by Walter Warkenthien
My father was a person who would make you laugh. Now he makes people sad. He used to talk about a million words a minute. Now a couple of words here and there. He used to love meat. Now he never wants to see red meat again. He used to love going to work. Now he is petrified of what he might see. All because of September 11, 2001. "911"
"Hey, What's up? It's me. Just wanted to let you know a jetliner just crashed into one of the Twin Towers and we're heading over there. We were in Queens and I..." The answer machine cut him off. We thought those were his last words. That was the last time we heard his voice until 5 hours later. During that time, my dad almost died.
My father is in a specialized unit called T.A.R.U. (Technical Assistance Response Unit). They are like the spies of the NYPD. Doing surveillance, covert camera installations, computer and electronic work and aiding in rescue and hostage negotiations with pole cameras and phone tracking devices.
I have never seen so much chaos at school in my whole life. Kids crying, kids who feared a family member's death, kids not knowing what to do, teachers crying.
I didn't even realize my dad was there. It didn't even cross my mind, until I stepped off the bus and saw my aunt and mom at my bus stop. I instantly dropped my backpack right at my bus stop and ran home leaving them in the dust. I picked up the phone and dialed my dad's cell phone. It felt like it rang forever. It just rang into the rubble,, for no one to hear.
My mom and aunt then came in and told me that my dad's partner's mother called. My mom picked up the phone, Pete's mom said, "Is this Michele Warkenthien?" My mom felt a tear colder then ice, stream down her face, chills up and down her spine a million miles an hour at freezing temperatures, her heart no longer beating. Some how she managed to squeak out, "Yes." Pete's mother explained who she was. Then said, "Walter lost his cell phone and couldn't call us. He also said that he is okay." My mom now felt a warm tear stream down her face, there were no longer chills up an down her spine, her heart once again started beating.
We started to watch the news. I then learned what really happened. There were four planes high jacked by Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist group. They high jacked the planes with box cutters. One was driven into the Pentagon, another crashed into the woods of Pennsylvania and the other two driven into the north and south Twin Towers.
We must have gotten a million calls that day and for the next couple of days to come. Finally, we got one phone call we appreciated. Dad said he'd be home in an half nhour.
We all waited on the front porch for him. The story he told was more than we expected.
When my Dad's unit arrived at the scene the second plane had crashed. They were running towards the buildings to investigate and help rescue people. My father was about 200 hundred feet ahead of his team when the South tower began to crumble. He grabbed strangers beside him and ran in the other direction for his life. He saw his team in the distance breaking through a 12ft. barbered wire fence, holding it up for people to run under. He knew he wouldn't make it in time and there was no where else to go. My Dad ran under a car to get away from the falling debris but realized the smoke would kill him anyway. He began running and along with seven other people took shelter inside an unlocked car. There wasn't enough room and the door wouldn't shut. My dad was the last one in, curled up, trying to get his leg in but his foot was stuck. My dad's boss, Lieutenant Armet, grabbed him by his shirt, pulling him to what he thought was safety.
Instead, the car was filling with black smoke suffocating everyone. According to my father, it was like breathing in a dirty vacuum bag with a blanket over your head. He felt like he was waiting to die. He claims it is true; your life really does flash before your eyes. He wanted to get out, but knew there was nowhere to go.
Finally, with the minutes seeming like hours, the air cleared and they stepped out of the car. Thankful to be alive, but sick with what they saw all around and how they felt. His throat was red and raw, his eyes dry, his lungs searching for fresh air. Everyone needed help.
During the scramble my father lost his cell phone and police radio. His unit was calling him and he didn't know and couldn't respond even if he did know. From what he was told afterward, they thought he was dead.
Once he heard his name along with so many others being searched for, he realized the confusion and responded to the other officers. He was checked out at the hospital and had only minor injuries. Luckily for us, he is only gone 20 hours a day until the city is back to normal. Not 24;7.
It's been almost 2 1/2 weeks since the massacre. Right now I am in my den watching my dad assemble a piece to our new refrigerator. If he died that day, our lives would crumble, as did the World Trade Center.