Hi all -
After the Towers fell, one of my co-workers was visibly upset. Not because he knew anyone who might have been in there, but because no one, including his son, would look at NYC the same way again. I thought of it the same way. I didn't have any connection to the people and I personally did not know anyone who was lost, even though I knew of a bunch of odd circumstances that prevented people, who should have been there, from being there. I had a connection to the City.
So it's been 10 years since the New York skyline changed in a moment. There's a ton of harrowing stories out there and mine isn't one of them, but it is a story none the less. I wrote it down the next day. I found myself looking back at what happened as I saw it when I was there. Yesterday marked the first time I read it since I wrote it.
Many of you might already know this, but here's the gist of my story, mostly from what I wrote down.
Right before leaving for work, I heard on the news that the WTC was on fire, so I was sitting on my window sill on the 32nd floor in Jersey City, open window, watching the event. Taking a few pictures. Then I saw the second plane hit and felt the shock wave of the explosion a few seconds later. After that, somehow I felt I needed to get into the City because Alison (before we were married) was in midtown and I knew they would shut the city down and I should be there with her.
I checked with the PATH operator and the train was still running to 33rd street. I was probably on one of the last trains in.
I got to 33rd street sometime after 10 and there was an enormous crowd in the streets. All of them were looking downtown. I looked as well, but stuck out in the crowd as I turned my back on the action and went over to talk to a friend at Software Etc. There, he told me that there was a third crash at the Pentagon. When I realized that he was telling the truth, it hit me that the situation was only getting more complicated...but I had to get to work. Even he asked why I was going. At this point I was thinking I needed to get to a TV and find out what was happening. My headphones went on, the MD (yes, Mini-disc...iPod came out later) started to play and my walk began with a little Dream Theater accompaniment.
This was the part I'll never forget. The part that will live with me. The part where I wished I brought my camera. I was walking down 33rd street toward 5th Ave, on the north side next to the Empire State. As I rounded the corner onto 5th, the ESB was roped off, which was expected, and the crowd littered the street and east sidewalk. Avoiding the norm again, I walked with my back to the south and crossed the street. I noticed the look of the crowd changed from being concerned to scared. Like from an old Godzilla movie, many pointed their fingers and gasped. So I turned and looked South and saw an unbelievable sight. Looking straight down 5th, there were so little cars you can see all the way downtown. In the distance was a huge billowing cloud of light brown smoke. I was now afraid of what I saw. I knew it was not fire smoke. Maybe a bomb went off and a lot of dust went everywhere. Or maybe...no, it couldn't be...no way. I got across the street and someone on his cell phone was screaming, "It fell! It fell!"
I got to work at Tape House, first my place then a block away where Alison was. Both Towers fell by that point. Since the phones (cell or land lines) weren't working, we had to e-mail Alison's brother in Texas and ask that he call my parents to say we were safe. I didn't even own a cell phone at this time. Alison got me one after this.
After lunch we decided to wait it out at at Alison's friend Diane's house in Chelsea. "We" meaning "me" because the news was irritating me by over dramatizing an already traumatic situation. Looking back, I think it was at this point I stopped watching most network news.
There was a sea of people walking up 3rd Ave toward the 59th street bridge (bridges were the only way off the island at this point). We were walking against the flow to go downtown. The crowd, as large as it was, was very calm and polite. They weren't a bunch of people looking down, minding their own business. They had faces and asked questions. Diane was mentioning how New Yorkers were known to be the meanest people, but in a crisis, they are the tightest nit society there is.
There were several strange sights along the way. One of them was when we reached the Armory (on Lexington and 26th). There were soldiers in full fatigues carrying M-16's. You never see that in the City, and I instantly thought of the movie, "The Siege". Another time I wish I had my camera.
The whole thing hadn't really hit me yet. I really started to become aware of the loss after passing by all the shops. I was getting depressed after seeing all the NYC souvenirs and photos of landmarks...and one of them was now gone. While walking in Chelsea, it was strange to look up and see a smoke cloud and not 2 majestic buildings.
After around 6 that night we were getting the word that the PATH trains were open. We still weren't sure, so I called the front desk of my building, and confirmed it. We had to walk up to 33rd street in order to catch the PATH, but that was fine. The streets were absolutely barren. We could have walked up 6th Ave without any worry of cars. The train was very smooth and orderly. There was a small line, but we waited only 5 min for the train. There, we ran into another friend who just came from Tape House. He was supposed to stay there for a session, but the client never showed. Standing across from me was a man with black shoes, turned white from all the dust. I'm sure he had a story to tell...
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