six days at ground zero
sept 13 - 19, 2001
the trip so far...     contact kevin & aimee

 << Back to Day 15, Rhode Is.

Sept 11, 2001
The Pier
The Early Volunteers
Crossing the Hudson
First Sight
The Observation Room
Change of Priorities
The Scariest Night
Avoiding Detection
Selected Stories from GZ
Spirit of New York
More Stories from GZ
The OEM Arrives
The People
Back To The Real World
Thank You, To Everyone

Chronicle Journal, Sept 13
Personal Journal Documents Days Events

Chronicle Journal, Sept 17
Lakehead Grads in on Intense Volunteer Support Effort

NY Daily News, Sept 17
Camping at Ground Zero

Chronicle Journal, Sept 20
Hope, Horror Clearly Visible in New York

The Scariest Night
We were going to get a good sleep. Our man Helpus, a firefighter from out of state (with a very suitable name), let us in on a little secret: the Embassy Suites Hotel had cots set up for the out of towners, not to mention showers. We were going to be sleeping in style that night.

After a brief run in with security on the way over, we arrived at the Embassy safe and sound. There was a television to catch the last of W's address, some snacks laid out and about 20 cots. It wasn't very many compared to the number of people that were still going strong in the rescue mission, so we pulled up a couple of blankets and pillows and laid them down in the next hallway. The rescuers needed a good sleep more than the Gatorade icers did.

Helpus was there already. He had found a couch further up the hallway and was taking off his boots for a good night's rest. We had a look around in the few rooms down the hallway, borrowing Helpus' flashlight. They were still clean as a whistle, with pitchers of water and clean whiteboards, ready for a morning meeting that never happened. We took one of those little 8 oz. bottles of 7up.

We gave him back the flashlight, had a few moments of deep conversation about the weirdness of it all, then curled up on our end of the hallway.

"By the way," he said, "I snore." That was fine, we replied. "No, you don't understand, that's why I'm out here. I didn't want to wake anyone up, because I snore. So if you hear loud noises in the middle of the night, it's just me. You have nothing to fear."

Then he added, "...except terrorists," with a chuckle.

*       *       *       *       *

A stampede of feet woke us from our slumber at four o'clock that morning. We squinted through bleary, sleep-deprived eyes to see three NYPD officers, guns drawn, kicking open doors.

"There's someone in the building!" one officer shouted.

Helpus had heard the sound of a crash in the middle of the night, and woke up to see a door close. He signaled the cop on duty with his flashlight, but she basically gave him a look that said I-ain't-going-in-there-alone, and she went to get backup. These were the three cops who were now searching the building for the intruder.

They searched all the rooms in our short hallway. A few were locked (we knew from our own exploration), but they forced those open. There was no one to be found. They moved quickly on to the next hallway.

We didn't say anything to each other that night, but we both knew how scared the other one was. It's such a different feeling of scared. If the worst scare you ever feel is from a nightmare, or an audit, or to be worried that you don't have the proper ID, be glad. To be at the site of a terrorist attack three days after it happened, and to be woken up by a cop yelling "someone's in the building" is frightening with such a deep seated fear, we hope we never have to feel something like that again. It was a very real fear; I don't think that it had really hit us until that moment where we were and what we were doing. And the potential danger we were in.

A small part of our brains tried to reason certain things out: If a terrorist attack were to happen again, why would they bomb the already flattened lower Manhattan when the White House is still standing? One would think we were theoretically in the safest building in the country (whether a building was going to remain standing or collapse was another matter). But, as we've heard since leaving Ground Zero, there have been attacks in Israel where a bomb goes off, and a second bomb is set for six hours later, specifically for the rescue workers. It's a scary, sick thought.

*       *       *       *       *

On a good note, we spotted Helpus the next morning, back on the job. They had found the culprits, a couple of young EMS kids who thought it would be cool to smash stuff. They had been found down the way, cuffed, arrested, and removed from the site.

Current Location
Embassy Suites Hotel

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© 2001. Kevin Beimers and Aimee Lingman.