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Fiction Drama Historical Fiction

Susan stared out the window to the vast metropolis below, and sighed. Despite the vast height of the building she was standing in, and despite it being early in the morning, she could still make out the movement of cars and even people as they went about their daily lives. 

Susan worked in an office as a customer service representative; her job was to take calls and help people install their printers over the phone. It was a boring job, she admitted, but a well-paying one, and she’d been there for over three years. She was eager for a promotion, and could feel it on the horizon. She turned away from the window, and sat back down at her desk. 

“Morning, Susan,” said Mike, her manager, who’d just come through the front door and passed her desk on the way to his office.

“Good morning, Mike!” 

“Beautiful day, isn’t it?” He said with the utmost sincerity. 

She smiled. “Yeah, it really is.”

Susan liked Mike; he was polite, a good worker, and was quite friendly with her. However, he was the one in charge of promoting her, and she was itching to move up the corporate ladder sooner rather than later, growing frustrated at the lack of communication about when it was going to happen. She, in this moment, nearly asked him about it, but held her tongue for reasons she couldn’t quite discern. Susan was shy, but the reason for keeping her silence had to do with risking Mike’s friendliness more than anything. 

Suddenly, his eyes moved away from hers and up over her head, staring out the window. He squinted, as if trying to see something better. 

“What is that?” He asked.

Susan turned around and, squinting too, tried to make out what it was that Mike was seeing.

“It looks like a bird. A really big bird,” she said. 

“It’s coming right for our window,” he said with a laugh. “These birds get dumber every year.”

But then they heard it. A strange, alien noise; like a furnace being turned up to the highest degree, or a car skidding off the road. It was hard to place, but it sounded wrong. So, so, wrong. And it chilled Susan to the bone.

“Mike…I don’t think that’s a bird. I think that’s a plane.”

He walked around her desk and went right up to the window, squinting no more, for the object moving towards them was now much more visible, and much, much larger than they’d thought.

Susan gulped. She’d seen planes flying low before over the bay before, but none this low, and none this large. And the fact that it seemed to be heading directly towards her set off alarm bells in her head.

“Mike…I think we should leave.”

“Nonsense! They’re just diverting course. Gods, would you look at the size of that thing? I’ve never seen a plane that large from this perspective before.”

“No, Mike, we should leave, now.”

He turned to look at her, the friendliness drained from his face. “If you leave now, you can kiss that promotion goodbye. You’ve got calls to make.”

Susan stood up, and her mouth went dry.

“Mike, it’s coming straight for us.”

And he turned around, looking back out the window, and was startled to see that the plane had grown twice as large now, and was still heading, seemingly, straight for their office.”

That same strange alien noise was even louder now, like nails on a chalkboard, and others in the office were getting up to look outside. There was nervous chatter and murmuring amongst the employees, but Susan remained dead silent, weighing her options. 

That’s when one woman screamed; a foreign, blood-curdling scream, the kind you hear in slasher films, the kind you pray you never have to hear in real life. For the plane was roaring, moving with all its might, at an intense speed, aiming just a hair above their office now. 

This plane was going to crash. 

Mike began to back up, slowly, as he stood in abject horror. They barely had any time to cover their heads when the plane, roaring as loud as an inferno, smashed into the offices above them, bisecting the 1 World Trade Center and sending all the employees tumbling to the ground. 

Susan hit her head on the floor and fell unconscious for a few moments. When she came to, all she could hear was screaming, as jet fuel leaked through the floor and drip-dropped down on the heads of her employees. The loudest scream of all was from Mike, and when she turned to look at him, it was only for a few moments because, to her horror, he was jumping out the now broken windows, his head aflame. 

Susan got up, gingerly, and covered her head with her arms. There was chaos all around her; people running frantically through papers being blown around by the wind, fires growing where the jet fuel was leaking, making its way down from the offices above and through the floor to the next level, fire alarms blaring.

She ran towards the exit, leaving her bag, and yelled to her coworkers: “Come on! This way!” And they followed her, thankfully, down the hall to the elevators. But when they got there, the elevators were not operational, for the jet fuel was leaking down the elevator shaft too. 

They stood there for a few minutes, praying that the buttons would work, but eventually some of them gave up, and headed for the stairs, while some remained behind, never to leave that corpse of a building again.

Susan descended the staircase with a handful of her other employees, going two steps at a time, while the building shook and swayed and grumbled. Down and down she went, through flights and flights of stairs, unable to comprehend just what was happening. “Was it an accident?” She thought to herself. 

By the time she reached ground floor, after ten excruciating minutes, she was ready to drop out of exhaustion. But she had to keep going, for debris was now falling in the lobby, and she could see bodies scattered around her for those who were unlucky with their escape. She zig-zagged through the main floor, hoping to God that she would dodge the debris, and miraculously, to her surprise, she made it to the front door, and pushed it open into the grey dust that greeted her outside. 

Susan ran. She ran and she ran and she ran. Away from the building, not looking back, and down the street, away from the carnage, away from where she watched her boss light on fire and fall to his death, away from the horror and misery and hell she’d just narrowly escaped. When she was about a mile away from the Trade Centres, she turned around, covered head to toe in dust and soot, and put her hand to her mouth in complete and absolute horror. 

The building had been cut in half, and a dark red fire sprouted from the impact zone. And then she heard it again; that same alien noise, which she now knew was the sound of jet engines roaring as the plane accelerated. She looked up, and in disbelief, watched as another plane hit the second tower. 

“This is no accident,” she told herself. “This is deliberate evil.”

Then, a woman, not much older than Susan, came staggering out of the dark cloud of ash that was growing down the street. She collapsed to her knees in front of Susan, and wailed: “My husband…my husband…I can’t find him…oh, God, I can’t find him…”

That’s when the firefighters began racing past her, and something deep inside her stirred; she felt that, in this moment, her entire life had led up to this point, and it was her obligation - no, her duty, to go back into that ash and find this woman’s husband. It made no logical sense, but as she stood there watching the buildings burn, her feeling of helplessness and hopelessness turned to rage, and she ran into the dust.

She did find a man, not more than a quarter mile from where she stood, and helped him back to his feet, pointed him in the right direction, and told him, in her most earnest tone, to run, run as though his life depended on it, because it did. 

There were others like this, scattered throughout the streets, lost in the dust and soot, and lost in their minds and hearts. And she helped each one to their feet, and to each one she pointed the way, like an angel sent by God himself, and into the fire, she disappeared.

Susan saved ten lives that day, including the woman’s husband, and she was remembered by her colleagues, friends, and family, who all waited anxiously for her safe return, but were never granted that sweet reunion. For heaven had other plans that day; and she did get her promotion after all; this time to angel.

September 11, 2022 20:56

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2 comments

Susan Catucci
19:17 Sep 17, 2022

This gave me goosebumps and chills. I remember that day vividly and always will. Very well done, a worthy testament.

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Ian T. Smyth
15:33 Sep 18, 2022

Thank you. I was very young when I happened so I had to draft this piece based off other's testimonies and documentaries I've seen. I'm glad the piece resonated with you.

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