Ai Yori Aoshi" is owned by Kou Fumizuki, Hakusensha, Tokyo Pop, and Geneon/Pioneer, NOT me.
Any implied names were inspired by "9-11: Artists Respond, Volumes 1 and 2," (Dark Horse Comics) a 9-11 artists tribute anthology, and are owned by someone else, most certainly NOT by me.
An 'Ai Yori Aoshi,' 9/11 story.
"12:00AM, September 12, 2006."
("Has it really been five years?")
Miyabi Kagurazaki held her computer cursor over the taskbar clock and stared as it went unconcernedly about its business and clicked over to 12:01AM, September 12, 2006.
A soft knock at the door to her office broke her fixated gaze, so she got up and went to find her charge, Lady Aoi Hanabishi, standing in the hall holding a tray of hot green tea, and a plate of fresh onigiri.
"It's very late Miss Miyabi! If you intend to keep working, then you might like to eat a little snack!"
Miyabi smiled at Aoi's scolding tone, then glanced surreptitiously at the 'just-beginning-to-show' swelling that told she would soon have a new charge to help take care of.
"You shouldn't mind me Lady Aoi. Right now, your rest is more important than any thirst or hunger I might have."
Aoi shuffled her feet nervously as Miyabi took the tray and turned back into the office, leaving the door open in unspoken invitation as she did so.
"Well, I also thought you might like a little intimate company, since today is five years since..."
Miyabi gave a visible twitch as she set the tray on her desk. Without speaking, she brought a chair from the wall for Lady Aoi to sit in, served two cups of tea, then sat and relaxed into the comfortable familiarity of her own office chair.
"I guess I never did talk about then, when I returned, did I?"
Aoi shook her head as Miyabi sipped at her tea and returned the cup to its saucer on her desk.
"Well, your father sent me to be an observer/representative for the Sakuraba group at the American's National Association of Business Economics..."
Aoi nodded and gave a conspiratorial smile.
"Father was terribly surprised when you accepted the offer of the trip! He thought the idea of testing Kaoru-sama, to see if he would behave, nearly alone with me for a week, would surely make you stay! Too bad for him we knew what a gentleman Kaoru-sama really was!"
Miyabi's returned smile showed amusement, but also fatigue and the sadness of recalled memories. Reaching out for her teacup and its saucer, she picked both up and took a sip, then set them in her lap.
"New York City is such a wonderful place Lady Aoi..."
("What a great way to start the week! An unexpected meeting and pleasant dinner with Mayu Miyuki's parents at Windows to the World Restaurant last night after my arrival, a wonderful western-style breakfast in my room here at the Marriott this morning, and now a little free time to just walk around the Austin J. Tobin Plaza and relax before the conference starts again!")
Miyabi Kagurazaki, dressed in her preferred style of business casual jacket, slacks, vest and lightly starched white shirt, glanced at her watch as she walked towards the large golden globe sitting in the center of the plaza.
("8:46. Better make sure I head back about 9:15.")
The sound of an extremely low-flying jet caused Miyabi to look up just in time to see a silver arrow spear into the not-quite-visible north face of World Trade Center's North Tower. A dull thud, followed by a massive burst of flames and wreckage from the visible sides of the tower left her struck dumb and staring as people around her began to shriek and shout in confusion.
"Oh my God! Someone's falling!"
Finally breaking out of her shock at the horrified shout, Miyabi turned and saw what seemed to be human figure falling beneath the shower of debris that had been blown out the south face of the North Tower. She watched the person fall, and was spared the finality of their impact only by the event happening behind or on the roof of the Marriott.
Miyabi's self-preservation sent her moving rapidly across the plaza towards Church Street until a cry for help drew her attention back in the direction of the North Tower. Behind the golden globe in the center of the plaza, she saw someone trying very badly to carry a limp, bloodied person away from the smoldering wreckage scattered between the globe and the tower's base.
"Help! Oh sweet Mother! She got hit by something that fell off the North Tower!"
Miyabi moved to help the panicky young man until they could lay his equally young female companion gently on a clear area of the plaza. She gently pushed the man back before reaching to feel for his companion's pulse. Somehow, despite the girl's awful-looking head injuries, she was still alive. Glancing up at the by now burning North Tower, she fought back the impulse to just run away, and turned to face her companion.
"She's still alive! Let's get her away from here!"
Helping the young man carefully pick the injured girl up in his arms, Miyabi cast about for a destination, hearing approaching sirens, she decided on Church Street and maybe even across to the Millennium Hilton.
Helping the young man support his friend, Miyabi lead him most of the remaining distance across the plaza to Church Street just as a New York Fire Department pumper engine pulled up, climbed the curb, and began rolling towards the North Tower. Seeing the older fireman in the passenger side of the cab looking at her, she started waving at him.
"Hey! Hey, we need some help here!"
Signaling the driver to move closer to the WTC 5 building and park, the older fireman, with "Captain" on his helmet and "White" stenciled on his black overcoat's nametag, jumped down to quickly examine Miyabi and her companions.
"Olsen! You and Kent help these people out until the EMS squads get here! The rest of you get your equipment and follow me over to the North Tower's lobby!"
Following their captain's orders, the rest of the pumper engines crew unloaded. Two, one younger and slightly frightened looking, the other more calm and experienced, separated themselves from the others and started pulling paramedic equipment boxes out of the truck. As the others ran towards the North Tower, the two of them lay the girl down on a blanket and began working on her.
Miyabi stood and pulled the young man back, then put her arm around him to comfort him as the two firemen worked.
"Is she gonna' be all right? Her Dad'll kill me for getting her out so early if something happens to her..."
The older of the two firemen, wearing a pair of thick-rimmed glasses, glanced up for a moment, then continued working.
"Something fell from the North Tower after that explosion..., I think it hit her..."
A small hissing began as the two men worked to establish the young girl's vital signs.
"She'd be dead if that happened. I'll bet something on the ground popped up and hit her. Must not have been too direct, or she'd be dead from that to."
Miyabi gave the young man a reassuring squeeze. A few moments later, someone began shouting incoherently behind her. There was another dull thump, and as she turned to look, dumbfounded, a ball off fire exploded out of the east side of South Tower.
Miyabi yelped as the older firemen swore before he jerked her and the young man down to allow himself and the younger firefighter to pull them and their patient against the pumper engine and cover them with their bodies. An instant later debris began falling around them. Bits of unidentifiable wreckage made an unfriendly staccato tune as they began showering down across the surrounding pavement. Several nearby shrieks were cut off by heavy impact sounds, and a large, burning wheel smashed into the pumper engine's cab before bouncing away. Despite everything, all five of them seemingly escaped injury.
Miyabi nodded at the question, too busy trying to stay calm to be concerned in the least by the awkward position the fireman whose nametag read 'Kent' lay over her in.
"Aahhh! Kent! Some of that junk hit my leg! Owww it hurts..."
Moving off of their charges, Miyabi watched as Kent pulled a wincing Olsen aside and made a quick examination of the younger firefighter's lacerated leg. He tsk'ed a bit, then pointed at Miyabi before ordering the young man to help him move his unconscious young girl friend away from the partially smashed pumper engine.
The younger fireman pointed at the scattered collection of paramedic's equipment.
"Hey Miss, hand me that yellow tackle box over there will you please?"
Miyabi pulled the indicated box over to the fireman whose nametag read 'Olsen.' After watching him trying to treat his awkwardly positioned injury for a moment, she took the disinfectant and bandages and, following his instructions, began treating him herself. When she finished, she looked up and blushed as he gave her a thankful smile.
"You have a nice touch. Thanks, Miss...?"
Miyabi put a loose fist to her mouth and coughed softly in embarrassment.
"Yo...you're welcome... Please, just call me Miyabi..."
Arrival of several EMS squads spared Miyabi from further dismay. Responding to a signal from Kent, one of the EMS crews pulled their truck over next to the damaged pumper. The crew dismounted and quickly finished stabilizing the young girl, then loaded her, her young man, and despite his protests to his older companion, the younger firefighter into their truck. Miyabi started to back away, but Kent took her by the arm and pointed at the EMS truck.
"You go to! You're covered with blood! Go get yourself checked out!"
Miyabi looked down at herself. Her hands and clothes were disheveled and if not 'covered,' then certainly 'stained,' with blood. She quickly climbed into the EMS truck, stumbling slightly as her adrenal rush began to fade, then sat on a bench as Kent slammed the door shut from the outside then gave it a whack to tell the driver to go.
Miyabi, exhausted by her story, set her tea cup and saucer on the desk before leaning forward to rest her arms on her knees, and her forehead in her palms.
"Most of the next few days were a blur Miss Aoi. I remember watching the Twin Towers fall on the emergency room television, holding that young firefighter close, trying to comfort him at the thought he was an only survivor, when he finally gave up trying to call someone from his company on his radio, and also helping out in the hospital until I dropped from exhaustion and someone carried me off into a lounge to sleep it off."
Aoi smiled as she remembered something else very important, her fear at the thought of losing her Miyabi, her best friend. She, her parents, and everyone at the house she managed had been beside themselves with worry until the fourteenth. Mayu's parents finally called, bringing immense personal relief to the nearly hysterical girl.
Mayu's father explained briefly about encountering Miyabi in the NYU Downtown Hospital after he and his wife were evacuated from the World Trade Center site. He spoke of the invaluable assistance she'd provided to the hospital staff since the eleventh, and said that though completely exhausted, she was all right. He finished his call with a promise all three of them would come home as soon as the FAA released the airlines to fly again, and they could get seats on a flight back to Japan.
Aoi stood up as Miyabi mumbled about a promise to go back to New York City, then fell against her desk and began to snore softly. Walking forward a few steps, she leaned over her exhausted friend, saved all of Miyabi's data, then turned off the computer.
"Come Miss Miyabi. I thank you for confiding in me, but I think living though your experiences again means you deserve to rest."
Miyabi murmured about needing to finish her work, but allowed Aoi to help her up and to lead her from the office.
As she turned out the lights, Aoi noticed, for the first time, a black helmet on display in the middle shelf of one of Miyabi's book cabinets. The insignia the helmet's crown read, in stained white letters; "Prob. Firefighter FDNY"
Standing just outside security at the International Departures Terminal at New York City's JFK Airport, Miyabi opened the box her friend Olsen had just handed to her. Inside was his black probationary firefighter's helmet.
"I..., I can't accept this Olsen!"
Next to Olsen stood the glasses wearing Kent. Along with Olsen, he was one of the only two survivors from their entire fire-fighting company. After spending nearly fourteen hours trapped in a partially collapsed stairwell in the North Tower, with men from another company and several civilians, he finally showed up, limping and haunted-eyed, at the hospital. Probably because of the timing of stopping to help Miyabi and her companions, he had somehow managed to survive the spectacular collapse of both World Trade Center main towers without more than a heavily bruised leg. The older firefighter shook his head and pushed the box back at Miyabi.
"Take it Miss Miyabi. Olsen and I think you've earned it. You stopped to help those two people, you helped Olsen, and you helped at the hospital to the ends of your endurance. Just call this an honorary membership in the department, and thanks from a pair of grateful firefighters."
Miyabi nodded, her eyes clouding with tears. She tenderly placed the helmet back in its box before moving to embrace both the suddenly blushing firemen.
"Thanks. I'll treasure it always."
Both firemen, tears forming in their own eyes, returned Miyabi's affection. Finally they separated, with Kent holding her at arm's length.
"Do I hafta' tell you everything Miss Miyabi? You'd better go or you'll miss your flight!"
Miyabi pulled away completely and nodded at Kent's words. She silently shook Olsen and Kent's hands, then turned and headed off to JFK's security entry for International Departures.
"Hey Kent, think we'll see her again someday?"
Kent watched for a last glance of Miyabi's wine colored hair.
"Yep. She's a 'New Yorker' now. A 'Ground Zero' survivor. Whatever happens to us now, we'll see her again, one of these days."
Olsen gave Kent a momentarily odd look, then smiled in understanding.
Without another word, Kent turned to lead Olsen out of JFK.
"Let's go Olsen. We still have a job to do."
As the Time Zones extend across the International Date Line going from the US to Japan, a day is gained. (Roughly thirteen hours difference between NYC and Tokyo.) Thus, September 11th in the US would be September 12th in Japan.
Three-hundred Forty-three members of the New York City Fire Department were lost on September 11th, 2001. Almost one-third of the department's 1,123 casualties since its formation in 1865 occurred on that single day. Many other New York City Police, Port Authority Police, City department personnel, and Emergency Medical Services personnel were also lost.
The Marriott World Trade Center Hotel was located between World Trade Center 1 and 2, (The North and South Towers,) in World Trade Center 3. The building was split in half by the collapse of the South Tower, and completely destroyed by the collapse of the North Tower. Around fifty to seventy-five people were killed when the Marriott was destroyed; mostly emergency personnel, but also some hotel workers and remaining guests.
Soon after the collapse of the WTC South Tower, an evacuation order was given to the emergency workers in the North Tower.
Ladder Company 6, FDNY, Captain Jay Jonas commanding, was attempting to exit the WTC North Tower via staircase "B," one of three emergency exit routes. Along with a Port Authority Officer, an employee from the building and several firemen from other companies, they were between the sixth and fourth floors at the time of the tower's collapse. Everyone in the one-hundred and five floors above them died; everyone in the four floors below them died.
Thirteen hours later, Ladder Company 6 and its companions were among the last survivors pulled from the wreckage of the collapsed World Trade Center North and South Towers.
This author assumes Kent was trying to rejoin his company, somewhere far up in the North Tower. On orders of Captain White, he begins to exit the tower alone, and survives the collapse along with Ladder Company 6.
All place names are factual. The hospital's name on September 11th was the: "NYU Downtown Hospital." (It has since been renamed.) The hospital is only five blocks away from what was the World Trade Center complex, and despite the loss of nearly all outside utility services following the collapse of the South and North Towers, treated 1,500 patients on September 11th and in the days following.
The mentioned trade conference was real, and was being hosted by the Marriott on September 11th, 2001.
About timing: Since I could not determine a date within the English manga for Ai Yori Aoshi, I made a supposition that publishing date roughly equaled the "Manga-Time/Real-Life" date. Parts of Volume 8 were first serialized in the fall of 2001, so I accepted this as my established date. (Roughly.) Again in Volume 8, Special Chapter 2, Mayu Miyuki receives a new kimono from her mother. The Kimono is intended as a Christmas present. Thus, December is established. (Roughly.) In Volume 8, Chapter 62: Hinemosu, Aoi mentions that Miyabi is away at a 'meeting.' I changed this slightly to 'conference,' and thus is 'September,' established. (Very, VERY roughly.) Miyabi is sent by Aoi's father to New York City on September 10th, 2001, and thus, the stories premise.
As I have cheated and seen bits of the Japanese 'Ai Yori Aoshi' manga, I feel confident that Aoi and Kaoru will finally marry, and, of course, hopefully by 2006, be on the way towards having children.
Authors notes, post conclusion of the series, Manga Volume 17:
This story was written before the end of the manga. As such, please now consider it a slightly alternate universe. Wherein the AYA gang, at least temporarily, stay together at the manor and Kaoru and Aoi decide to have children sooner than implied by the manga. Miyabi may still be adopted by the Sakuraba family, and perhaps Aoi still changes her name to Honjou. As a lesser change from the manga, maybe Miyabi stays at the manor, and Aoi starts working for her!