. He climbed out of the stroller and into my arms. People audibly gasped, cursed and pointed at the skyscraping towers. I covered Mason’s ears, hopefully calming him down. Cars stopped, some even crashing into each other. A pasty, glowing cloud of smoke spread from the North Tower. I stood in shock, not able to move, despite my mother yanking my hand. Within minutes, the tower had a gaping hole from the plane. I could make out bodies jumping out of the collapsing building. Police sirens were blaring; some were destroyed from the falling debris.
I become aware of a plane arriving. It wasn’t a friendly plane.
The South Tower was hit and the same pasty smoke arose from the crash. This time, my feet took off, with my brother tightly clutched to my body and my parents by my side.
Everyone on that street was racing to get away from the Tower. It was hard to run when I had Mason in my arms, and people were pushing past me. I glanced back, only to spot terrified faces. I slowed my pace, realizing everything that had happened. People kept adding on to the stampede of thousands.
“Melody! Come on! We are way too close to the World Trade Center if we’re going to make it out alive! Let’s go!” my father bellowed as he snatched my brother from me.
I picked up the pace, pushing past people to stay close to my family. My mother grasped my hand tight as we ran. My mother and I stayed close to each other while my father and brother stayed behind us. I noticed my mother kept reaching her hand back, making sure my father was still there. We had ran a few blocks before stopping. I looked back at the towers, seeing the progress we made while running. They weren’t very far, but we figured we were going to be okay. When I moved my attention to my family, my mother was cradling my brother as he wept, and my father laid on the ground, his chest rising and falling fast. Sirens were blaring all around New York. I couldn’t believe that only a few hours ago, we were just going out for breakfast. My mother squeezed my hand three times, calming my anxiety of being separated from her.
“Help! My husband’s stuck under a car!” a shrill voice calls out.
My dad’s head lifts up, making sure he heard the young woman correct.
“No… Dad, please stay with us. Please don’t leave us here!” I whimpered.
Ignoring my comment, he pushes himself up off the ground with a grunt, trotting a few blocks down to meet the high-pitched voice. I peeked around the corner, seeing legs poke out from under a car. Other people crowded around the car. My father tried lifting the car with a few other men. Thick black smoke started pouring out of the South Tower. Something didn’t feel right. There was more smoke now than when the plane hit. My phone buzzed. It read:
Find the nearest rescue mobile immediately.
“Dad! Get out of there!” I screeched.
“Not without her husband! I won’t-”
He was interrupted by screams. My eyes shot up to look at the towers. The South tower was collapsing. The puffy smoke was being pulled by gravity, causing people to drop the car and race away. I stared at the smoke in awe as it drifted closer and closer to us. My mother dragged me away from the corner we took shelter in even though I could tell she didn’t want to leave my father. I knew that smoke would kill him, damaging his lungs and his body. We had to go, but I didn’t have the guts to leave him behind.
“Dad! C’mon… You can m….can make it,” I sobbed.
As we ran, my dad’s figure became smaller and smaller. I could make him out, trying to scramble to his feet. The smoke consumed him, and he was never seen again. Then I had to focus on that smoke; I didn’t have time to be sad about my father. With my mother and brother in hand, I sprinted as fast as my feet could take me. We noticed a car flashing lights ahead, which meant something was there to help us. We raced towards the car with the smoke inching up behind us. The lights seemed to be getting farther and farther.
“Wait! Please... Wait! We… We’re still here! Don’t leave us to die!” I roared.
The car started getting closer, which made my determination stronger. My mother & Mason were still clinging on to me, so I used my last bit of energy to catch up. I saw the car appearing with the trunk open. It was a rescue team! I didn’t dare to look back, but my mother flung Mason and I into the trunk. The car takes off, leaving my mother behind.
“Mom! No! I can’t lose you too!” I wailed, “Mommy! M-Mom… I love you…”
Tears welled up in my eyes when I saw my mother smile at me as we drive away. The smoke swallowed her, and she fell to her knees, violently coughing. I curled up in the trunk with Mason, crying and waiting for the car to stop.
SEPTEMBER 9, 2001
I woke up at home, in bed. Sunlight flooded into my room, making my eyes squint. I slowly rose from my bright, yellow bed, sliding on my fuzzy slippers. I followed the murmured voices downstairs in the kitchen. My parents were discussing something. I was only a few feet away, but I couldn’t hear a word they said.
“Mom… Dad… What’s going on? Why are all of our things packed?” I called out.
“We’re going to New York for a family vacation… We’ve been telling you guys for weeks now,” Mom explained.
No… no.. this can’t be right. We were just there, and they were gone. My parents gave me a confused look, like I was crazy. Mom whispers something to me with a worried look on her face, but I couldn’t hear her.
“Don’t argue with us, Melody; we’re going. I don’t care if Jessica’s mom said you can stay there while we’re in New York, because we’re trying to have some family time,” Dad yelled at me.
They grabbed the suitcases and walked outside the door.
“No! We can’t go to New York! Something… S-something bad’s going to happen. We’re going to be split apart, and… and I’ll be all alone! Please, don’t go…” I sobbed.
I watched my family exit the house, not listening to a word I said. Suddenly, I’m in the car. We’ve backed out of the driveway. I wanted to tell them to stop the car, but we just kept on driving.
SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
The sound of doors slamming woke me. A kind voice guided me out of the trunk, but I could only focus on finding a familiar face. Mason wasn’t with me, but I prayed he was safe. My family was gone. I was alone. I started this day complaining, and now look where I am. The voice had me stay with a group of kids, all looking like they’ve lost everything, like me. A hand touched mine, and I realized that hand belonged to a boy who stayed at the hotel we did. I accepted his hand, knowing his life might be pretty awful too.