Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Where were you on Sept. 11, 2001?

I was in NYC on Sept. 11th. As you may know, even though I live in Las Vegas, I still work for a travel agency in NY. At that time, I had an apartment that I shared with another girl from my running team in Astoria, just across the 59th Street bridge from Manhattan, as well as an apartment in LV. That morning started out as a beautiful day- almost like summer only better, no heat or humidity. I went for a run to Astoria Park, just under the Triborough Bridge. As I ran, I was listening to the DJ on my favorite radio station making jokes about how it was 9-1-1, "emergency day". Of course, I got carried away with my running and ended up late for work. When I got off of the subway I glanced at the clock- it was 9:27. (Everytime I took that train again, I looked at that clock and thought of that moment.) I walked up the stairs and out on to the street. For a point of reference, my office is in midtown-51st and Madison, a block from Rockefeller Center and across the street from the back of St Patricks Catherdral-many miles from downtown. As I waited to cross the street, I was standing near one of those carts that sell horrible coffee and cheap bagels in the AM, I heard the announcer on the vendor's radio saying something about a TV station being knocked off of the air. Strange, I thought, that seems like something that would happen in bad weather-not a nice day like this. I quickly put it out of my mind, hurried into my office and really didn't notice the "buzz" that was starting to stir around the office. I got to my desk and grabbed the phone. It was one of my clients, Beverly, was calling from her office in the Chrystler Building to tell me that her boss was canceling her trip later that day. Their building was being evacuated as a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center and it was on fire. She could even see the smoke from her window as she was on the 50th floor. When I got off the phone with her, I went into the lunch room where everyone was gathered around the television. The office takes up an entire floor in the building so there were quite a few people. Many of them had family members or friends working downtown so as we heard the news about the planes being hijacked and saw the first tower fall, most people who lived far from the office (New Jersey or Long Island) decided to leave. I heard that the subways stopped running and how there were thousands of people out on the street walking uptown, I decided to stay in the office until we had an idea of what was going on. I figured indoors on the 3rd floor was safer than outside trying to figure out what was going on outside. Reports were saying their were as many as 8 planes hijacked and as we saw on TV when that 2nd tower fell - there could have been 10 or 20 thousand people killed. Cell phones weren't working and land lines had spotty service--I was getting calls from Nevada and Connecticut, but couldn't get a number across the street. (It was like that for the rest of the week). Around 3pm one of the girls who commuted from Long Island told me that she was meeting some friends and they planned to walk across the 59th St. bridge to Queens and have their husbands drive in and pick them up. I decided to go along with them to Queens. When we got outside we saw that the subways had started running again, so we got on. I don't think anyone even took a breath for the entire ride- it was scary! No one knew what to expect, especially when the train stopped in the tunnel and the lights flickered -this often happens as they wait for the train ahead to move out of the next station. I think this made me nervous for a good year. As I got to my stop and walked back to my apartment I was wondering - almost dreading not finding my roommate there. She worked downtown for some government office, I had no idea where and of course I couldn't phone her so I didn't know where she was. I just assumed the worse. Needless to say I was relieved to find an art project she was working on that hadn't been there when I went out, meaning she had been home since the morning. When she got back to the apartment, we decided to go out and rent a movie. Watching the news was getting more and more depressing. Nothing was open. People were out on the street however most of the stores had closed. I don't remember what I did the rest of the evening- probably just watched more of the news, however the next day, I was back at the office. (My office doesn't close even for national disasters!) It was so quiet-very few people out on the street. Most stores and businesses were closed-those that were open were out of supplies. Imagine NYC without bagels! My co-worker came in hung over and still freaked out-- my boss sent him home a few minutes later. We couldn't do much work as the phones weren't working and the flights were grounded all week. The only client calls a remember were from those who were actually flying and forced to land when this happened. One of our clients spent the week in Omaha! I don't personally know of anyone who lost their life in the WTC however one of my best friends and training partner's daughter worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, the company on the 100th floor that lost nearly all of their employees. Fortunately, she had been married the Saturday before and was on her honeymoon in Hawaii that day. Everyone in her dept., except another fellow who had a dentist appt. that day was killed. Many of them had been partying with us at her wedding just 3 days before. VERY sad. She's since started a charity for children of the victims. AND usually being fired is a bad thing, however not in this case, a fellow from my running club, had lost his job in the WTC just a few weeks before. Oddly, he was on his way back there that day to work on his resume. He was coming out of the subway and saw 2 girls standing in front of him screaming- not so unusual in NY- until he looked up and saw the tower collapse. He turned around and walked back home. It's very difficult to get news when you're in the middle of it. I heard from another friend, that he was helping a woman he met on the street try to escape downtown, when her brother-knowing she was at work, sent her a text saying "RUN! The tower just fell" Where so many people were lost and unaccounted for, many friends and family were holding out hope for weeks and months after that some how they would turn up. Signs were posted on walls and poles, like you'd post for a lost pet--Missing Stock Broker, Lawyer, Account Executive, 34, 22, 40- with a photo of a nice looking dad or son or sister. It was so sad. They even created a wall in Grand Central where they left these posted for months afterward. I think today, especially in the city- even though 6 years have passed it's like it was yesterday. Some things just never leave you. (written 9/2007)

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