Yvonne Traynham was a Florida native living in Port Washington and working at the Kings Point U.S. Merchant Marine Academy on the morning of September 11, 2001. Her husband, Michael Karkowski, who was also interviewed for this oral history project, was on his way to work near the World Trade Center when she witnessed the attack from the roof of the Merchant Marine Academy. In this oral history interview, Ms. Traynham describes witnessing the devastation of the Twin Towers from afar and her worry knowing that her husband may have been nearby during the attack. She also shares memories of her and her husband’s friend Ann, who was killed in the tragedy, and describes her husband’s struggle in the aftermath of 9/11.
“…we could see the Trade Center, the first Trade Center had been hit and we could see that there was a fire. And I got up there, and I went, ‘Oh,’ I said, ‘Mike [her husband] is right across the street from there. I need to go call him.’ …So I tried calling his office, and nobody was answering. And so I, I was still trying to call and somebody came in and said, ‘Well, the second Trade Center has been hit.’ And then we all kind of realized that it wasn’t an accident. So I went back upstairs on the roof…I watched for a little while and then I went back downstairs. I was trying to call him, trying to get anybody in the office, just to make sure everybody was okay. And, and nobody answered the phone…And finally, I got a phone call, and it was, it was my husband. This was quite a while later…But he was very upset, and he told me that he was okay, but he was upset. He kept saying, ‘I was there. I saw the plane. But I’m okay.’ And I said, ‘Mike, where are you?’ and right at that moment, we got cut off.”
“And I…was watching the TV…I was watching actually, ‘cause at this point towards the afternoon, people were starting to walk over the bridges and, you know, you could see the people covered with dust and then just starting to walk. And I was hoping I would see him [her husband, Mike], and…I was trying to look at all these masses of people walking over the bridges and trying to pick out Mike. Then, finally, it was after three in the afternoon…it was quiet all day, and then finally I heard a train…when I heard the first train, I ran outside and waited, and I ran half-way to the station, but then I didn’t want to run and then miss the telephone in case it rang…So I kind of would stand in between where I could still hear the phone and where I could still see down the road as much as possible. Anyway, and then he was, he finally came home after about three o’clock, and I, we both just cried….and he smelled of, of fuel and smoke…”