Sept. 11 through the eyes of an NYU undergrad
“You know sometimes when you’re in your house and a big truck will drive by and kinda shake the house? That’s what it felt like,” Asha Veal Brisebois says to her husband, Joseph, in this week’s StoryCorps.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Asha was in her bedroom at New York University’s South Street Seaport dormitory, a five minute walk from the Twin Towers, when she felt her whole room rattle. “And then I felt it again, and our suitemate opened the door and she was like: ‘Something’s going on.’”
Brisebois and her roommates gathered in the living room, turned on the TV and saw what was happening: Two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center. “It was weird. The only reference point that we had was those Denzel Washington movies, or those big Hollywood movies, where it’s like, ‘The terrorists have attacked.’ And no one quite knew what was going on.”
One of Asha’s childhood friends called to see if she was okay. Asha said she was, and asked her friend to call her parents. As soon as she hung up, Asha’s cell phone went dead.
Asha and her roommates started to panic. They lived on the fourteenth floor and someone suggested moving to a lower floor for safety. One of them had friends on the third floor, so they went downstairs. Their friends didn’t answer and so the girls knocked on the door to the apartment next door. Three strangers let them in, and together they watched news reports on TV.
“It was fine…Then it got weird when the Towers started to fall,” Asha said. “We felt it before we saw it on TV – I don’t know if there was a delay - and then the windows would go dark. So it was just kind of: You feel it, you see it on TV, and then the windows go dark... And it happened twice.”
“At one point the RA came and knocked on the door and was like: You have to leave. Everyone’s afraid that all of downtown is going to fall….Everything’s unstable.”
The air outside was dirty and Asha began to worry about her asthma. She asked to borrow a shirt from one of the men whose apartment they were in, so she could breathe into it. She was delayed and lost her friends in the chaos of the evacuation.
She walked for a while and eventually found herself in the school’s gym, where she was reunited with her friends by chance. One of her roommates had Asha’s asthma inhaler in her purse and had insisted on waiting for her outside of their dorm. Asha didn’t see her, but the gesture was still meaningful.
“You have your best friends from college…Those are my friends forever – people that took care of you like family on the worst of worst days…That’s your family. Those are your friends. You stay with each other. You look out for each other.”