The Man in the White Shirt

10:02 a.m.

The Man in the White Shirt staggered through the choking gray cloud. He couldn’t see where he was going. He couldn’t see anything.

He nearly crashed into a light pole that appeared a foot in front of him.

He heard others around him, panting as they ran.

Someone slammed into him from behind and then disappeared into the cloud.

He spun around, disoriented. His eyes stung. He was surrounded by smoke. He couldn’t see five feet ahead. He had no idea which way to run.

He picked a direction and started forward, then bounced off something large and rubbery. He stepped back and realized what it was:  a huge tire attached to an airplane’s landing gear. It had broken off one of the planes and shot through the tower to land all the way out here in the street.

He heard more people running past and followed the sound of their feet.

The Man in the White Shirt ran until the air around him grew brighter. The cloud began to thin. He sprinted for the light, and then he was free, back in the sunshine.

Two fire engines raced past him, sirens blaring. A policeman on the next corner guided the trucks through the crowd, then continued directing the refugees uptown, away from the disaster, to safety.

The Man in the White Shirt stopped to catch his breath. Coughing, chest heaving, he looked back at the devastation he’d just escaped:  one tower continued to burn; smoke and flames still roared from the upper floors.

But where its twin once stood, now there was a hole in the sky.