A/N: the characters are fictional, although there is a firsthand account that there was a man on the one hundred and first or one hundred and second floor of one of the towers whose fate was the same as richard's.
Richard has just signed onto a call scheduled to start at 8:45 when he feels it. A dramatic shift, the ground tilting under him, people screaming.
“Sorry, I have to go,” he mutters into the phone and immediately hangs up, hurrying over to a window. His office is located on the one hundred and first floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, so he only has to look down a couple of floors to see the smoke billowing out of a large hole in the North Tower. Other people, too, crowd near the windows.
“Oh my god. Oh my god,” Richard hears. Others start sobbing, and some, like Richard, are frozen in disbelief and horror. This couldn't have happened. What even was happening? Richard goes back to his phone, calling his wife.
“Oh God, Richard!” his wife is sobbing. “I thought you might have been hit.”
“What's going on, Linda?” Richard asks, his voice surprisingly calm.
“A plane hit the North Tower,” Linda tells him, calming down for an instant before she starts crying again. “Richard, the tower is going to crumble and burn. You're going to die!"
“Where's Nicole? Is she safe?” Richard questions her, trying unsuccessfully to not let his wife's panic affect him.
“She's at school already, she's safe,” Linda manages to say between sobs.
“Linda, I need you to calm down. Breathe in, breathe out,” Richard coaches his wife while following his advice himself. Over the phone, Richard hears his wife's cries fade into occasional hiccups in her breath.
“Honey, please tell Nicole that I love her and I'll miss her, and remember that I love you,” Richard finishes, his heart breaking a little with the knowledge that these will be his last words.
“I-I love you too,” Linda stutters, her voice trembling. Richard hangs up and looks around.
Everything has dissolved into chaos. Some people are sobbing hysterically, others are praying, some are calling their loved ones as well. A few have descended the stairs to meet their fiery ends, and their screams and the screams of others echo through the building. As Richard watches, the flames slowly lick at the stairs, getting closer by the minute. A woman also watches the flames, then, her face wracked with despair, throws herself out the open window. Richard turns away, contemplating his options. Living is impossible now. He can be crushed the death by the inevitable collapse of the tower, he can burn alive, painfully, or he can jump to his death. Richard nears the window and looks down at the streets. He already knows that he isn't going to wait around to be killed. Richard is going to die, but he's going to die on his own terms. So the only choices now are fire or falling. But as Richard gazes down at the firefighters and citizens far below, he catches a glimpse of the current mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani. This gives Richard a surge of confidence, for some reason, and he steps up onto the sill of the window. He looks down a moment more and notices the mayor gazing upward.
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