All around me, guys were staring at the ceiling, their mouths opened wide enough for their fists. Their eyes big as Frisbees. Their hearts beating like a drum solo. Gradually, we all started to move – slowly, unsurely. But for the longest time, no one said a word. We looked each other over. We looked at the walls and the ceiling and the elevator doors to see that all around us was pretty much as it had been just a couple moments earlier, before the terrifying roar.
… ‘This is Chief Picciotto, Battalion One One,’ I said, for the record. ‘I’m on the 35th floor of the north tower. We just had a huge noise in the building. Does anybody know what happened?’
But there was no response.
… Finally, after the longest couple of seconds, I heard a message on the tactical channel: ‘The tower came down.’
That’s all it was, and it wasn’t in response to one of my questions, or to one of the questions put by one of the firefighters on the floor alongside me. It was just offered, in a tone of shock, for the general consumption of anyone in range: ‘The tower came down.’
I overheard the transmission, but it didn’t register. You know that line from all those old science fiction movies? ‘Error, that does not compute.’ That was how I took in this message, at least at first. It made no sense. What tower? What the hell were they talking about? My first thought was that maybe one of the radio towers had come down.
… To my left, I heard one firefighter remark to another, or possibly to the group at large, ‘The tower couldn’t come down. This is the World Trade Center. Nothing can bring these buildings down.’ Or maybe he was just thinking out loud, talking himself down from his worst fears.
Whatever it was, this was the first time I’d allowed myself to make that kind of connection. This firefighter had put it out there for me, and now I couldn’t shake it. The tower came down. The south tower. Tower two of the World Trade Center. The whole building.
The moment I heard it, I knew. We all knew. At the same time, we all knew. There was this weird wave of knowing that washed over each of us, one by one, and before too long it was a part of us, fixed to us, and we stood there, knowing, and not moving, and not knowing what to do.
… I closed my eyes and tried to picture what it must have looked like, the entire building coming down, but I couldn’t see it. I had no frame of reference for that kind of destruction. All I could see was the aftermath, and not the collapse itself. Open sky, where there had once been a tall building.
… Then I opened my eyes to a new thought: if the south tower could come down, I realized, the north tower could, too. And I knew we had to get out of there.
Another Excerpt from Last Man Down ~~09:59am~~
Another Excerpt from Last Man Down ~~10:29am~~