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9/11: A Year After / WHO WE ARE NOW

Kate Houlihan Poole

September 11, 2002

Kate Houlihan Poole, 29, works for a financial information company in New York. She was working for another company Sept. 11 at the World Trade Center and was looking forward to her wedding. She was dropping off film at the center's mall level when an airplane struck the north tower. She and her husband will celebrate their anniversary Sept. 22.

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"That morning, I was writing my name on the film envelope when I heard a noise so loud it made me duck.

I looked around and saw a policeman helping a security guard covered in dust and bleeding from his head. The policeman said a plane just hit the tower. I thought he meant something small, like a Cessna. I continued on my way to [the south tower]--through the mall--and was just about to reach the elevator when another security person said, 'I think you should leave the building.' I started to go out one doorway, but they had closed it. That was the side of the building that the plane had hit. So I went back out through the subway, another thing that totally changed the course of my day. There is also an escalator, and if I had gone up, I would have been right in the middle of the World Trade Center. Instead, I came up two blocks away.

I was walking down Church Street toward the World Trade Center, thinking I at least need to find out where everybody from my office is. [When the second building got hit], I ran with everybody else out into the middle of Broadway, and then I went into City Hall Park. That's when I could see that it was the second tower that had gotten hit--the second tower where my office was, on the 58th floor. So now I am a complete mess. By this time, I also realized that my cell phone was not going to work. So I eventually found a pay phone and called my fiance and told him I was OK.

Just north of Union Square, I found a cab that was off duty. I told the driver, I'll pay you 50 bucks to take me to 52nd Street. At this point I was crying again, so he calmed me down and got me Kleenex, and made me sit in the front seat. It was over the course of this cab ride that the two buildings collapsed. We were on Park Avenue, listening to the radio. The driver's name was Eddie. He said he was a Muslim. He told me he was from Pakistan. He said, 'I don't know who is responsible for this, but I bet it has something to do with my people.'

When we got to [my fiance's] building, I tried to pay him. He said, 'No, no, no.'

[Later], I got my film back. A friend saw an article that said the contents of the film lab had been transferred to the Port Authority. I went to claim it and got back a very dusty envelope. I still have it. Those pictures had a very eerie journey. So did I, and so did our country."

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As told to Elizabeth Mehren

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