I am visiting Chicago. The plan is to rendezvous with my sister (who lives there) at a museum or restaurant or some other attraction.
At first I am driving a car: cramped, one-lane, one-way city streets. I am crossing an intersection, and just as I reach the far side traffic is stopped up ahead. After some confusion it comes out that a cop has been stabbed and killed on this block, and traffic is stopped completely for the crime scene. Some hardened city type ahead of me curses angrily at the news (because he is inconvenienced) as he turns to find another way.
I am able to back up a bit and turn into the cross street. Still holding a mental map of the grid in my mind, I am confident I can re-route myself.
Now I am on a bicycle, still in the city heading to meet my sister. I am stopped at another intersection, waiting for the light to change with a group of pedestrians. A group of teenage boys asks me where I got the bicycle, and we start talking. They ask if I’m from here and I say, “No, I’m in from Baltimore.” I ask about them and they’re tourists, too. San Diego or something.
Now I am driving again, and giving the boys a ride since we’re heading in the same direction. The streets have become a little more suburban now — reminds me of Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn. We’re stopped at another intersection, waiting for the light to change. It is a clear, sunny day.
Suddenly we see a plane overhead, coming in low. Its tail is on fire. We see orange flames and thick black smoke trailing behind it. It passes overhead on the left, attempting to land at the airport nearby, but overshoots and pulls up. Circling back around for another try, it is again coming towards us on the left, but it is beginning to lose control. We watch in anxious horror as it falls lower and lower. It is coming almost right at us!
The plane slams into the ground just behind us and to the left. If it had hit any further in front of us we’d have been fried. The sound is incredible — a roar and then a huge impact and explosion, a blast of hot air and debris. We and the car are unhurt, but smoke is filling the neighborhood. One of the boys starts to roll his window down, but we all yell, “No!” We don’t want the car to fill with toxic fumes from the burning gas. I even make a point of switching the air intake from external to recycled.
We are all in shock. There are clearly no survivors in the plane, and I drive on, continuing on my south/west route through downtown. Stopped at the next light I slump forward in my seat and pant, “Oh God! Oh God!” The horror and intensity of what happened — and how close we were to obliteration — are overwhelming.