49 Ann Street
My curiosity prevailed over my sleepiness after the second thunderous thump, which made me rush upstairs to the terrace. All the tenants of the building were already on top of the elevator room. With a mug of coffee in my hand, I watched the sparkled smoke and heard the crowd’s scream as I reached for a half-burnt invoice floating in the air. I gazed at the solidity in which silent people marched steadily below on Ann Street and caught them gaze up at us with a look of shock and disbelief reflected in their eyes.Read More
The east wind delivered another half-burnt paper of an office floor plan. I ignored it. We were surrounded by so many blazed papers. The smell and speculations thickened on the roof as the South Tower began to shake. In blasting shimmers of ash and smoke, the building growled for a while before it collapsed. On our feet, we joined the scream of the crowd below and the tower’s death roar. The roar hastened louder and louder as the mass of the tower, free now from its structure, transformed into a grayish-white cloud of dust rushing east.
I stood mesmerised as I watched the dust plummeting down onto John Street, turning next onto Nassau Street to then join a massive cloud of dust approaching Ann Street. The mountain of dust was majestic, uncontainable, loud and ALIVE. It covered buildings in its path and rested parts of its mass on terraces, streets, and inside apartments, transporting papers and credit cards. It was so powerful that I wanted to join in this frenzied run. During this bizarre moment I extended my arms imagining myself being lifted and carried away. The calls of the people from the stairway brought me back to the real experience, and I began to descend the steep, narrow staircase of the elevator room. Three steps below, I stepped on my roommate, Maria. She was clenching the rails, unable to move. Andreas, my other roommate, and I, helped her inside the loft. The coffee mug, still in my hand, was now filled with mud. We stood close to one another, speechless, while the phones began to ring hysterically. “I am fine”, is all I could bring myself to say and that’s all what they wanted to know.
Suddenly, all that was audible was the heave of a long sigh. It was a loud and velvety sound, and before I could finish my thought, the second tower went down the loft turned pitch black. No light came through the skylights and thick black smoke covered the windows creating the illusion of a heavy curtain. It was a dramatic and mysterious moment. I felt completely disoriented. “I think I am alright,” I said this time to my mother, who was calling for the third time from Greece.
At about 11:00 a.m. we walked down onto Ann Street. The police were guarding all intersections. The streets and buildings were covered with a thick layer of white dust. The brave people who emerged from their temporary shelters were also covered in dust, as was the policeman at the intersection of Ann and Nassau Streets, who told us to go back inside. If one could play with dust as one plays with snow in the winter that was the moment in which to do it. But nobody did. We were all too scared to reach out and touch. My whole body started to itch severely and so I made my way back to 49 Ann Street. A group of people that had sought shelter in my building’s small lobby and stairway, inquired about the conditions outside. Everybody was covered in dust, dazed and afraid. I offered my bathroom for people to relieve themselves from the prickly dust. A few did. Inside the loft, I asked one man, as he was drinking orange juice, whether he had been inside a tower. He gestured “No”. I asked him where he lived. He made an attempt to answer, but failed. Everyone gradually left quietly, holding wet paper towels over their faces. At 1:15 p.m. we left the loft with wet t-shirts wrapped around our mouths and noses, and Vaseline smeared around our eyes. There were a lot of people on the streets heading north. We hitched a ride and, in lingering silence, the driver dropped us off on 23rd Street where we found refuge at a friend’s apartment. It took three showers before the itchiness subsided. For the following weeks, I managed to continue to work in my studio in Long Island City, listening eagerly to the radio, while moving around from apartment to apartment, mistrusting Giuliani’s reassurances that, “the health department tests show there are no airborne chemical agents about which to worry”.
August 18 2002