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Nine-Eleven by S.E. Schlosser

A true paranormal story collected by folklorist S.E. Schlosser

As a special treat, we decided to take the sunset cruise around lower Manhattan the Sunday before Labor Day. It was a silly thing to do – totally tourist – but sometimes playing tourist is fun, even for someone living and working daily in the shadow of the Big Apple.

We took our cameras – my husband and I – and oooed and ahhhed over Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. We gawked as we went under the huge Brooklyn Bridge and held hands as the sun set in the west, turning lower Manhattan a lovely golden glow. As dusk fell, the lights came on, and that was glorious too.

We were on the East River now, between Brooklyn and lower Manhattan. I sighed happily, gazing at the beautiful glow of the twin towers that made up the bulk of World Trade Center. Then I blinked suddenly in surprise. I saw a large silhouette of what looked like a jet airliner flying toward the North tower. A moment later it intersected with the tower and disappeared. Then a second silhouette – also of a large airplane – appeared from the opposite direction and flew right toward the South tower and vanished. I shook my head in astonishment, and goose bumps rose on my arms and legs. What the heck had I just seen? I rubbed my eyes, but the New York skyline was back to normal. I shivered, and my husband noticed it at once. Turning away from the magnificent glitter of lights, he asked: “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” I said shortly, brushing both question and strange occurrence away. I couldn’t explain it, and didn’t want to think about it.

“Wow, look at that,” my husband cried, pointing up-river. Thrusting away the strange appearance of the two planes by the twin towers, I obediently gazed up-river, and drifted back into tourist mode.

A few days later, I was vacuuming the living room after breakfast when the phone rang. It was my husband. “Turn on the television right now,” he said, knowing I rarely watched TV in the morning. His voice sounded strange. I grab the remote control and switched on the television. Immediately, the screen was filled with a picture of the World Trade Center towers, black smoke billowing up around them.

“Two planes just hit the towers,” my husband’s voice said in the phone I had tucked to my ear, as the newscaster’s voice told me the same thing. Together over the phone, we watched our separate newscasts as rescuers tried to get to the people trapped on the upper floors. And then there was a sudden rumble, and first one, then a second tower collapsed.

All those people inside, I thought in horror, knowing I had just seen hundreds of real people with real lives die in an instant. My stomach roiled, and I sat abruptly down on the couch, horrified beyond even tears, my body shaking. Oh, my God, I prayed, and stopped, not knowing what else to say.

Suddenly, I remembered the vision I had seen Labor Day weekend. The memory brought with it all the chills and goose bumps it had when I saw it. Oh my gosh — had my vision somehow caused this? My body shuddered with fear and reaction. But no — how could it? I’d seen a vision of disaster, what my grandmother called a forerunner. But I still wasn’t prepared for the chaos I saw on the screen in front of me.

This is not your fault, I told myself firmly. Taking up the remote control, I turned up the volume and watched events unfolding in the city. And wondered where the terrible events of today would take us. What day was it, anyway, I wondered abruptly. I glanced suddenly over at the kitchen calendar, and the date burned itself into my mind: It was September 11, 2001.

Another version of this story appears in the expanded edition of Spooky New York.

Author retelling: This is a unique author retelling of this folktale. This version of the story is copyrighted to S.E. Schlosser. See the Permissions page for information on reprints.