The gunshots rang in the distance, their cover was getting shredded by enemy rounds and explosives. Private Luke Roberts of the 1st Battalion fought ferociously, his M16 was scorched due to the number of bullets he was firing. However, it was not enough, the situation was hopeless and the squad went down, one by one. Waiting for his time to come, Luke muttered a prayer and continued to retaliate against the army ahead of him.
The ominous shadow of an explosive loomed over Luke as he dove into the nearby sand. Kaboom! Just as the sand settled back onto the ground and screams of agony nearby started, Luke looked down at the shrapnel in his chest and toppled over.
Luke was brought back to the memory of that fateful day; Tuesday, September 11th, 2001. This was also the day he had rushed to the recruitment center and signed up for the army. Walking to the building early in the morning, a youthful Luke strode merrily as he entered the crowded South Tower. Going up to the 88th floor, Luke greeted his father, the owner of an insurance firm.
“Hey, dad, a great day to doze off at this boring old firm of yours.” Luke joked.
“Oh, I’ll be the one resting, while you are to make me comfortable.” Luke’s father, Ben replied with a warm smile.
The two stared at each other for a moment before Luke’s father embraced him, cracking a few ribs. It has been a while since the two had seen each other and Luke was working a part-time job for his father in order to spend time with him. After greeting him, he went downstairs to his father’s favourite cafe to get them both some breakfast. It was almost nine-o-clock when Luke got into the elevator and he was famished. The young man watched the elevator screen as the floors descended slowly. Suddenly, an ear-piercing screech, followed by multiple explosions was heard from the neighbouring Twin Tower. The violent shaking that followed afterwards caused the elevator to stop. Luke was stuck in the elevator by himself and he desperately wanted to get some food.
“All that I ask for is some food and coffee, but this darn elevator gets me stuck.”
Pressing the button for help, nothing but static sounded. Pounding on the door, Luke could hear screams and lots of commotion. Must be that explosion, Luke thought. Using a loose panel from the roof, he wedged it in the crack between the elevator doors and pulled it open. From there, Luke was met by a scene so terrifying his mind stopped working and he just stood still, mouth ajar. Surrounded by smoke, the tail of a plane poked out from the charred North Tower. Sirens sounded from all directions and panicked voices rose nearby.
“That pilot was crazy! He ran straight into the tower!” One bystander shouted.
“It’s the terrorists!” Another conspired.
However, at this point in time, Luke did not care about who and how the plane flew into the building. He wanted to help the people trapped. Immediately, Luke started to descend the staircase when another explosion occurred. However, this time, it was much, much louder, the building shook so hard, Luke thought it was going to topple. A wave of heat passed everyone and Luke’s ears started to ring. When finally, the dust settled, he realized that another plane had hit the building, the very building he was standing in! At that moment, one thing was made clear to every single person, this was not a freak accident; the United States of America was under attack! Luke wanted to leave, but his father was trapped on the upper floors, he could still be alive. Without a second thought, Luke turned around and started to climb the stairs. One floor at a time, he slowly progressed as the temperature rose and smoke thickened. Still, ten floors below, the staircase was blocked by the wreckage and he took a second to catch his breath. Out of the screams and sirens, a sound caught his ears, a kid’s cries for help nearby. Taking a detour, Luke found the boy alone and lost, with a gash on his leg. The kid was bleeding hard and would die if he didn’t get treatment. Between saving his father or this poor kid, Luke was torn. However, before Luke could decide, the floor above started to collapse. In a split second, he dove and pushed the injured boy out of harm’s way. Carrying the child, Luke started to dash down the stairs avoiding jagged pieces of steel and falling debris. With the heat behind him coming ever closer, Luke felt the his hair singe and picked up his pace. The lower he went, the more people started to appear, all with the same goal; get down to floor one. Carrying the boy by himself, Luke was running off of pure adrenaline when he finally found a room where people were resting. There was water and wet towels, kind heroes also handed out rations of food. Setting the kid down, Luke realized that he was unconscious and was bleeding harder than ever.
“Help! I need a medic!” Luke called out in desperation.
No response, only looks of sympathy.
“Medic! Medic! This kid is dying!”
After a moment of silence, Luke was about to give up, when stumbling into the room, a tall, middle-aged man appeared.
“I’m a firefighter, I am trained in first aid, be there in a moment.” The newcomer said between breaths.
Without wait, the fireman started to clean and wrap up the boy’s leg and started to tend the small cuts on Luke.
“Thank you I didn’t know what I would have done if it weren’t for you. By the way, names Luke Roberts.” He stuck out his hand in greeting.
Giving the hand a firm shake, the fireman started to introduce himself.
“Lieutenant Davis of squad 18. I came here to see my sister, but she was killed in the explosion. I got off easy as I was descending to the washroom when it happened.”
“I am very sorry, I came to see my father, but I don’t know where he is anymore.” Luke empathized.
Suddenly, there was a rumbling and from the window, the two could see that the North Building was shaking violently. Then, abruptly, the building started to collapse, one floor at a time, until it was just a pile of rubble.
Immediately, everyone started to rush for the stairs.
“We’re all gonna die!” One man shouted
The panic spread, soon, it was just the firefighter and Luke who stayed behind.
“We need to rescue people from beneath the rubble!” The firefighter pointed at the wreckage.
“No, let’s start by evacuating the building first.” Luke replied.
With a nod, the dynamic duo jumped to their feet and started to work. Carrying the boy and the first aid kit on their backs, the firefighter and Luke started to descend the stairs, looking for any injured people. The first victim was an old man who was bleeding heavily from the head and bruised all over. By the seems of it, he fell down the stairs and was trampled.
“Sir, are you alright?”
“Yes young man, I’ll be on my way.” The old man winced.
However, upon standing up, his eyes rolled and he started to fall. Fortunately, Luke caught him just in time and the firefighter bandaged his wounds. Luke carried both boy and old man as he walked to the ground floor to drop them off to the first responders. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Davis was searching for more wounded and giving treatment. The cycle went on and on, the firefighter would treat the wounds before handing them over to Luke for him to bring to ground level. On one trip to the ground level, Luke stopped for the first time to catch his breath. However, while resting, he took in just how terrifying the charred rubble looked, resembling nothing of the proud tower it was before. The air was filled with a stench, which made Luke puke as he identified the aroma to be burnt humans. Looking around, he could not believe his eyes, a man just fell from the building.
The man hit the ground and lay there, an ominous pool of blood started to appear. Frozen in shock, Luke could not move nor think. There was shouting and when he looked up, Luke saw more people falling from the burning building. They were jumping off. As they hit the ground, Luke could not help but think, it’s raining men. It’s really raining men. Starting to go back into the building, a deep rumbling noise could be heard, the tower in front of Luke tilted dangerously. The huge crowd hushed. Just as it seemed like the worst was over, the supports of the second tower buckled and the building imploded. The power of the debris threw Luke around like a rag doll and launched him into the air. Before he hit the ground, he shed a tear for his firefighter friend, Davis and his father.
There was no sound as Luke was falling, there was no smell, then as he hit the ground, there was no sight.
Luke sat up and looked around, he was back on the battlefield. Bullets were still whizzing past his head. He coughed up blood, and he was bleeding out. There were only two more men in the squad left, Luke and his commander. Grabbing a gun off of a fallen soldier, Luke joined his leader in a final stand. Defending their location, the enemy pressed harder, surrounding them. A bullet shredded through the commander’s heart and he fell to the ground, motionless. He couldn’t die now, he has to carry the legacy of the firefighter, his father and now his squad of brave, young soldiers. Subconsciously, he knew he was dying, one bullet after the other shredded through his legs and body. However, his determination would not let him die. From above, a flapping sound grew closer, an Apache helicopter. In a miracle, Luke was thrown a ladder and he climbed with all his might. However, it was like he was not moving up the ladder and the bright light from the copter engulfed him. All was alabaster and shimmering. The dull pain washed away, while memories flooded him.
“Am I alive or have I come to be reunited with my fallen friends.”