Where I Was Where I Am.

Posted on | September 11, 2011 | 4 Comments

That time of my life is riddled with holes and smoke. I was nineteen, in my first grownup apartment, in a town where I knew very few. My bedroom was amazing. I had spent all the money I had on new things, a new bed, a new bed frame, a dragon dream catcher on my roof, a new desk, a new computer. My bedroom was something to be proud of– and there was a great window on the wall opposite the door where I had an unspectacular view of the parking lot. But still… it was mine. I had a purple down comforter that I looked forward to every night… and I can still remember the sound it made when it moved with me in it. I woke up late. I had forgotten to set the alarm on my new cellphone and I sat straight up into the filtered, ten am sunlight and I just knew something was strange.

My roommate, who I barely remember, and I had a houseline and a fancy answering machine and I walked down the stairs of my first apartment and saw that we had a few messages. I panicked. Today was supposed to be the first day of my new job at a telemarketing company. I knew it was going to be them, telling me I was fired before I was hired, telling me to go back to bed. I waited a minute– staring at the blinking red light. When I finally pressed it, it was my best friend Amy’s father– sounding tired, sounding scared. He was a big Italian man. He asked me if I had heard from Amy, that something had happened in New York, that a lot of the phone lines weren’t working.

Please call me back.

It was his voice that told me that whatever had happened was big, was scary, was wrong. We didn’t have cable. I sat down in front of our new entertainment center, haphazardly put together by my sister who just wanted to help, and turned on the TV. I could only get a blurry, quiet version of one news station. I could hear what was going on more than I could see. News reporters sounded scared and confused, video was scarce and more confusing. I went upstairs. I turned on my new computer. I waited for the dial up to finish. I tried to go to news websites. Nothing that made any sense. It was a fire. It was a plane crash. It was something else. Nothing was consistent.

I picked up my new cellphone, then. I had always been so proud of Amy. She did exactly what she wanted to do. She escaped what I held onto. She got out. She went to New York, dyed her hair, drank alcohol, lived.

The first five times I called, the lines were busy. There was nothing. My phone downstairs rang… I ran down the stairs of our new apartment and picked it up. It was Amy’s dad. He sounded even more tired, even more scared.

No, I haven’t heard anything. She’s fine, I promise. I’ll call you if I hear anything, will you call me too?

I called my parents. They couldn’t believe it. They loved me.

I don’t remember if it was four hours or ten hours after that. I never brushed my teeth, I never put on clothes,  I never moved from where our new houseline and new answering machine was. I just held onto my new cellphone and called Amy over and over and over again.

All circuits are busy.

I didn’t understand what that meant. My cellphone was new. I can remember how the woman’s recorded voice on my cellphone sounded less and less patient as she told me, ‘all circuits are busy’ over and over again for hours.
I can remember that it was getting dark. Our new kitchen with its windows were less and less bright. The sun was going down outside of our new apartment. I was listening to the exasperated recorded woman’s voice on my cellphone when the houseline rang. I picked it up on the third ring. It was Amy’s dad and he was crying. I didn’t think he would ever cry.

She’s okay. Her building was evacuated. She will call… okay. She’s scared. But she’s okay. She’s okay.

I don’t remember what I said. I remember being embarrassed that I was so overdramatic. Was I being overdramatic? I slid down the wall of our hallway and cried for the first time. I cried for everything. I started to think about how there were a million faces somewhere around me crying just as hard. Even harder. I cried for the recorded woman’s voice.

For Amy’s dad. For someone else’s dad.

I don’t remember much after that. I may have called my new job. They understood and asked me to come in the next day. I ate, I slept.

The next morning I woke up to the filtered morning light from my window with its unspectacular view of the parking lot. I listened to my down comforter. I listened to my new cellphone and its alarm clock. I got dressed, I got in my white car, I drove to my new job. It was like everything was normal again. When I got to my new job, the woman who introduced herself to me was pretty and the boss. She showed me around– a lot of people sitting at desks and talking on phones. We were all given a random list of phone numbers and we would call them and suggest that they buy something. I don’t remember what anymore. I hated talking on phones, I hated calling people I didn’t know but it was a new job and I needed one. She assigned me a desk. I couldn’t make eye contact with anyone. She walked away to bring me a list of numbers and I sat there, waiting, looking ready and excited. She came back and smiled at me. I told her no when she asked if I had any questions and she walked away, telling me to get started and to have fun.

I looked down at my list of numbers.

Manhattan, NY, 212, New York.

I got up. I walked out and went home.

I called Amy.

Comments

4 Responses to “Where I Was Where I Am.”

  1. Jim Ryan
    September 11th, 2011 @ 1:08 pm

    Excellent post.

    I was still living at the beach when I heard about it. My godmother was living up in NYC, but was out of town when it happened. But my friend Mike had just moved there (I don’t remember if you ever met Mike – I brought him to the coffee house from time to time). He was one of my gaming buddies and we were all a bit worried about him until finally a LONG time later we managed to get a hold of him. Turned out he was on the bridge when it happened and ended up sitting there for quite a while.

    I haven’t thought about Amy in a long time – I’d be curious to know how she’s doing these days!

  2. Jeff Sanchez
    September 11th, 2011 @ 1:14 pm

    I worked at a telemarketing company too on 9-11. The customers were giving us updates from around the country. That’s how I found out about the Pentagon. We didn’t start calling again till the next Monday, and we didn’t call the northeast. I made a fantastic “New York City” mix on cassette that I still have.

  3. linda gironda
    September 11th, 2011 @ 6:56 pm

    Thank you for sharing your memories. That was such a sad and scary day for everyone and so hard to be so far away from friends and family. We weren’t able to reach Amy by phone but have never been more grateful for email as we were that day. At 10:49 AM we received an email from Amy – the subject line simply said I’m safe.

  4. Joe Gironda
    September 11th, 2011 @ 7:25 pm

    Dear Bibis,
    Thank you for your beautiful words and thoughts of that horrible day…..as for me, much of my memory was a much a cloud as that terrible black plum of dust and death that cover the city….I was not aware the number of times I called anyone. I spoke to so many people on that morning, some as far away as California. Thank you for being such a wonderful friend to Amy, she is fortunate to have a friend like you….
    jg

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About

Bibis Ellison is a North Carolina based singer/songwriter. She has performed both covers and original music all over the US, Japan and in Mexico.

“Soulful, Spine Tingling. Local favorite” – Wilmington Star News

"2013 Shore Pick" - Wilmington Star News

“2010 - 2012 Performer of the Year” – Encore Magazine

“Perfect” - Southern Gothic Productions

“A Powerhouse Singer” – Triangle Arts and Entertainment



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