Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The wrong place, at the right time (New York, Sept 11, 2001 - Part 4)

Sometimes in life, we have to wonder about the choices we make, particularly about the places we go, and the effect it has on our lives. I've wondered many times why I ended up in New York during one of the worst times of its recorded history. After much soul searching, I still don't have an answer. But maybe it ties into your personality - and that, indeed, played a big part in my day. And my potential future.

I woke up early, eager for the day to start after spending the evening with my new found traveling friend, Kamilla. I had showered, dressed, packed up my bag and was pretty much ready to go, when my friend Heike came into the room and casually asked me if I'd like to go for a run with her. She had heard from Jens already about my meeting with this girl, and that I was to meet up with her that morning, but extended the invitation anyway, mentioning that we could be gone and back and that I'd only be a little late.

The next thing I did surprised even me - I thought about it. Here I was, in New York, only a few days into my trip, and I had this outing set up with another traveler (and she was cute! In the world of travel, that I suppose is a bonus) to spend the day exploring around Manhattan before she left for the west coast. It was an absolutely beautiful September morning, crisp and clear of the clouds and rain of only the day before. I was ready to go, map and travel book in hand. So I chose to do what was only natural. I, chose to go for the run with Heike.

Even when we were out running - we had driven to a forested area along side a lake that was just beautiful, I was thinking to myself, why in the world did I make this choice?

We arrived back at the apartment, and soon after the phone rang. I can't remember if I answered or Heike answered, but we knew by the display that it was a long distance call from Winnipeg. My sister from my home town of Winnipeg was on the phone, and I had never heard her sound so happy to hear my voice. She was about to drop a bomb shell of information that set me in shock for the rest of the day. When she said that a plane had just hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center, I actually didn't believe her. Or couldn't - it seemed impossible - someplace that I had just been. Plus, how much impact can an airplane make running into a building? I ran to get Heike to tell her the news, and because they didn't have a tv in their apartment, we had to go up to one of the neighbour's apartments. There we sat in disbelief, watching the towers fall, jaws open, right before our eyes.

Much of the rest of the day seemed to be a blur - I felt safe where I was, but for some reason felt like I should have been there, right at the towers. To what end though? Who in their right mind would want to be there? About 2 years ago, I was reading a collection of travel stories by American authors, and one of the stories was by one author who happened to be only a few blocks away at the time. All his article talked about was how even though he knew the right thing to do was to get as far away from the devastation as possible, he kept finding himself drawn back. And indeed, he did go and help out as much as he could. I realized while reading this, that this is what I felt too, and it was good to see that others felt the same way. I felt like I needed to be there, and it was driving me crazy being so close and not being able to help.

Once my family and friends were assured that I was indeed okay (as my sister said, why would anyone ever think that by chance I'd be at the World Trade Center so early in the morning?) my other issue was Kamilla. We were to have met around 8:45 am at the towers (the first tower I believe was hit at 8:51 am), and possibly go back up to the observation level. I had no idea where she was. I had her cell number, but could not get through no matter how many times I tried.

The day continued on. I have to note here that I will always be thankful, for the rest of my wonderful life, what running has brought to me. I've been running (mostly on, sometimes off) since I was in grade 6. On this particular day, in such a strange way, it played a big part of my life. I'm drawn to people who love the same things as I do, and on that day and being around Heike and her love of running and exercise, taking her up on her offer defined not only my life but potentially my future as well. This, on a day when so many other people in New York, the surrounding area, and in Washington found new definition in theirs, unfortunately by such massive loss of life.


Liesa said...

I am so looking forward to reading your next entry!!

Andrea Tetrault said...

God Evan. This is such an amazing story and I can only imagine how hard it is to tell. But I have to ask about the girl, Kamilla. What happened to her?

Anonymous said...

8:46am *

Evan Kuz said...

Anonymous, I appreciate your note on the actual time. In the days/weeks/months to follow, I didn't follow the media at all, so I was never up on the specific details. It wasn't until 6 months later that I actually watched recorded footage of that day (and it didn't seem real).