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Sept. 11 — The Day Oxford Attorney Edmondson's World Went Up in Smoke

Gray, Charles and Mason.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Gray Edmondson had a choice.
Stop running toward the southernmost tip of Manhattan Island and allow the billowing dark smoke rolling rapidly from the site of the crumbling Twin Tower to engulf him — or jump into the sea.
Edmondson, an Oxford tax attorney, who was attending a post graduate tax law program at NYU in September 2001, chose to hold his breath and wait for whatever God had planned for him
“Turns out it was not smoke, but ash,” Edmondson said. “Smoke inhalation would have surely killed me and the hundreds of people scrambling to get away from the Trade Center. But the dark ash that seemed to descend over the entire area was more of a nuisance. It was surreal — as if the world was coming to an end.”
For the U.S., average citizens like Edmondson who witnessed the atrocity, and the rest of the planet — the world, as everyone had known it to that point, had changed forever.
“When the first plane hit I was in my apartment,” Edmondson said. “I was watching CNBC and they announced a plane had hit one of the Trade Center towers. I called my wife to turn on the TV and went uptown a couple of blocks to the scene. As I was talking to another bystander, the other plane hit and we looked up to see a massive explosion and fire. We felt and heard the impact.”
Edmondson says, as he was watching both towers burn he thought to himself, ‘Thank God they were constructed to withstand fire.’ At that point, one of the towers disintegrated before his eyes. “What seemed like thousands of people suddenly started running toward Battery Park on the Southern tip of Manhattan where folks look out at the Statue of Liberty,” he recalled. “We were trying to outrun the smoke, but there was no hope to get away. After I realized it wasn’t smoke, but ash, I tried to get my bearings, but could only see 10-20 yards in front of me.”
Amid the artificial darkness and screams of panicked witnesses, Edmondson’s worst nightmare suddenly got even scarier. “We heard — but could not see — more airplanes screaming above our heads,” he recalled. “At that point, people really panicked thinking that we were under another attack.”
Realizing that he wouldn’t be allowed to get back to his apartment with security personnel gradually moving the crowds back to a secured perimeter, Edmondson jumped on a bus. He didn’t have a cell phone (remember, in 2001 only a few people had cell phones) so he couldn’t call his frantic wife back in Biloxi, Miss. Macey was busy planning their wedding back in their home state and hadn’t seen her husband-to-be since August. With only the clothes on his back, the young attorney realized his only means of transportation was heading non-stop to Queens.
“I didn’t know Queens from the moon, and luckily followed two screaming girls off the bus when they badgered the driver into finally letting them off near the Brooklyn Bridge,” Edmondson said.
Realizing a friend lived nearby, Edmodson finally found a place to stay. He and other friends hunkered down in a small apartment for days of watching CNN, living on pizza and making relieved calls to grateful friends, family  and loved ones.
“When I finally reached my wife Macy after 3 p.m. on the day of the attack, she was very upset because the last thing I had said to her that morning was ‘I’m going to the Trade Center,'” Edmondson said.
Days later, Edmondson and a friend took back streets and alleyways to Edmondson’ apartment. They avoided  a National Guard picket line in an attempt to recover needed clothes and personal items. The apartment building was locked up, but that’s not what struck Edmondson to his core as he surveyed the eerie scene near Ground Zero.
“I was looking at one of the busiest, most dynamic urban areas in the world — and there was no one moving amid the wreckage, burning paper and abandoned cell phones and fruit stands, accept for military personnel. I watched a lone tank roll by and thought ‘How could have this happened in this place?’ It was like a scene out of an apocalyptic movie.”
Today Gray Edmonson is a successful attorney for the Barnes Law Firm in Oxford. His wife, Macey Edmondson, is assistant dean of student affairs at the University of Mississippi Law School. They have two boys, Charles, age 6 and Mason, age 5. Gray’s mother and stepfather, Babs and Russell Blair, are sales managers at HottyToddy.com/Experience Oxford.
Andy Knef is Editor of HottyToddy.com. You can contact Andy about this story at Andy.Knef@HottyToddy.com

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