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I believed there additional attacks were bombarding the ground above.  The sounds were like the earth’s digestive system was having stomach rumblings.  These weren’t rattles and shakes, they were biblical sounding.   What a way to go.  Stuck in the bowels of Manhattan while the world went to hell in a hand basket.  Then, I thought of the British living in the underground during the raids and I was overcome by a very brief moment of safety and security.  That faded when I recalled a recent trip to London and remembered the depth of the “tube” deep below the surface; we were not in London, this was built be the lowest bidder.  The subway began to fill with smoke and we smelled something like burning rags.  Our outlook was bleak.  The temperature began rising faster.  The smoke started to hurt my throat and eyes. 

 

Scott and I maneuvered ourselves to the second car from the end facing Wall St. Station.  I looked to the other train and thought everyone was gone.  Great, I thought, they were led out, we would be too.  But then I saw a few people sitting low.  They weren’t gone at all.  The temperature was probably rising through the mid-nineties approaching 100F.  The smoke was choking all of us.  I tied my hanky in a makeshift respirator.  Scott used the armhole in his suit coat sleeve.  The woman next to me tore up her slip into one-foot squares.  She handed out sections after dampening each with the water bottle from her lunch bag.  I tightened my hanky over the bridge of my nose and pressed my glasses on top snuggly.  I looked to the other train, people were back in the seats, no one stood.

 

Desperation began to spread amongst the passengers.  Maybe we could last another hour, but that might be a stretch.  I could see a metal ladder bolted to the tunnel wall aside my window.  Could that lead to a manhole in the street, I wondered.  Is that a way out?

 

I began to feel sure I would die in the subway.  I am not a mass transit commuter and this experience was foreign to me.  But this was going to be it, the end, the last chapter, my goose was finally cooked, figuratively and practically.  Looking into the eyes of those around me – there wasn’t a lot of hope to draw from nor was I a font of high spirits.  Scott, having drifted five people away, seemed flushed.  His face was drawn, ashen, his eyes questioning.  He was hyperventilating.  I called him over to an open seat next to me. There he regained control of his breathing.  After a few minutes he stood and mentioned his thought to crash a door and to start walking out.  For me, the situation was equally intolerable, the heat, and the smoke stinging eyes, nose and lungs.  I was feeling crowded and becoming angry that my life would end in the subterranean chambers of the City’s subway.  Quietly, I imagined gasping for whatever final oxygen we could until we were choked off by suffocation

 

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