White knuckles clutch both arms of my chair, thewindow to Central Park before me becomes anenemy from which I am desperate to escape—suffocating in the paralysis of time’s suspension,when the first plane skims us 100 feet overheadon a death course down 7throcking our 51-floor building on its rollerslifting men on the roof off their feet, whena call breaks shock, “Come, now, the south end!” Approaching the crowd, silence pierces my ears,coworkers are mannequins in a trance— the plane’s hole burns dark clouds onto my eyes.We ride the 47 floors down to 52nd street – readyto walk dozens of miles home, these black backless heels are ridiculous! A taxi offers a rideto the bridge as cars slog in wounded stagger.Summer sun, brilliant blue skyimplore beauty, but there’s no beauty here, no, no beauty at allhorror and darkness set in like a plague.Then, I see themexiting the brownstonehand in handher brown hair loose about her, bouncing as he leans in for a kiss,they do a little side hug,movie screen loversstill in the splendor of before.My nose presses into the taxi window,an urgency rising as I point to show my friend in the cab with me, barely utter “Look”—the glowing couple inoculant on a buoyant stroll.We are trapped within these windowsNo! Stop! Don’t go!is screaming in my head to the coupledisappearing from sight toward fatality.Defeat stings, lingers when we are let out at the bridge to join robotic masses as police hail down a stray empty buscommand “Everyone on now!” Standing in the aisle, searching for hope in eyes of strangers against the drumming hum of theengine — when, the bus stops short in the middleof the 59th Street Bridge and we watch death fallas the south tower collapses into a plume.Strangers’ hand in hand now, streams etch rivers on each face as our hearts’ bond in anguish and collective grief steals language  a w a y.Like children whose cocoon of innocencehas broken without butterflies to touchwe are in the knowing -- history’s trajectory is ravaged with an abyss of loss…incalculable, as timeis to be measured bythe before, and the after, with our noses pressed to the window.

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Dedicated to the memory of all who were lost, first responders and their families on 911.