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- From BEHIND THE LINES: Powerful and Revealing American and Foreign War Letters -- and One Man's Search to Find Them (Scribner), edited by Andrew Carroll. Reprinted with permission. - From BEHIND THE LINES: Powerful and Revealing American and Foreign War Letters -- and One Man's Search to Find Them (Scribner), edited by Andrew Carroll. Reprinted with permission.
Monday, 23 April 2018 02:25

"We're All the Same Right Now": A Letter from a 9/11 Survivor Featured

"We're All the Same Right Now":

 

A Letter from a 9/11 Survivor

 

 

 

 

On September 11, 2001, twenty-two-year-old Anna Miller was attending a business seminar in New York City when she and her co-workers  became eyewitnesses to—and almost victims of—one of the most catastrophic attacks in United States history. She wrote a ten-page handwritten letter to her family and friends after returning home to North Carolina.

 

An excerpt of this letter is read aloud in Episode 4 of the Freedom Writers Podcast. See below to read more of Miller's letter.

 

First, let me say that I would not be making it through this trauma without all of the incredible support and love I have felt poured onto me. I realize this letter is arriving to you all almost a month late, but it has taken me time — time to express my thoughts — and sometimes I would start to write and just get too emotional. So I apologize — but here it is…

 

My hotel room was on the 30th floor, and therefore, waiting on the elevator seemed like an eternity. I walked to the window and looked at this beautiful building next door that was having all of this construction and renovations done to it.

 

We started our meeting just after 8:30 a.m. My co-worker Paige and I were sitting in the back of the room and she was telling me how we had to go eat at the Windows on the World restaurant. At this point, I heard a really loud crashing sound. I remember thinking to myself  “Oh gosh — some of the construction from the building next door has fallen.” Bob, my other co-worker who was instructing the class at the time, said the same thing, and we continued on with business.

 

Because we were on the 3rd floor we couldn’t see what had really happened. There was a gap in the curtains, and I couldn’t help but peering out. I saw people beginning to gather on the street corner and noticed that they were all looking and pointing up. Bob was having to raise his voice because all you could hear were sirens.

 

I tried to motion to Bob that something was definitely going on out there, and a man in our class said, “I don’t mean to be rude, but can we stop for a second and see what’s going on?” Just as I got to the window, someone screamed, and I looked up to see a commercial airliner swerving around a building in front of us — and disappear. Then another BOOM! and our building shook.

As I was looking outside, I turned to Brian and said “I really think that’s blood and flesh — in the street.” An emergency intercom system came on and said that the New York Police Department was evacuating the building.

 

We got to a back exit and a Marriott worker, who obviously had not heard the NYPD announcement said: “You musn’t go out there — it’s terrible, you don’t want to see what’s in the streets.” Someone yelled that we had been told to evacuate, and he commanded that we all keep our heads up, and “Don’t look at what’s in the streets and just run.” We held hands and ran with the screaming masses of panicked people. I noticed though that everyone kept turning around and looking up — we all did — and that’s when I saw both World Trade Center buildings above me in flames — and somebody jump.

 

I didn’t look back again until we got to the point where we couldn’t run any further. It was so petrifying to be in the middle of it and people were screaming: “America’s under attack” and “We’ve gone to war.”

 

No one could get a cell phone to work. But I was bound and determined to get through to someone. I was shaking so badly I could barely dial the numbers. Finally I was able to get through to my Dad and the sound of his voice, while it was exactly what I wanted to hear, made me all the more afraid. Afraid it was the last time.

 

Just as I hung up the phone, I watched the first building fall. There was so much commotion, screams, noise, confusion. The air around us was getting darker and massive herds of people starting from this black wall that was quickly approaching — and I remember thinking “This is it. This will kill us all.”

 

Five of us got down and put our faces to the ground and the men covered us with their jackets and shirts. We stayed in that huddle for I don’t know how long — what seems like forever, until finally we realized that people had begun to move around. I looked at all of us with gray hair, bloodied clothes, masks on our faces — and I just recall thinking: Everyone looks the same, and we’re all going through the same thing — Each of us — we’re all the same right now.

 

I think we all just felt the preciousness of life, the importance of expressing of love, and to be with those who we care about.

 

It’s weird now the way that, every time I hear a plane fly overhead, I stop and feel a quick jolt of fear. Or every time I hear a siren, it triggers a flashback for me. But I realize now that it will take time. I appreciate so very much the constant outreaching of support I have felt. 

 

My Love to each of you — Anna

 

- From BEHIND THE LINES: Powerful and Revealing American and Foreign War Letters -- and One Man's Search to Find Them (Scribner), edited by Andrew Carroll. Reprinted with permission.

 

 

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