November 30th, 2003
Casey had picked Alex up at the airport after he'd spend his Thanksgiving break back home. As much as he liked being in New York, he was still glad to go back to Las Vegas. Dana had been excited beyond all words to see him again, as had Lacey, but she did a better job of controlling herself. Nearly all his time back home was split between the two of them, not that he was complaining. So, of course when he had to leave, Dana was nearly in tears again. He reminded it wouldn't be as long before he'd see her again because his Christmas break was less than a month away and it was a longer break. Dana hugged him goodbye again and joking refused to let go. Once she did, it was Lacey's turn. She hugged him tightly, but made no move to kiss him this time. That alone had confused him and he thought that maybe she was expecting him to make the first move. But he hadn't thought of that until he was on the plane.
Now he was in the car with Casey. When she picked up him from the airport, he noticed she seemed a little out of it. She dismissed it as her simply being tired because of the weather. A rather thunderous storm had been hanging over the city for a couple days now and had been getting progressively worse because of a tropical storm, or possible hurricane, forming off the coast. The storm had been knocking out power all over the city, though electric crews had been doing a good job of getting grids back online. However, as they found out by going to Alex's dorm, that grid was still down and not scheduled to be repaired for two more days.
The note one the front door of the dorms said that students could still stay there if they wanted, but Casey had told Alex it would be kind of stupid for him to do that and let him stay with her at her house. He'd been to her house several times before, even spent the night once when his homework left him too tired to think straight.
Once there, they bolted inside to try to avoid the relentless rain. After drying off a bit, Casey went to making them dinner. As they ate, he asked what she did while he was gone. To which the answer was nothing. Sal and his son, Jason, invited her over for Thanksgiving, but she'd declined because would've felt like she was 'intruding'. However, Alex attributed that as part of her low spirits, but said nothing of it.
A few minutes later, there was a blinding flash of lightning outside that made Alex flinch. A dull thud was heard as the transformer for Casey's grid went out, resulting in darkness only a second later. Casey cursed under her breath and started counting. Just as Alex was about to ask what she was doing, a violent roar of thunder shook the house and he nearly jumped out his chair. There had been thunderstorms in Las Vegas, but they had more gentle thunder.
"Three," she sighed.
"Seconds between the lightning and the thunder. It means the lightning was only three miles away," she answered.
Alex gave her a confused look.
"It's sort of an old wives' tale. The number of seconds between lightning and thunder is the number of miles away it is," she said, standing up, "I've got a generator in the basement, give me a minute and the power will be back."
With that, she went back to the kitchen and rummaged around until she found a flashlight and then went downstairs to the basement. Alex sat back in his chair, poking at his food. He was hungry, but he didn't feel right about eating without her.
Several minutes passed and Alex started to worry. He made his way down to the basement, missing a step and tripping towards the end, but otherwise made it through the darkness just fine. He found her quickly, illuminated by the flashlight on the ground. She sat beside the generator, with her right leg drawn up to her chest and arms wrapped around it.
"Are you okay…?" he asked.
Alex walked carefully towards her; the flashlight illuminated a few things on the ground, but not everything.
"I can't start it," she mumbled, "He never showed me how to."
"Who?" he asked, The guy that sold it to you?
Casey sat up a little straighter, quickly wiping away tears that had begun to streak down her face. Alex glanced at the generator as he sat down beside her. He knew he wouldn't be able to start it either; he had a hell of a time with a fold-out bed.
"…Michael," Casey sighed quietly, "He…he was my husband…"
Casey nodded, then shrugged. Alex had never seen anyone else with her, aside from Jason and Sal.
"Was," she corrected.
He wished he hadn't asked that, he could see it was already taking quite of bit of effort for her not to break down right there. He tried to take back the question, saying she didn't have to answer if she didn't want to. She waved him off and took a deep breath.
"…He committed suicide."
"Right after Emma and I were pronounced dead after the terrorist attack," Casey said.
"Everyone looks so tiny!"
"You're not afraid to be so high up?"
"You're so brave," Casey said with a laugh and a wink.
The two of them stepped off the elevator onto the eighty-sixth floor of the South Tower. Some of the employees working there took notice of Emma, keeping close to her mother's side, while others didn't seem to care. As soon as Emma spotted her grandfather, she let go of Casey's hand and ran towards him.
"Hey, there's my little girl!" he laughed as he scooped her up, "You know, you're my favorite granddaughter, right?"
"Grandpa, I'm your only granddaughter," she giggled.
"And that's why I'm gonna spoil you rotten," he grinned.
"At least not rotten, please?" Casey asked.
Her father grunted and waved a hand at her dismissively. He turned his attention back to Emma and told her to wait there while he went to get her present. Emma bounced around excitedly, asking Casey if she knew what the present was.
Casey rolled her eyes and looked out of the window at the morning sun. While the view was partially obstructed by the North Tower, she still saw a quick flash of metal flying through the air. Then heard a thunderous rumbling, followed by the sight of black clouds beginning to rise from the tower's highest floors. She wasn't the only one in the office to notice it either.
"Momma, what was that? Is there a thunderstorm?"
Emma couldn't see the smoke from where she sat and Casey wanted to keep it that way. But she knew Emma was too smart and too curious for her to simply say 'yes, it was a thunderstorm'. Emma hopped off her chair and started towards the window, just like everyone else on the floor was doing. Casey quickly grabbed her hand and pulled her back.
"No, sweetheart, if you don't wait in your seat, Grandpa won't give you your present," Casey told her.
The girl frowned a little, but believed her. She climbed back into her seat as Casey went to the window instead. As horrified as she was at the sight, she was unable to look away as the smoke blacken and rose higher to the sky. The feeling of someone touching her hand finally tore her attention away from the North Tower.
"Emma, I told you—Oh, Jason?"
"Casey, you need to go," he whispered.
She glanced past him to see many of the employees hurriedly grabbing their things and heading for the elevators. He made sure to keep his voice too low for Emma to hear as he told Casey an evacuation order had been given a few minutes ago and that she had been wasting time staring out of the window. She thanked him and walked over to Emma.
"What's going on?" she asked, seeing the obvious fear and dread in her mother's eyes.
"Grandpa said your present is waiting outside for you. It won't fit in the elevator," Casey lied.
Casey smiled and nodded. She took her daughter by the hand and started off towards the elevator as well. It didn't take more than a couple seconds for Emma to become suspicious of her mother's quickened pace. She stopped and pouted at Casey.
"Momma, are you tricking me cuz you don't want Grandpa to spoil me?"
"No, of course not," Casey brushed Emma's hair back, "Now come on, we—"
Casey's eyes snapped up in the direction of whoever had shouted, then she looked immediately to where they had pointed. Casey snatched Emma up in her arms and darted forward as a plane fin tore through the office space with a deafening roar, sending showers of sparks and debris everywhere; and Casey and Emma to the floor.
"Emma! Emma, are you alright?!" Casey shouted of the roar of fire, "Emma!"
The little girl appeared dazed, maybe even shell-shocked, but otherwise unharmed. Casey picked her up again and searched for a way out. But thick, black smoke prevented her from seeing anything from the glow of the fire and forced her back to the floor. She would have to stay low if she wanted to breathe, but wouldn't be able to move holding Emma like she was. She moved her daughter onto her back, as if she were going to give her a piggy-back ride, all the while yelling that everything was alright. She wasn't sure if Emma could hear her yet, but just saying those things gave Casey her own reassurances.
She saw the emergency exit stairs a several yards away. While it meant she would have to run down eighty-six flights of stairs, if was now their only way down. The plane fin had ripped a massive hole in the floor that she had no chance of jumping to make it to the elevators, if they even still worked. She kept shouting reassurances to Emma as she crawled to the exit door. A few of the tower's sprinklers managed to go off, dowsing some of the smaller fires and keeping the floor just barely cool enough Casey to tolerate, but she could still feel the heat of the raging fires on the floors beneath her and knew it wouldn't be long before they swallowed this floor as well.
She tried to move faster, but found, for some reason, that it was becoming increasingly difficult to do so. The sound of shrieking metal and an ensuing explosion erupted so loud and violently that she was immediately deafened and blinded by the raging fire that swelled through the hole in the floor and crashed against the ceiling. The blistering heat and lack of sprinkles gave her only a second to regain herself.
Casey growled angrily to herself, she didn't understand why it was becoming so hard to move. She pushed herself up, wrapping her arms under Emma's legs and leaning forward so Emma wouldn't fall back. Casey held her breath and started to run for the exit door. Moving was still no easier, in fact, it seemed to be getting rapidly more difficult. Casey's feet slipped against the now burning carpet floor. One glance at the fires springing up around them told her why it was becoming so hard to move.
The flames were tilting towards the walls instead of the ceiling. A new found sense of sheer terror motivated Casey to run faster and against gravity. Metal roared and shrieked again, informing her she could hear once more, then a bright light blinded her for a moment. The morning sun glared into her face as the walls ripped open, almost as if it her taunting her in her efforts. Casey lost her footing again and fell to the tilting floor. She yelped in pain as the heated floor burned her skin and tried to get up.
She felt herself moving, but not in any way she wanted. The floor slid along her body and as it did, she began to feel weightless.
"No, no, no, no, NO!" she screamed at the top of her lungs.
Her protesting did nothing; the floor continued to tilt then began to move away from her. Casey quickly twisted around to hold Emma to her chest and wrapped her body around the little girl as tightly as she could. The morning sun that had taunted her moments ago vanished under a new veil of ashy smoke and sparks. Then it glared at her upside down for no more than a fraction of second. Casey shut her eyes and screamed, but was silence by the Towers' own wailing and the roar of the air that rushed past her.
As she fell, she was painfully aware of the metallic sounds of metal beams and sheets of glass that fell with her. Dozens of them collided with her and slashed at her skin as they raced by her. The next sound she heard could be described no other way that what the fires of hell sounded like.
Every millimeter of her being was in complete agony. So much so, that she was well past her pain threshold and felt absolutely none of it. Casey coughed violently, tasting the iron taste of blood in her mouth. Every breath she drew in was ragged and shallow, for a moment she thought that it was because of Emma on top of her.
Then she realized her daughter was not on top of her.
She panicked and tried to get up, but found herself immobilized. Not a single muscle in her body allowed her to get up; nor did the rebar sticking through her chest. Casey raised a shaking, bloodied hand and tentatively touched the still hot metal stained the darkest crimson color. She wanted to do something, anything. The only thing she could do was let warm tears fall from her eyes and wash away the tiniest amount of blood, soot, and ash caked on her face.
Casey looked desperately to the right and saw Emma lying face down just a few feet away. Despite being in nothing short of pure hell, Casey felt an incredible wave of relief wash over her.
"I…I'm right…here, Emma," Casey forced herself to say.
"I-i-it…h-h-urts," Emma choked.
"I know it does, baby…I know…can you come to mommy?"
Casey held out her hand to her daughter. The little girl looked at her and cried that she couldn't. Everything hurt too much, she was too afraid.
"B-but you're so brave…remember?" Casey said.
Then she forced herself to wear a false, hollow smile to comfort Emma. Emma's crying quieted to whimpers as she tried to drag herself to Casey. Casey repeated labored words of encouragement to her and waved her hand as best she could to motion her closer. After what felt like hours, Emma finally made it to Casey's side. She curled up in the crook of her arm and shoulder, starting to cry again. Casey hushed her softly and tried to stroke her hair, but quickly found she was incapable of bending her arm to do so. She tried to reach across with her other arm, but the rebar through her chest didn't allow it.
All she could do was speak to her. So that was what she did, though she only spoke to prompt Emma to talk. That way she knew she was still alive. The two laid there for the longest time, simply talking in the haze that showed no sign of day or night. The longer they talked the more hopeful Casey began to feel.
The sound of grinding concrete and shifting ash interrupted them as a large shadow darkened in front of them as something began to fall. Now it was Casey's turn to feel as enraged as the inferno they had been in. Casey gathered all of her strength and threw her left leg up at the shadow. The concrete collided against her foot, crushing her leg back down at an angle she never thought it could reach.
"Fuck you!" she shouted hatefully.
She strained against the concrete, her shallow breaths seething through her teeth, but she was only able to halt its advance. Emma stared at her mother both in horror and awe. She'd never seen her mother so furious or so strong. From that moment on, Emma didn't say a word to her. The only words to escape Casey's mouth were nothing short of the foulest profanities one could ever hear in a life time.
"Can anyone hear me? If you can, just make some kind of noise!"
"O-over here!" Casey shouted.
She coughed up another mouthful of blood. The taste of iron no longer frightened her, but she had quickly grown to resent it. The paramedic stumbled over debris as he made his way to her and Emma. He called for more of his team to come over and move back the concrete wall. It took three men to push the concrete off of Casey and, as soon as it was gone, she screamed in agonizing pain. The absent pressure allowed her feel every millimeter of fractured and broken bones, ripped muscle, and frayed tendon.
One man held her down while another had to inject her with a heavy dose of morphine. In only seconds, she was back to a perfectly numb state; completely disconnected from herself. The first paramedic looked over her, primarily at the rebar in her chest. He said something Casey couldn't hear to another paramedic who then brought over a rather frightening saw. Had she not been sedated, the vibrating metal would have sent her into such a panic she was sure she would've had a heart attack.
Once the rebar was cut free of the concrete chunk it was embedded in, though still in her chest, they picked her up as gently as if she were made of the most delicate glass in the world. Casey saw them lift Emma in much the same way, but they put her on separate stretcher. She tried to object to them, but morphine warped her words into nothing more than low moans of pain.
All Alex could do was stare at Casey.
"They told me Emma was already dead when they found us," Casey said quietly, "They gave me too much morphine when they were cutting the rebar and it killed me. I was dead for two hours, no one knows how I came back. But…that was enough time for the hospital to notify Michael…a-and for him to…"
She choked up, unable to finish her sentence. Alex had no idea what to say or do; all he could do was wrap his arms around her to calm her down. He could feel her trembling violently as she resisted the urge to cry. Maybe he shouldn't have come down to check on her, at least then she wouldn't have told him the story and made herself relive it. But if she could suffer through telling him that, he felt he should be able to do the same and tell her everything Joline did.
While it did little to improve her mood, it did take her mind off her own horrid memories. Now it was Casey who could only stare, there was nothing else she could do except apologize for Joline's actions. Every time she did, Alex mumbled for her to not since it wasn't her fault. And, as much as Alex hated Joline and talking about what she did to him, he had to admit he felt a sense of relief by telling someone.
Author: since there were enough people wanting to know more about Casey, here you guys go. I feel too sick to improve this chapter any more than it is...oh my god, 30 chapters...thanks everyone whose been with the story since it was started :D