Amidst a cloudy and solemn Friday in Lower Manhattan, we remember September 11, 2001. On the seventh anniversary of the attacks, a few members of our team offered their stories from a day that rests so vividly in our minds. Today we reflect on these moments that changed our lives forever.
A difficult day for me and many folks I know. I watched the entire debacle from a rooftop just across the East River and then spent most of the next two days bringing food and water to the firemen downtown. I snuck across Canal Street and didn’t come back for 36 hours.
Somehow I manage to look past the friends I’ll never see again and instead remember how the firemen told the cops to buzz off when they found me helping out and the absolutely amazing and agonizing conversations and shared experiences we had.
The following week, the hard core techno-heads (of which I’m one) gathered at Guernica on Ave B for a fireman’s tribute. Nearly 100 of them showed up and Plasticman and others put on a free show. I’ve never been hotter, happier and sadder all at once.
Growing up in and around Lower Manhattan, I passed the Twin Towers hundreds and hundreds of times. Often I would first glimpse them, dwarfing the NYC skyline, from a car window cruising along the I-78 extension towards the Holland Tunnel entrance. On that road, you could see the entire span of The City, from the Statue of Liberty all the way up past the Empire State building and beyond. The Towers loomed so large, Lady Liberty appeared as just another (much smaller) awed onlooker, pearing skyward towards The Towers beyond.
Once downtown, I would *always* crane my neck way, way back to take in The Towers’ full magnitude. First as a child in the backseat - then as an adolescent in the front seat - finally as an adult in the drivers seat. That last part being the trickiest, since it is a bit of a challenge driving forward while staring a quarter mile into the sky. I can readily recall feeling as though people looked down on my as a tourist gazing at the sights - but I could simply never shake the feeling of awe every single time I saw The Towers. Though I’m a New Yorker - I didn’t really care what those other people thought anyway ;-)
There was a restaurant at the very top of The Towers, Windows on the World. I believe we celebrated my grandmother’s 80th birthday up there back in the late 1980’s. View - incredible. Food, well, eh… However when I returned in the late 90’s to celebrate my anniversary with my girlfriend, the place had new management. View - still incredible. Very good food. I recall the well-known sommelier who cheerfully accepted my contention that our bottle of champagne was “off”, even though she thought it was just fine. I think she knew I was trying to impress. It must have worked. That girlfriend became my wife.
Of course I can’t forgot those elevators. I’ve gone fast in a straight line, I’ve fallen fast (jumping from a plane is all its cracked up to be), but the feeling of rocketing skyward in those elevators was something to behold. And then of course there was The Sway. They say those tall buildings were meant to sway back and forth with the wind. I’m sure they were right, but it didn’t make it feel any less natural - or less scary.
On 9/11, I remember walking north. Walking, walking, walking like a refugee. I had been downtown, very, very close. After one unsuccessful evacuation attempt from my location, I chose to wait several hours before trying to leave downtown. It was snowing - what I don’t know. I lived on East 76th Street at the time - something like 5 miles from The Towers. I walked and walked with Jennifer & Stephanie. I remember the first time I looked back - I had just crossed Houston Street. I couldn’t see The Towers - just smoke. Endless, grey, billowing, thick smoke. I remember the smell - an acrid burning horrible smell. I remember the jets - fighter jets flying overhead. I remember the sadness - for the untold victims, for the city, for our country.
But these days when I reflect on 9/11, I try and think a bit further back - to The Towers I remember as a kid on my drive to see Aunt Phyllis, to a City I love, to another time. So much has happened since that day, but I will always have my memories of The Towers.
I was working on Long Island at the time, and was at an award’s breakfast when about mid-way through one of the executives came in and whispered something to the owner of the company. At that point the owner got up to the podium and announced that a plane had hit one of the towers, but at the time didn’t have anymore details than that.
Needless to say that ended the breakfast. People that had loved ones who worked in the city scrambled for their cell phones so they could check in. I remember one of my friends flying out of the restaurant we were at because his sister worked in one of the towers and he was trying to get ahold of her (thankfully she had chosen to work in a satellite office on Long Island that day).
That day put a lot into perspective.
On the morning of 9/11/2001, I was in the DMV hoping to beat the crowd. But the crowd was already there: a woman with 3 unruly children; a man that was very upset about nobody recognizing how important he was; people trying to get their bureaucratic obligations out of the way before heading off to work; people that seemed to simply want to be around other people; elderly men and women that seemed to keep getting lost in the shuffle; and then there was me–the young fool who was glad he wasn’t any of them.
Part of the horror of 9/11 was the swift break from the monotony. It was just another day in NY; it was just another day of New Yorkers trying to co-mingle with one another, without actually being affected by one another. And, as the voice of a frantic radio DJ boomed through the DMV’s speaker, we became enmeshed. Nobody was unruly; nobody was more important than the other; nobody had to go to work; nobody was lost in the shuffle; I no longer saw myself as different than any of them; and (for a few minutes–before we ventured out into what was now a much different world) we all seemed to want to just be with each other.
It was a different NY.
Each night I go home, I pass Ground Zero. I live only blocks away. I lived only blocks away on the dreadful day. Each time I pass, I am still in awe that something like this happened, blown away at that the loss the so many suffered, and so many watched. I watched!! I stood on my corner 7 blocks and watched the second plane hit the tower. I still see the woman to my right shaking and holding her mouth, mumbling oh my god, oh my god. I recall asking myself why i was just standing there, and ran home to see what was going on. I turned on my tv, and turned on my IM- I realized that there were so many people I knew that could have be in the buildings or that area- I started to panic. Before I could get too crazy my whole apartment started to shake, tower two was falling, and chaos ensued. I had Jon on Im , he was trapped in his office ( of monsterdata) just a few blocks from the towers, I couldn’t use my phone, and smoke and dust were filling my street- I grabbed my three dogs and said “lets go’!!! We ran, we ran fast, stopping to help the walking wounded who were, I’m not sure how to describe it, but lets just say they were moving up hudson street, with blood, tears, and parts of the buildings all over them- it was surreal. As I write this its still surreal.
To those who lost family, friends, or even a piece of your believe in the world, our hearts go out to you- you are not alone- too many of us were there- too many of us have a story.
7 years ago, I was in LA. That morning, a student in my class was telling everyone two planes hit the Twin Towers. “No way! Is he still dreaming? He must be joking”, I was thinking to myself. — It was still early in the morning. Our class started at 9am which was 12pm EST, Twin Towers had collapsed by then. The professor didn’t give any lecture. Instead, we watched TV, the news. We watched how Twin Towers got hit. We were speechless. The whole room was quiet. I really couldn’t believe it and regreted that we didn’t go to Twin Towers at all when we were in NYC. I called my uncle and aunt in Long Island and made sure they were ok. My uncle was standing by to go to Manhatten and help those wounded people if there was any. He told me later it was a scene that no one would ever forget. Oh well who could forget it when dead bodies were digged out from the dust?
When I commuted from Jersey City to office, I passed by Ground Zero every day and felt sad every time I was there. I bet everyone thought about it at least once “what if my family or I was in one of the towers or one of the planes”… It’s really hard to imagine, isn’t it? I know people will never forget 911, or the shock and the grief that day brought to the whole city and the whole world. But we are lucky that we are still alive, our families are intact. Life is so short, let’s pray for people who died in the tragedy, let’s make every day the best day in our lives.
I was walking down Park Avenue from Grand Central about to turn east to the office on 31st. I saw the huge clouds of smoke from the first plane and thought that one of the buildings on the other side of the block must be on fire. I did not realize at the time it was the World Trade Center which was 2 miles away.
The work day never really started. We soon left the office but none of the trains were running North from Grand Central and I was not able to call home, so a friend from the office and I just started walking north. We figured that the Empire State Building was a reasonable target and so was Grand Central, so we walked further north. We did not really know what else to do. Everyone was walking north filling the streets and sidewalks. There were no cars on the streets except an occasional, very loud stream of emergency vehicles. I saw the ladders from my village in Westchester stream by which meant they were calling every service they could to get help.
We walk until we saw a relatively empty pub, then popped inside and sat for a couple of hours and watch in horror as the towers came down. Eventually, I made it home on Metro North. We lost one man from our village who was in the airplane that was brought down by the passengers. He left a daughter behind. Our village erected a memorial down in our local park which has straight line view right down the Hudson to the towers. We watch the smoke from the rubble from a distance for days.
It was a crystal clear fall day and I was home but not by choice. About a month earlier, my company at the time had massive lay-offs and I was one of the lucky ones who lost their jobs. I was lucky because had I not lost my job, I would have been attending an event in the North Tower, which would have started at 9am that morning.
Instead, I had scheduled the air ducts to be cleaned in my New Jersey apartment. My phone rang and it was my dad asking me if I had heard what happened to the World Trade Center. I hadn’t yet turned on the television, as I was more concerned about having a strange man in my apartment than the news, so I was unaware of the events. We stayed on the phone, watched the second plane hit with disbelief and eventually the crumble of both towers.
I quickly hung up with my dad to call my husband and ask about the safety of our many family members and friends that worked in Manhattan. My father-in-law, who worked in the building next to the Trade Center for over 20 years, had a meeting that day, in New Jersey. My sister-in-law, who worked for the same company as her dad, had a doctor’s appointment and also was in New Jersey.
We were among the lucky ones – all of our friends were safe, although some just narrowly escaped. I was glued to the TV for days. I didn’t go out, even to the grocery store. I just kept thinking how fortunate I was to have lost my job one month earlier.
Four years after the attacks, I brought a son into this world on Sept. 11th and now I am able to celebrate a life on this day that we will never forget.
Image Credit: Charles16e on Flickr.com