“Damien?” Liz’s voice in my ear is full of panic.
“It’s okay, baby, I’m here,” I pant as I climb the stairs. “I’m coming to get you.”
“No, Damien, I-“
A loud noise shakes the earth, and people all around me start to scream as the building sways. Instinct kicks in and I shout at the civilians who seem to be frozen in fear. “Get the fuck out of here!”
“Damien,” Liz screams in my ear.
“It’s okay, baby, hold on,” I yell, grabbing a support beam as the windows in the lobby blow inwards. I stare in horror as the South Tower seems to implode and comes tumbling toward the ground, spraying a pile of debris through the shattered windows.
“Oh, my God!” Liz screams, and my thoughts echo her fear. But after the storm comes the calm, and all is still as people slowly get to their feet, covered in dust as they cry helplessly. The entire South Tower is gone, decimated in a fraction of a second, reduced to nothing more than a pile of rubble.
“Are you okay?” I ask Liz, straightening myself and starting up the stairs. It’s slow work as a stampede of civilians come running down, anxious to get the fuck out of here before this tower falls. And it will, I know that now.
“Keets!” I turn as the lieutenant grabs my arm and yanks me forcefully back down the stairs. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“I’m going up,” I answer, wrenching my arm away from him. “I have to get up there. Liz is-“
“I’m afraid that’s a negative,” he says, shaking his head. “Orders are to evacuate the area immediately.”
“Evacuate?” I question, not quite sure I’ve heard him correctly. “You mean, leave these people to die?”
“Keets, now is not the time for your fucking morals. If you stay here, you will die. Do you understand that? This building is going to collapse at any moment.”
“I don’t care!” I yell, starting back up the stairs. “I can’t leave her.”
“Damien,” Liz’s quiet voice comes through the phone. “You need to get out of here.”
“Not a chance,” I answer, out of breath as I climb the stairs in my heavy gear. “What floor are you on right now?”
“101,” she answers. “But Damien, I-“
“No, Liz,” I answer firmly, pressing my back against the wall as a group of people squeeze by me on the stairs. “Don’t you dare ask me to leave you.”
“Babe,” she says quietly. “I’m above the plane.”
I freeze on the balcony of the second floor, my heart thudding in my chest so hard I can hear it. Liz is above the impact zone; no matter how hard I try, there is no way I’ll be able to get to her in time… and she knows it. “Babe.” My voice catches on a strangled cry. “I can’t leave you here. You’ll die.”
“If you stay, we’ll both die.”
I lean against the wall and slump down to the ground, all fight leaving my body. “Then we die together.”
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