Why do normal, rational people turn into spittle-flecking, pitchfork-carrying mad villagers when confronted with bicyclists and bike lanes?
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At 11:30 p.m., 12 hours after the explosion, the smell began to reach Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, nine miles away. It was a biting, nasty smell
My family didn't even realize what it was right away. Though I had spent all day glued to several sources of information, it somehow didn't cross my mind that we were in the path of the smoke. We live close to our neighbors, so there are often unusual cooking smells, some less pleasant than others, some based on acquired cultural tastes. I hope no one has yet acquired a taste for the smell of burning World Trade Centers.
We didn't have any ash, and if there were any toxic or biological chemicals in the mix, we may not know for while. Shortly after the smell started, my 11-year- old wheezed for the first time in four months.
My husband had been caught in in the transportation hub of Jamaica, Queens, my middle child was at Stuyvesant High School. Stuyvesant is a few very short blocks north of the World Trade Center; as I told my relatives when they called, the bridge the students use to walk over the west side highway to the school showed up on a lot of the television coverage. My oldest son was home, trying to relax on his first real vacation since he started taking extra classes in summer school to graduate from high school a year early. I was glad he was with me. My daughter was in Mark Twain Junior High, a few miles away from us.
Loud noises made me jump. The sounds of planes overhead - I was confused why we were hearing planes when the air space of the United States was shut down. Until I noticed the sounds were of supersonic military aircraft, patrolling.
I spent most of the afternoon wondering how to get my kids home and feeling helpless. I didn't want to leave the phone. Josh had been evacuated from school and sent on his way north, away from the falling buildings. I think the administration simply wanted to get all the kids as far away as possible -- some students had seen people jumping from the windows.
Joshua wasn't able to call us until he reached a new acquaintance's apartment, 2 1/2 miles north of his school , where someone's parent opened her home to several students she had never met, and told them they could stay as long as they needed to. Thank you, Abby. I still don't know her last name.
Officialdom announced elementary and intermediate students would be able to ride the yellow school buses home, if a parent or authorized person would pick them up at the bus stop. What was not made clear was that the students would only be released to the busses if the school knew in advance that someone would be at the stop. We couldn't get a call through to the school and the school never reached us.
After I waited a half hour at her bus stop, one of the other parents with a cell phone was able to contact Mark Twain and found out our kids were waiting there for us to pick them up. I sent my oldest son to get Diane. I needed to keep trying to find out when the trains would come to Brooklyn and get Josh home.
It took an hour for Diane and Dan to get home. My husband walked in just seconds later, and then we learned the subways were running out of Manhattan, not just within the borough. We called Josh and told him to take any train to Brooklyn he could. Even though we knew it would be a long time we kept watching the train platforms from our windows every time a train came to our stop. An hour later, a "W" train pulled in and out and we saw on the platform, my son. He saw us looking out the window. He waved and started to run home.
I felt small and petty. Other people had true tragedies, other people were rushing to help. My kid made it home safely. It was all I could care about right then.
Leah D. Casner