It was clear that we were not going back to our apartment for a while. We had only what we had with us, and luckily our car. Fortunately our car was parked many blocks from our apartment because of how difficult parking is to find in New York City,…so it had been safely out of harms way. My husband and I walked liked zombies, with our daughter in tow to our car. We stopped along the way to call my parents from a pay phone to let them know we were okay (not everyone had a cell phone in those days…we didn’t) We didn’t have much at the moment. We had each other, our car, the clothes we were wearing, a carriage with a plastic bubble, and enough supplies for two diaper changes.
We weren’t the only ones walking like zombies, everyone was. There was a deep state of shock that had set in around this downtown part of Manhattan. We got to our car. We got in, we positioned our daughter safely in her baby car seat, we turned on the ignition, we headed towards my parents on Long Island, about 30 minutes away. We didn’t say much, but we were both thinking…we were thinking among other things, that we had miraculously decided to take a walk right before the blast hit the building, it was the best decision of our lives, but strangely one I had felt driven to make…this was not the first time I had felt overwhelming compelled to make a certain decision, and it wouldn’t be the last. Is this divine intervention? ESP? Good timing? Luck? It’s something though. It may have saved our lives.
We arrived at my parents, they were relieved to see us, the TV was on…the news of our building was on every channel. There they were, the newscasters we saw every night; standing in front of our building…like it was a celebrity…and it was. It was getting dark, and the steam was still thundering out of the pavement, it was being reported that three people had been killed, many injured, cherry pickers had managed earlier to extract the rest of our neighbors from the building. The damage was complete. We could see that all the windows in the building had been blown out, there was mud all over the building, curtains were blowing out of the open holes that used to have windows, the rest of the neighborhood was empty…no hustling, no bustling, no New York City nightlife, no nothing…except Vesuvius, and emergency vehicles…and our cats and our turtle were still inside the building…we hoped they were alive.