I remember going to the Yankees/Red Sox game the night of 9/10/01. We had an amazing thunderstorm with the rain cascading down the facade of the old stadium and the game was cancelled around 9 pm. On the subway home, we talked about getting to work on time instead of going in late, as we had planned. Yanks/Sox games always last way too long.
I got to the office about 8:47 am that morning and had just turned on my computer to start work. It was a beautiful Tuesday and it was the weekly close. I had signed on and began to open applications when I heard someone say the WTC had been hit by a plane. We thought the plane was a small private plane.
A group of my coworkers and I went to the window to see what was going on. We saw the North Tower ablaze; papers fluttering in the sky like large snowflakes. We also saw objects too heavy to be paper plunging to the earth and didn’t know we were watching people jumping from the building. All you could hear were the sound of sirens from the Fire Department, Police Department and EMS all rushing up Broadway to the disaster. We were all wondering how they would fight this fire.
Another coworker yelled a plane was coming. As she yelled, the entire bank of windows on the 27th floor of 1 State Street turned dark as the plane whizzed so close by you could read all the markings on the bottom. The building shook from the power of the jet engines.
The plane sped toward the tower, although it looked to be happening in slow motion. The explosion that followed was better than anything Hollywood could create. My boss started yelling it was time to get out of the building. He was yelling to get our belonging and get out.
People were running to get their things while I—being the grandson of a fireman—stood transfixed by what was unfolding at that window. It just amazed me that a box of continuous feed computer paper floated out from one of the broken windows and then slowly unraveled as it made it’s way toward the ground. Then I felt the heat from the explosion and I too knew it was time to leave.
27 flights of stairs later, we were standing in Battery Park watching, again not clear as to what we had actually seen. No phones—either land lines or cell—were working so we couldn’t call our loved ones to tell them we were ok.
R and V and some others chose to stay and try to find a phone that worked. My department chose to walk. We wound our way up the East Side of Manhattan looking for safety, being careful to walk along the water and away from the buildings. Somewhere in Chinatown we heard the roar of what sounded at first like another plane and then like a subway train. The South Tower had fallen and what we heard were the floors pancaking. Fortunately, we were far enough from the plume of smoke and dust that we didn’t inhale any of it. We continued to walk until we were in Little Italy when we heard the sound again. This time we turned around in time to watch The North Tower falling. None of us would ever be the same again. None of us will ever forget that moment. It will be hard to forget that 14th Street (about 4 miles from where I work) and somewhere is where civilization started to appear again only there were soldiers directing traffic.
We ended up on 62nd Street and 1st Avenue, ironically near where I had once worked. I thought about that as we walked. We caught our breath, got to see some tv coverage, got something to eat and it was time to move again. The attacks took place before 9:00 am EST and I got home to my two cats sometime after 8:00 pm EST. In between, a friend and I saw 7 WTC also collapse from the attack. We were at 23rd Street and the Hudson River waiting for a rescue boat to take us to Jersey.
I now cherish the extra time I’ve been given and the people I knew then and know now. I’m sorry we all had to go through this, but at the same time it has made us better and stronger.
Everyone after 9/11 wrote and spoke how they never would forget this day but since then it sometimes seems to me people look at what happened as an inconvenience. People from the rest of this country seem to want to forget it was America, not New York City that was attacked.
We all remember our brave soldiers who gave their lives every year on Memorial Day and all our soldiers who are doing and have done their duty on Veterans Day. On this day we need to remember all the innocent who did nothing more than come to work that day or get on a plane to begin a vacation/business trip.
I wish for all of you peace, health and happiness for whatever days we all have left. Please don’t forget as I never will.
|This photo appeared in Vanity Fair. It was taken by Will Nuñez from the same building that Pop works in.|
This is what TW wrote in December 2001:
Nine One One—September 11, 2001—The day CK’s Pop realized he worked in a war zone. No one really expects to look out their office window and see a plane zoom by—within about 20 feet of the window—and slam into another building filled with innocent people. Nobody should have to feel the explosions that rocked his building—five blocks from the World Trade Center—that morning or see people jumping to their death. Far too many people in lower Manhattan had to do those very things that morning. Our lives and attitudes were changed that day but we were luckier than others. What’s 27 flights of stairs, followed by an 80 block walk when two of your neighbors made a trip down 88 flights of smoky stairs, saw co-workers burned over 30% of their bodies, arrived in the WTC plaza as Tower 2 collapsed and lay among the death and destruction of the building they’d worked in. Donald, on a prosthetic leg walked down those 88 flights of stairs and ran for his life through pitch black smoke and ash twice that morning. And me, I just watched from 32nd Street, hoping that the Empire State Building wasn’t the next target. My co-workers held each other and cried as we witnessed the towers pancake down and turn to dust. The worst part was not knowing where CK’s Pop was. If he was caught up in the dust and debris of the crumbling towers. I didn’t hear from him until almost 12 hours later when he finally made it across the river to NJ and called my friend’s house which served as my overnight shelter while the bridges and tunnels were closed. That same friend found out the next day that her neighbor was crushed by a plane’s landing gear as she came up from the subway. Pray for her as she begins the long road to recovery after 6 operations to repair her body.
CK’s Pop’s building was closed for about 10 days until it was considered “safe” and there were enough phone lines to conduct business. We still don’t know how safe the air is down there while the fires continue to burn. After his first visit to the now-sacred ground, I received this e-mail: “Just got back from Ground Zero. The horror of it cannot be described without seeing it. The destruction is massive.”
God bless the victims and the survivors. Let us not forget the sights and sounds of that day or the bravery of the rescue workers—the firemen, policemen, EMS and others—who ran into buildings about to collapse so my neighbors could come home to their children. Say a prayer for the young child who doesn’t yet realize the hatred and evil that exists in the world he’s entered.
The only ones who made out good that day were Autumn and Nicky because they got 2 dinners that night! TW had arranged for a neighbor to feed them and when Pop finally made it home, he fed them too!
9/11 was a terrible day for America. What’s worse is that a day that was supposed to bring us together, has divided us in so many different ways. People spent years arguing over what to build to replace those building and who was going to pay for it. Now the heroes of 9/11 are fighting to get someone to pay their mounting medical bills. The air they were told was safe to breathe at Ground Zero, obviously wasn’t safe, since our first responders are suffering cancers, lung diseases, skin diseases and other medical problems they couldn’t have imagined. They should be given the same care as returning soldiers and war vets because Ground Zero was a war zone. The latest battle tearing us apart is about the plans to build a mosque 2 blocks away from Ground Zero. Even TW and Pop are on different sides on this one. I’d say humans are acting like animals but that would insult us animals.