A/N: ***Before you read the story, I want you to know that I revised a lot of it, and added more things to it. I also combined all of the facts from Chapter 2 and 3, into one single chapter. And I've added info about a new story at the bottom. ***
As September 11th has once again come and gone, I wanted to write something to honor that tragic day in history.
Various parts of this story are based upon many different eyewitness accounts, video footage from both amateurs and news sources, and documentaries on television.
Edward's POV is inspired by the accounts of real 9/11 survivors, although one in particular was the basis for him, though I changed many details. More info about that can be found in Chapter 2.
***Warning: This story deals with the events of 9/11. I tried not to be too graphic, but some parts of the story contain very senstitive topics, as I tried to stay as close to the reality of what really happened. Tissues may be needed.***
Summary: September 11th, 2001. Edward and Bella were in the South Tower of the World Trade Center when the attacks occur. Edward recalls the events of that day. (Revised)
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight.
Out of the Dust We Rise
It's hard to believe that such a simple word could weigh so heavily on a person's mind.
But then, most people don't have a reason to truly stop and think about it, until their lives are drastically changed forever in some way or another.
I was at the World Trade Center on the 72nd floor of the South Tower that tragic Tuesday on September 11th, 2001.
I'll never forget that day, nor will anyone else who was there.
September 11, 2001
It was such a beautiful day that Tuesday. The skies were bright blue and clear. The weather was perfect. It made me kind of sad that I worked inside of an office all day.
On the plus side, I had two huge floor to ceiling windows in my corner office. The WTC1 or the 'North Tower' as it was commonly called, stood tall outside of one of the windows, but there was nothing obstructing the view of the city or the sky through the other one.
I had gotten to work at exactly 8:00 AM, just like I did every morning. I greeted the lobby employees as I passed by on my way to the elevator. As I waited for it, I made idle chit chat with some people I had become aquainted with in passing in the time that I have worked here.
The elevator soon arrived and the group of us waiting got inside. The higher the elevator went, people came and went as they got on and off of whatever floor they worked on. When it reached the 73rd floor, I wished the few people still needing to go higher up to 'have a nice day', and stepped off.
I made my way down the hall to the company where I worked, greeted some more people, and when I reached my desk, I got everything I would need for the day set up around it, before getting to work.
A little more than a half hour later, I heard a loud boom and felt the building vibrate. I looked over at my clock.
I briefly wondered what had just occured, but the thought was fleeting, and I immediately got back to going over some important papers I needed for a meeting later this afternoon. A minute later, I finished with the current paper I had, and turned to grab another one, when some movement outside one of my windows caught my attention.
Curiously, I got up from my desk and walked over to the window to try and figure out what I had just seen. I'll never forget what I saw.
A huge angry fireball was coming out of the side of the North Tower and bits of paper floated through the sky like confetti, raining down on the people below along with bits and pieces of metal and other debris.
It looked to me like there had been some kind of explosion, like from a bomb.
My thoughts immediately went to my sister-in-law, Rosalie. She is married to my brother, Emmett, a cop in the NYPD. I knew that Rosalie works at Cantor Fitzgerald on the 103rd Floor of the North Tower. However, from my vantage point, I couldn't tell what floors the explosion came from.
I decided to try and give her call to see if she was okay and to try and find out what happened, but as I looked around my desk, and inside of my briefcase I realized that I must have left my cellphone at home.
I tried to call using my office phone, but she didn't answer, so I tried my brother next, but got the same results.
It was at that point, that others within the office also began to take notice of the situation.
I could see and hear some of the other employees in the office take out their cell phones and pagers to call their families or the police to find out what was going on in the North Tower, because the landlines were all busy.
Glancing around the room, I saw a woman finish her call and hang up, her face ashen and her eyes filled with horror. I quickly walked over to her and asked her if she was alright. She shook her head and her eyes began to fill with tears.
"It was a plane," she said shakily.
With a look of confusion on my face, I asked, "A plane? What are you talking about?"
"A plane flew into the tower!" she exclaimed. "It wasn't a bomb or a fire."
As the news rapidly spread through the room, some people decided to leave the building immediately, despite being told by the police that the South Tower was secure. Others chose to stay and get back to work, thinking they were safe, thinking it was some kind of freak accident.
At first, I wasn't sure what I should do. Do I leave with the others and risk losing my job because of fear, or do I stay and get back to work?
I ultimately chose to stay. This building was safe, so I walked back to my little office in the corner and tried to get my work done. I checked my email every other minute, hoping to hear something about Rosalie from one of my parents, or maybe Rosalie herself.
But like a moth to a flame, I was drawn to the scene outside of my office window.
Looking closely, I could actually see inside the offices across and above me. They were filled with smoke and flames, and people. In some of the windows, I could see people gathering around the open spaces, trying to reach the fresh air and get away from the heat and flames. In others, some were leaning out waving clothing around, trying to gather the attention of firefighters on the streets below.
As I continued watching, to my horror, I actually saw a person who appeared to be blinded by the smoke, accidentally step off the open edge of the building and fall to their death. And another moment later, I watched as another person actively jumped to escape the smoke and flames.
I was absolutely horrified by what I had just witnessed and I couldn't take it anymore. I had to get out of this building. I couldn't stay here and work, knowing that people are dying right outside of my window.
I quickly gathered my things and threw them into my metal briefcase, and made my way past my boss and other coworkers as I quickly walked to the elevator.
I had no sooner gotten inside the elevator and closed the door, when all of a sudden, the elevator jerked sharply, causing me to lose my balance, and the sound of crunching metal filled my ears as smoke and heat started to fill the small space. As I tried to regain my bearings, I realized I could see actual flames licking around the torn open edges of the elevator.
I immediately began to panic and began to bang and pound on the doors shouting for help, but after a few minutes of hearing nothing from the other side, I began to lose hope of being rescued.
It was beginning to feel like I was in a giant oven, and the smoke was irritating my mouth and nose, making it difficult to breathe.
I started to think about my parents and my siblings, and how I was most likely going to perish without having seen them for weeks because I was addicted to my job. That thought stirred something within me and I somehow gathered the strength to keep trying to get the doors open. I vowed to myself that if I do make it out of here, I'm going to try to be a better son and brother.
After a few more minutes of clawing and pulling at the metal doors, I finally managed to get them open a tiny bit, and I jammed my metal suitcase in front of it to keep it open enough for me to crawl through.
Once I was fully out of my metal prison, I closed my eyes and relief flowed throughout my body, but it didn't last. When I opened my eyes I was met with a horrific sight. Laying directly in front of me was a body surrounded by debris. I couldn't identify who it was because the body was missing a head.
What the hell had happened here?
Trying hard to see through the heavy cloud of smoke and dust, I could see that large pieces of metal and wood, and who knows what else, were strewn haphazardly around the room.
The smoke was getting thicker by the second and burning my eyes, so I tore a piece of my shirt off to cover my nose and mouth.
I came across more bodies as I moved forward towards one of the staircases. I recognized a few of them as people who worked in the same company as me. I checked to see if any of them were still alive, but they were already gone.
Out of nowhere, a woman appeared in front of me. It was Bella Swan, one of the secretaries in the office. She appeared to be injured and covered in blood, but she was still able to get around. That was a good thing.
"Edward? Is that you?" she cried in relief, coughing a bit afterwards.
"Yeah, it's me," I replied with a cough. "Are you okay, Bella? What happened?"
Bella shook her head while tears rolled down her face, "I don't know. One moment, I was kneeling under my desk to pick up some things I knocked over, and the next thing I knew, I was knocked over and I hit my head. When I came to, it was kind of quiet and everything was a mess."
"Fuck," I muttered sadly as I pulled her into a hug. "You're okay now, Bella. We're gonna get through this together." I let go of her and said, "We need to get out of here though."
I grabbed one of her hands and started leading her through the debris and bodies to get to the staircase.
While on our way down, we saw people moving past us, going higher. "What are you doing?" I asked them quickly.
One of people stopped and said, "The stairway is blocked a few floors down. We can't get through. We need to get to the roof." And with that, they proceeded to go higher up.
"Oh, God!" Bella exclaimed loudly. "We're going to die here, aren't we?"
"Bella, we are not going to die today, ok?" I tugged on her hand. "Bella, come on. I have to see for myself if it's really true. Let's go."
A few more floors down, and we saw it.
The stairwell really was blocked. After inspecting it over, I started to try and move some of the twisted metal and by the time I was finished, there was a space big enough for us to slide down a sheet of metal to get past the blockage.
From there, we continued on our way down, joining other people leaving the lower floors and passing firefighters on their way up, until we finally reached the lobby, covered in soot and blood.
We were met by first responders and police officers and escorted out of the building.
One of the first things we noticed once we were outside wasn't something we could see...but something we could hear. It almost sounded like loud echoing gunshots being fired, one after another. It confused us, because as we looked around we couldn't see anyone with guns, aside from police officers, but their guns were all holstered.
"What is that noise?" I asked one of the responders standing next to us. He just looked at me grimly and shook his head, not answering my question. It wouldn't be until years later that we would learn that the sound we heard then...was the sound of bodies hitting the pavement and the rooftops of nearby buildings as people fell out of the windows or jumped.
Afterwards, I got a really bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. Something was telling me to get as far away as possible.
Once again, I grabbed Bella's hand and started running down the street. "Bella, come on!"
"Why are we running? We're safe," she asked heavily as she tried to catch her breath.
I stopped and looked at her pleadingly. "Just trust me, please?"
She looked a bit unsure, and just as she was about to say something, we both heard a huge rumble and people began to scream and run in all directions. We both turned our heads towards the sound and saw the South Tower begin to collapse. The very building we were just in minutes before.
Huge clouds of dust began to barrel through the streets behinds us as we started running again. We could hear glass from storefronts shattering as the force of the dust and debris moved past them. People screamed louder as the dust gained on them, and engulfed them in its wake.
Eventually, the dust caught up to us as well, hitting us with such a force, that it felt like were being beaten with baseball bats, and shrouding us in blackness. It was so thick, you could hardly breathe, and visibility was zero. It was like the sun had been blacked out completely, leaving us in the dark.
As I coughed and choked on the dust, I called out for Bella over the voices of others.
I heard some faint coughing, and then a weakened, "Edward, I'm over here!"
I followed the sound of her voice until I found her. "Edward, I can't breathe. I need to get out."
Cough. "I know. I'm going to do my best to help you, okay? We're in this together, remember?" I tore more pieces of my shirt off and handed her one, so we could keep the dust from getting into our mouths and noses.
I told her to hold onto me as I tried to find a way out this hell. I just chose a direction and began to walk forward without stopping.
Finally, I thought I could see some light, and moved towards it. The closer we got to it, the lighter it got, until we eventually were out of the dust cloud.
We took huge breaths of fresh air until our breathing was back to normal.
Another first responder showed up and handed us bottles of water, for which we were both grateful. He then ordered us to keep moving in the direction we were heading, so we did.
I'm honestly not sure how long we walked, covered from head to toe in dust and blood, joined by others that looked to be in the same state we were in.
We finally felt some semblance of safety, now that we were so far away from the remaining tower.
We had stopped to rest for a few minutes, when we heard it again. That deep rumbling noise. We looked up and saw that the North Tower was now collapsing, creating another big cloud of dust. Luckily for us, we were far enough away for it to not reach us again, but once again my thoughts turned to Rosalie. I could feel the tears spill down my face at the thought of not knowing where she was, or if she was even still alive.
The hours after that were a bit of a blur for me. I don't recall getting to a hotel in Brooklyn. I don't even recall bringing Bella Swan with me.
But I do recall us crying. We cried for how close we came to dying. We cried for those who died that day. And we cried for their families and loved ones.
We cried, because nothing would ever be the same.
Present Time - September 11, 2014
The days and months after the attacks will always be something I'll remember.
Everything had become so chaotic that it wasn't until a few days afterwards that I managed to get in touch with my family. Thankfully, I learned that both my brother and Rosalie were all right.
Bella Swan and I kept in close touch after that day. We bonded over our experiences and became great friends, and then more.
We eventually married about five years later.
We even have a daughter, who in some freaky twist of fate, was born at exactly 8:46 AM, on Tuesday September 11th, 2007. The exact time the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center, in 2001.
We named her Remembrance Hope Cullen.
Thinking of my wife and daughter brings a small smile to my face, but it quickly falls as I move closer to the large waterfall that now sits in the spot where the South Tower once stood.
Today is the first time I've been back in this spot since the attacks occured thirteen years ago. I know I should be back home in Washington with my family celebrating my daughter's seventh birthday, but this year I finally felt ready to face the past.
As much as I would have liked Bella to come with me, she just hasn't reached that point yet, and maybe she never will, plus our daughter deserves to have at least one parent there for her special day.
Despite all of the happiness in our lives, we still struggle with a lot of things because of that day.
Bella and I were both diagnosed with a variety of things including PTSD, anxiety, depression, and more. I've even developed a fear of heights and elevators, and I refuse to go higher than the 5th floor in any building. Don't even get me started on flying in an airplane.
But as I stand here reading the names of friends and colleagues carved into the memorial, for the first time, I'm actually grateful for those things, because it means I'm still alive.
I survived, while thousands lost their lives.
After wiping the tears from my eyes, I look up across this pool and the one where the North Tower once stood, and up at the new skyscraper farther behind it, known as One World Trade Center, and the other new buildings around it. And I'm amazed by how far we've all come in the aftermath of that horrific day.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, America united and we'll forever continue to rise out of the dust.
A/N: After a lot of thinking, I have decided to write a companion fic to go along with this one. It will be in Emmett's POV, as I wanted to do another story about another aspect of the 9/11 attacks. I plan to start writing it in January.
In Memory of all the people who died at the World Trade Center, including a PAPD Explosive Detecting dog named Sirius, the Pentagon, and on United Airlines Flight 93, and those who have since died from health complications due to being exposed to the toxic dust and rubble.
We Will Never Forget