I have never shared this photo online before...... / by Travis W Keyes

I have never shared this photo before online. I have only shown it to a select few. But as I sit here and contemplate this somber day in history..9/11 I have decided to post it... I was in NYC the day the planes hit the towers. Just like everyone, my first reaction was pure disbelief.. My second reaction was I am a New Yorker..Always have been... always will be..no matter where I am, that is who i am. I knew there was no way I could be asked the question "where were you on that day?” and not answer...”helping”. I didn't know how or what I could do...just that I had to be there. I had on a US Federal Agent shirt that A friend on the job had given me. I walked out onto the street on the upper east side. It was still early in the morning and I saw masses of people walking all in one direction..Uptown. I headed like a salmon against the stream downtown.. A police officer noticed me and stopped me. "are you going down?" he asked.. I nodded my head yes. He told me to wait and flagged down a squad car. He looked at me and said "Jump in, let's go." Now I know at this point he was looking at my shirt and assumed I was an agent. I said thank you and jumped in the car. They never asked me if I was an agent. I remember flying down the streets and noticing it had looked like a concert had just gotten out and everyone was just looking for the exit. We arrived down in tribeca, that was as far down as the squad car could make it . I jumped out and the Officer said your guys are over there. I looked over and saw a small group of Federal agents with Machine guns all suited up. My heart sank in a bit of fear now. I said thank you and started to walk in that direction. I grouped with a couple ems medics and walk with them past the Agents to a makeshift triage center. I thought this is where I will stay and help the Injured as they are received..I waited... and waited. No one was being brought to us. People just stood and waited. Not one injured person in 30 min. I decided to venture further in towards the towers. It got more apocalyptic looking by the block. I walked by a statue of a man sitting on a bench covered in grey ash. I was seeing broken windows and debris. I had grown up and spent my life in NY. I was getting disorient and lost. I could not place the familiar that I always looked for while navigating my way around the streets. I kept looking up for the towers but they were not to be seen. I was standing on heaps of twisted metal and ash. It was then I realized I was were the north tower should be. Was this really happening. I grew up in and around those towers. My stepfather had worked on the 100th floor. It was just so surreal. I wanted to let my brother and mother know I was ok and call them. For some strange reason I was able to complete calls. My mother instinctual knew I would be there helping. My brother said he had gone down to help as well. I told him I was on Church street and he said he was too... I replied “I am looking at all of Church street and I don’t see you anywhere” It was not till later I realized I did not see my brother was because the two buildings had com down and engulfed Church st. I stood on the west side and my brother stood on the east side. We were both down there almost 30 hours and never saw each other. I remember a fireman approaching me and asking if he could borrow my phone...his was not working. “ Hello Mom? Its Johnny...mike... hes gone...hes gone mom...” I stood shocked as he handed me back the phone and thanked me.. He had lost a brother and was thanking me.....He didn’t skip a beat and headed straight back to work. I quickly set out to help these Emergency workers in any way I could. The picture I posted, I did not see till a week after the attack. I was in grand central and had bought US Weekly and stumbled across the picture. A reporter there saw me and must of noticed my reaction because she came right over to ask me about it. We talked for a bit and I showed her the picture. She interviewed me and I remember telling her how amazing all the people in New York were. How strong and resilient. How they pulled together. For a brief time everyone stopped seeing color or social status..They would just look each other in the eye and ask “are you OK?” I remember saying I hope at the very least we remember that..and it does not take a horrific event for us to always treat each other with such compassion and grace. I still struggle with the moments from that day and all I saw. I could not believe that these two massive buildings had come down and not once did I ever see a desk.. a phone..a toilet.. it had all been reduced to metal.. rubble... ash. I remember uncovering a body. It looked like the pictures I saw as a child of the bodies found in Pompeii. He was strangely peaceful.. covered in gray ash. I remember seeing his perfect black eyelashes and eyebrows.. These are just a few of my memories from that day.. A day that has forever affected my life and outlook. My heart goes out to anyone and everyone that lost so dearly on that day. But remember how strong we are together and what we can accomplish together. Now look at the picture.. The man circled is me....

 

Travis W Keyes