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The Strange Escape of Cathy Paul
The Morning of September 11
Cathy Paul was on her way to a job interview when the heel of her shoe broke, tossing her to the ground.
The way she felt, she would to lie there until the garbage truck collected her, but passers-byes pulled her to her feet.
Her life was a mess and this was just another nasty twist .
She tried to keep it together as she hobbled back to her apartment. Entering the elevator she began crying in frustration which continued to her floor, into the flat.
She flopped onto a chair,, lit a cigarette to calm her nerves, happy that her miserable husband wasn't home. He didn't allow her to smoke .. he didn't allow her to breathe, to be honest.
She only took four puffs, then went into the bathroom, brushed her teeth, found another pair of shoes, and back out, knowing she was going to be extremely late.
Her plan had been to go to the interview, hopefully get the job, then hurry over to where she was currently employed which was only a block away. Getting a new job would help her get out of this flat, and away from the brutal Dennis, whom she ought never have married.
Having missed her train, Cathy had to wait. She glanced at her watch.
It was now 8:33 AM. Nice.It would take 20 minutes to reach if/when the train came.
It arrived at 8:45 AM.
She boarded, it pulled out of the station.
The train left the last stop before the World Trade Center, where her interview would take place, when it came to a dead stop.
So sunk into her own misery she was the last person to realise that something had
happened, and she was not going to the World Trade Center today, or any other day.
As the day progresses
She joined the throng pouring out of the station, saw the smoke, heard the sounds, and stood stupidly until she was pushed along with the crowd.
Her cell phone rang, she took it from her purse, it was knocked out of her hand. She couldn't stop, having to move with the crowd or be trampled.
The next hours were blank as there was too much happening. Somehow she found herself with a group which was making its way to New Jersey.
She didn't live in New Jersey, knew no one in New Jersey, but it seemed a good place to go.
An older woman who didn't want to be alone, begged her to spend the night.
September 12 - early
Cathy realised, as she drank tea
in Minerva's house, that she was,
at the moment, presumed dead.
Her office was rubble. Everyone
she knew there was dead.
It was too enormous to
consider. She punched the
thought and all its permutations
out of her mind, concentrating on herself.
How long she could stay with her new best friend would not be measured.
She was here,in New Jersey. She could get a job, get a room, and start over.
Sure, it would be hard on those who mourned her.
She imagined her parents, who had disowned her when she married, doing the
big hysteria thing. Dennis, no doubt would be acting as if he'd been the perfect husband.
As she went to 'her room' she peered from the window, seeing what wasn't there any more.
September 12th - later
If she hadn't broken her heel she would have been on the 8:10 train.
She would have been in the World Trade center when the first plane hit.
She would have been high enough to have either died immediately or
in a few moments.
Or jumped to her death.
If she had not set the Interview, but went to work, the collapse of the World Trade Centre was on her office. She was, by all measure, dead.
It began to hit her. She suddenly realised what had happened and became hysterical. Minerva joined her, then realising Cathy couldn't stop, gave her something to help her sleep.
When she woke she felt sick, Minerva focused on her, wanting not to think what had happened.
When questioned, Cathy began to lie. She claimed her name was Shelly Adams, (who had been her best friend in High School, and died in a car accident over a decade ago).
She claimed she lived alone in Brooklyn. Claimed she was an orphan who'd come to New York after her husband had died, five months ago. The only people she knew had died in the attack. She became slavisly grateful to Min for taking her in.
Cathy stayed upstairs in her room while Min's friends came and went downstairs.
She took a full day of retrospection. A full day to go over her life, person by
person,mistake by mistake, and came to decisions.
Eventually, Minerva called her for a meal. She came down. They sat and ate,
and cried, and spoke.
Everything Cathy said to Minerva was a complete or partial lie, but worked.
It worked because much of what she said was part of Shelly's life, not
After talking, they prayed. Never before had Cathy felt closer to another
person than she did to Min.
Cathy (Shelly) and Min discussed the impossibility of going to Manhattan. Of getting on a subway. Right now the mere thought of going to New York terrified.
Cathy said she knew she couldn't impose on Min any more. She that Min needed
her as much as she needed Min. And her hopes were fulfilled. Min virtually
demanded she stay and Cathy agreed.
Cathy decided to get a job, any job in Jersey, Min said she would help her.
Cathy knew she would have to get a new social security card; knew she had a
bit of work to do to make 'Shelly' alive. But she would do it.
Whatever Min saw in her, she wanted it to stay that way. Being with Min was the
first time in her life she didn't feel abused, pressured, or anything but herself.
She didn't know how long this now would last, but having escaped she would never trap herself again.