Monday, September 11, 2017

A Time for Reflection—September 11, 2001

Every September 11 since I started blogging I’ve rerun this piece Pop wrote because, thankfully, I have new readers who may not have read it. Although over a decade and a half have past since these terrorist attacks, both Pop and TW can recall the events of that terrifying day as if it was yesterday. Both worked in New York City at the time. It's a long post and I thank anyone who reads it.

A Time for Reflection—September 11, 2001

With all the natural disasters—floods, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, fires in the west, earthquake in Mexico—it's easy to forget that this is the anniversary of an unnatural disaster. An act of war. Planes struck both towers of the World Trade Center in NYC, the Pentagon and one was downed in Shanksville, PA. Over 3000 people were killed. Among them were innocent people at work doing their jobs and first responders from FDNY, NYPD and Port Authority cops. It's easy for those not in the tristate area to focus on what's going on now and consider the events of 9/11 old news.

It's not "old news" for those in 2017 still suffering life-threatening illnesses from breathing the air at Ground Zero or the children living in lower Manhattan who were exposed to chemicals released while the buildings burned. Those children are showing early signs of heart disease risk.

The death toll is still rising from WTC-related illnesses. This year 32 firemen perished from cancers and other illnesses from working the pile. This brings the total to 159 in the 16 years since 343 were lost on September 11, 2001. NYPD has lost 132 additional city cops in addition to the 23 who lost their lived on that day. 37 PA cops also perished. We still grieve as we read those stories in our papers.

What follows are accounts by Pop and one of his co-workers who witnessed the WTC attack and describe that day in vivid detail.

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 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 World Trade Center 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 more vivid 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 evacuate.

People were running to get their things while I—being the grandson of a firefighter—stood transfixed by what was unfolding at that window. The sight of a box of continuous feed computer paper floating out from one of the broken windows and then slowly unraveling as it made it’s way toward the ground just amazed me. 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) 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.

A Time for Reflection—September 11, 2001
Pics TW took 9/11/16. You can click to biggify. The man in the blue shirt lost his son (middle, bottom pic).

After they descended from the building, Pop and some of his co-workers immediately headed uptown to safety. Robert Tonchuk and his group stayed downtown to look for a working phone. These words are taken from Robert's Facebook page, with his permission and without editing although the names have been removed.

I walked up from the State Street subway and ran into D. There was glitter in the air. I said, some promotion for Mac cosmetics or D&G by an outrageous gay ad exec. D said a plane hit the tower. I looked up. Smoke only seen. The plane hit the opposite side of the building so we only saw smoke in the distance.

Upstairs on the 27th floor, facing the towers, we watched and wondered how that could happen. F, V, K, A, M, S, MOC, all of us. L was bursting invoices and didn't know.


A Time for Reflection—September 11, 2001
Then the sound from plane 2 seen flying toward us. Those who were there know the fabulous open floor Thomson had. We saw the plane flying toward us. M on the phone...."what is that noise????"

It flew by our window … our voices silent … it tilted, we saw it's underbelly, and we watched it fly into tower 2 and our building shook from the impact of it hitting that tower. I remember the windows shaking.

I looked around … nobody was moving. We were frozen. I couldn't speak. I tried a few times and then yelled that we need to evacuate; V kicked open the stair doors to sound the alarm.

I could go on, the mad rush to evacuate, pulling Y off the phone and telling her to hang up on our CEO who was in Texas. She wouldn't so I grabbed the phone and did it for her. She was mad but two months later thanked me. I remember for the first time feeling helpless. I swore never will I allow that to happen unless God makes that choice for me.

I won't go in much detail, but we were in front of our building not sure what to do … then the booms of what sounded like bombs … it was Tower Two crashing down … the black ball of ash swooping past the Bull down the block … coming toward us … I remember V saying what is next? where do we go?? I said we cannot go back into One State Street … the buildings didn't seem a safe place to me … so we all grabbed hands and started running thru the dark as it came over us … the ash and blackness hit us, like hot snow, in our face, mouth, nose, eyelashes, but we held each other's hands refusing to let go of anyone until we saw light. I remember stopping and ripping my shirt off, and other men I think did too. We ripped them into little pieces to use as masks and filters so we could breathe thru our mouths since noses were not an option.

We crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and realized the world changed … as did I.

Thanks to those who read/reread the entire post. I hope you found it an inneresting read. This year, TW finally wrote down her thoughts from that day. I'm not going to post them today as this post is long enough. They're on her Facebook page. With enough innerest, I'll post them later this week.

Peace out. Namaste.

A Time for Reflection—September 11, 2001

15 comments:

  1. We have been reading this post every year for a couple of years now. Thank you for sharing this account of that horrid day with us. It is so raw and real, just as that day was for so many. We are grateful that you all remained safe that day. We remember and pray for all those affected.

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  2. Every time I read your 9-11 post, I can only imagine how terrifying it must have been for your humans. 9-11 really upset my human because she used to love New York like a second home. But it's not the place she used to love anymore, so she is starting to find some peace.

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  3. Oh my goodness; these stories! 9/11/01 changed the world. We remember and will not forget.

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  4. It always gives us cold chills but we wouldn't miss reading it CK?

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  5. Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.
    Never Forget
    Annie at ~McGuffy's Reader~

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  6. CK, you KNOW how deeply, deeply I love this post. I wait for it every year. I wish the horrific event had never taken place, but your post remains my favorite. I am so happy you post this every year. It means to much to so many of us. Love you and thank you again for posting this! xoxo

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  7. It's one of the things we'll always remember. Purrs

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  8. I have read your post right through as I have every year since I discovered your blog.
    I will never forget.
    We cannot forget!

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  9. Your Pop's story gives me chills every time I read it. Sadly, it does seem like 9/11 has taken a back seat to everything else going on this year. I still remember that day as though it was yesterday.

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  10. It is such a moving post of a terrifying experience. We need to remember such times as this.

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  11. We appreciate Pop's story of the events that day. We will never forget.....

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  12. I remember your Pop's story. That is so sad that people are still dying of cancers now after all this time. Your last image of you with the twin tower lights is an ideal tribute. XO

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  13. I remember your Pop's story. I read it all the way through every time. It helps keep my own memory fresh so I won't forget the people who lost their lives

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  14. Please definitely post the other story here.

    Wow, on so many levels. I am speechless. So very glad you published this again because I didn't see it before today. Actually, if it wasn't for Brian's Home recommending it to me by email, I would've never seen it at all.. So glad he did!

    This: "I could go on, the mad rush to evacuate, pulling Y off the phone and telling her to hang up on our CEO who was in Texas. She wouldn't so I grabbed the phone and did it for her. She was mad but two months later thanked me." So incredibly frightening, and wow, what a lucky thing.

    Elise from https://kittyclysm.com/

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  15. Hearing personal accounts of what happened that day shakes me to my core. From St Louis, it's more theoretical - more abstract. Horrible, despicable, unforgivable - but at a distance too. I'm embarrassed to admit that. I've been reminded at least twice over the years of my fortune in that respect. The first was in 2005 when I was in treatment with a girl who's fiance (at the time) was a NY police officer. Hearing her tell us about the friends her fiance (and her) lost was sobering. The second incident was at the BlogPaws Conference this year when I met TW. We were standing in line to get in the CWA dinner and I was chatting away with another person about the beauty and fascination of planes. TW mentioned what she and Pop had been through - and I realized my good fortune. I can keep my awe at the beauty of flight - a life long love really - while so many people that day lost it forever. It hit me hard. I didn't and still don't have the words to express what I'm feeling after what TW said. I've told so many people what she said - it affected me so deeply. I'm glad I stopped by to get the full story. I wish I knew how to be of comfort. But there's no comfort when something like this happens. Things will NEVER be the same, no matter the minuscule healing that may occur. THANK YOU for making that day more personal - more relate-able - more real. Thank you for showing me what I take for granted - for reminding me just how lucky I am. Meeting TW is something I'll always cherish - and this is just one reason why. TW, Pop, and CK are such blessings to your readers - your sense of humor - your candor - it's so unique and precious.

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