Duty and Sacrifice: The Twin Towers

Tribute to those who gave their lives in the Twin Towers on 9/11

 

 

By Kathleen Locklear
Photo Credit: Creative Commons

The smoke and flames were quickly engulfing the building, and Scott could hardly believe what was going on around him. He had started his day as usual, waking up at the fire station with the other first responders, eating breakfast together, joking around. Then the first call came. A plane had crashed into one of the Towers of the World Trade Center. They had all gotten ready and rushed to the scene. Scott was one of the first ones to go into the Tower to try and get people out. Now, he was on floor 88, five floors down from the initial crash. Smoke and flame was spreading rapidly throughout, yet he could still hear people screaming in pain and terror. His partner, James, who had come up with him just in case either of them got pinned or hurt, kept wincing every time one of the shrill cries suddenly stopped. In a sense, it was even worse if the screaming stopped, for obvious reasons. They had split up from the other teams, some on the lower levels and other going higher into the tower. “There’s nothing in here Scott, let’s check the-” James was cut off as more screaming rang out, these sounding even closer than the others. The two barely exchanged a glance before racing in the direction of the cries. It didn’t take long to come upon a door that had been blocked by fallen debris. The door shuddered on it’s hinges as people crashed against it, desperate to escape.

“Hold on!” Scott yelled over the chaos, hoping the people inside heard him, “We’re going to get the door open, stand back!” James pulled out his axe and began to chop away at the rubble blocking the door, and Scott waited impatiently, finally managing to pry open the door. Inside, they found twelve men and women, all with horror filled, tear-streaked faces. “Hey, my name is Scott and this is my partner, James. Is everyone alright?” He asked, keeping his voice calm to try and sooth their nerves. A young woman stepped forward, schooling her expression to hide her horror. “I think we’re all fine, for the most part. But Eli got his foot crushed under a desk, and we can’t get it out.” Her panic was staring to seep into her voice, and the people moved to reveal a young boy, maybe around five or six, with his foot and ankle stuck under a heavy desk. His lips were stained red, most likely from biting them to try and refrain from crying out in pain. Scott hurried over as James began questioning the people. “Why is the boy up here? I thought the nursery was on the ground floor, and it isn’t supposed to be open yet!” he said. “It is, but the babysitter quit on me and I had no one to care for him! I asked my boss and he said it would be alright for Eli to stay in my office with me until the daycare opened.” The woman said, sounding like she regretted every second of the decision. That was not a surprise. Who wanted their child to be in the middle of such an event? “Hey Eli, my names Scott.” The other man said soothingly, smiling down at the small child. The boy had fluffy near-white hair that was streaked black with dust, and emerald eyes bright with fear. Scott experimentally tried to lift the desk off of the boy’s leg,  but it didn’t move. James was still talking to the others, most likely working out how they were going to get out of the tower. Eli started to shake as Scott tried to lift the desk again. “Hey, hey, look at me. I promise I’m going to get every single one of you out of here. You hear? I promise.” He said, looking him in the eyes, as if somehow that would transfer his strength into the other. It must have worked, as Eli stopped shaking, and instead began to tug on his leg every time Scott tried to lift the desk. They kept trying for a few more minutes, until an ominous boom shook the whole tower. Scott and James locked eyes, and the other firefighter rushed over to help his partner to lift the desk. Eli finally managed to pull his leg free with a quiet whimper.

“What was that sound?” One of the men said. “I don’t know, but whatever it is, I don’t want to wait around and find out.” James said. He began leading the group towards the exit. “Can you walk Eli?” Scott asked, keeping one eye him and the other on the ceiling. Suddenly his eye was drawn towards the window. “James, come over here right now.” He choked out. “What? What do you see- oh my God.” They looked out at the other tower as flames licked at the sides and smoke billowed out in huge pillars. “There’s no way this was an accident.” Scott said grimly. “Alright, everyone follow James! There’s no time to waste!” He ordered. “Eli, how are you doing?” He turned to look at the boy, who had been slowly struggling to his feet. “I-I’m alright.” He said, trying to sound brave. He took a step forwards and shrieked in pain, and would have fallen if Scott had not lunged forwards to catch him. “Well, that answers that question. Stay still, I’m going to carry you.” He sighed. “James! I’m going to have to carry Eli out of here, so change of plans. Can you watch the back?” He put one arm under Eli’s knees and the other around his shoulders, lifting him bridal style. Eli was so small and light it was hardly a problem. “You got it.” James said, looking worriedly at the small child in his partner’s arms before heading to the back of the group, to makes sure as they were heading down no one got left behind on accident. “Alright everyone! I don’t know how much time we have until this tower comes down, but it’s definitely not enough time to dilly-dally around. We’ve got a long way to go until we reach the ground floor, so make sure to watch other each other and help each other out if you see they need it. Follow me, and just try to stay calm. We can all panic once we get out of here.” He ordered. Eli wrapped his arms around Scott’s neck, searching for comfort. Luckily it didn’t obstruct the man’s eyesight, and Scott cautiously exited the room, checking for any signs of falling debris.  The elevators were not an option, and they probably wouldn’t be working anyways. That left the only option being the stairs. Oh joy. Setting a fast pace, he tightened his grip on Eli and headed for the stairs.

Halfway down, things had been going fairly well, a few pieces of debris had fallen behind them but nothing had hit them. By his book they were making good time, but it was obvious to everyone that the amount of time they had left was growing shorter and shorter. They had almost reached the main floor when it finally happened; the whole building began to shake and debris fell faster and faster down on them. James ordered everyone to shield their heads with their arms, and Scott freed an arm to throw it over Eli’s head. “The whole building’s coming down!” Eli’s mother shrieked, panic and terror spreading through them all. “Everybody move!” Scott screamed over the chaos and sprinted down the remaining stairs, checking behind him to make sure everyone else was close behind. He was the first to the door, and pushed it open to let the others run through. James was the last one, helping an older man who had twisted his ankle going down the last flight of stairs. He cursed under his breath and handed Eli to his mother, who clutched him in her arms like a lifeline before running out the door. He sprinted back to James and looped an arm under the older man’s shoulders. “Get out of here James I’ll get him out.” He ordered, leaving the other with no choice but to listen. The building was shaking and creaking madly, they only have thirty seconds top to get out before the whole thing fell. Scott looked towards the ceiling, seeing cracks spreading in a spiderweb pattern. “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” The man kept repeating, “it’s all my fault!” It only made Scott even more determined to get him out. “It’s not your fault, sir. What’s your name?” They hobbled closer to the exit, but suddenly a loud, repetitive booming started, getting louder and louder. “Your asking my name in a time like this?” He shrieked. “Helps to relieve the tension!” Scott joked shakily, but didn’t have any more time to talk as the booming got deafening. “Move!” He yelled as they reached the door and he pushed it open and shoved the old man out just as the whole building caved in. He only had enough time to see James’ shocked and anguished face as the building fell on him. The door frame fell and smacked him in the skull, effectively knocking him out.

When he finally woke up, everything was pitch black and smelled of dust and smoke. A sharp pain in his shoulder made him gasp, yet he couldn’t see what was causing the pain. Reaching up only concluded with his hand colliding with a metal beam, and as soon as his eyes adjusted enough to the darkness he could see he was surrounded by tons upon tons of metal and debris. His legs were pinned, and a slab of metal pierced through his shoulder. His uniform was stained red all down his arm and around the shoulder, but the bleeding wasn’t as bad as it could be if the debris had been removed. Most likely that had been what had kept him alive so far, instead of bleeding out while unconscious. Why was he alive though, the whole building had fallen on him after all! Perhaps the doorway had something to do with it? He sucked in another breath and coughed as he inhaled more dust, his chest heaving. There was obviously there was no way he could get out of this, with all of the debris on top of him. He couldn’t even hear anything! It was oddly serene, despite the fact he was literally bleeding out and crushed under tons of metal. On the bright side, James and all the others had gotten out before the building fell. He thought back to little Eli, with his bright, kind eyes. “You would have been good friends with my little girl.” He whispered, though no one would hear him. Everything was getting fuzzy, and Scott’s grip on reality was slowly seeping away as blood continued to seep from his body. He couldn’t feel his phone vibrate in a pocket of his uniform, and didn’t hear how it went to voicemail.

“Hey honey, it’s Cass. Listen, I don’t have much time, and your probably out doing your job, but our plane has been taken over by terrorists, and I think it might be connected to those who attacked the Towers and Pentagon. I think they’re heading for either the White House or the Capitol building, and none of us on this plane are going to let that happen. So…. I guess this is goodbye. Here’s the kids…” But the call cut off after the time was up. It didn’t really matter anyways, as Scott felt himself slowly drift away and the world went black.

They eventually found his body, but the bodies of Cass and their two oldest children, Lance and Lacy were never recovered, vaporized from the fire and the force of the plane hitting the ground. Their youngest daughter, Laurie, was only three when the events that stole the lives of her whole family took place. It has been seventeen years since then, and she stood in front of the graves silently. Her fiancé reached over and grabbed her hand, his shining white blonde hair and forest green eyes hiding the deepest sorrow. “He was the best man I ever met.” Eli said solemnly. “Amen” James said from next to them. Laurie smiled a watery smile and nodded her thanks, her Department of Defense badge shining in the sunlight. She may have been too young to save her family then, but now she would do anything possible to prevent it from happening to another family. Neither of them knew the irony of her father thinking they would be good friends. How could they? They did know, however, that they would be married in just a few months…

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