View Full Version : Remembering September 11, 2001, ten years later (Threads merged)

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UMBS Go Blue
09-11-2011, 10:07 AM
10 years ago today, I was late for work in New York. The 4/5 express train heading downtown had been much slower and hotter than usual, and as soon as it pulled into the Fulton Street station in lower Manhattan, I took off at a very brisk walking pace.

To get to my then-job at the World Financial Center (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Financial_Center) (WFC), I had to walk through the World Trade Center (WTC) complex, either through the underground mall or through the above-ground plaza in between the two towers. I chose the above-ground route because it was a nice way to cool off after the hot subway ride by catching the huge tunnel-effect breeze between the two towers. It was also more direct than going through the underground maze, and because I was already late for work, I continued at a very brisk pace.

I then passed through an entryway to the WTC North Tower and entered a footbridge leading away from it, across West Street towards the WFC. As I made my way across the bridge, a television overhead flashed "8:46am" as I heard the loud roar of an airplane overhead. I then heard and felt a loud boom, tripped over myself a bit as I walked, and began running through the other side of the footbridge into the WFC Winter Garden, as people 30 seconds behind me, on the side of the bridge closer to the WTC, started screaming and running towards me on the WFC side.

The WFC Winter Garden, which has since been restored, is an exquisite glass atrium filled with marble and palm trees. Through it I could see large chunks of debris in the near distance, raining down from above. I tried to process what was happening, thinking that it was simply a collapse of construction scaffolding or, at worse, a collapse of one of the antennas atop the WTC towers. I figured that I should just continue up to work as the WFC building where I worked was shielded from the two WTC towers by another WFC building occupied by American Express and Lehman Brothers.

When I got up to my office on the 16th floor, peoples' phones were already buzzing, and we were trying to look outside and see what was going on. As our view was partially obstructed by the Amex/Lehman building, we did not see the 2nd plane crash into the WTC south tower during this time (although others higher up in our building apparently saw this and were quite traumatized by it), but people's wives started calling frantically to tell us that they had seen this on TV. At this point, my boss remarked that this was a very serious situation and that we needed to evacuate. Apparently everybody else in the building had the same idea as the elevators I had ridden just minutes before were now shut down, and as the whole building shuffled into the emergency stairwells, there was a palpable sense of nervousness and tension in the air.

There was complete chaos when I got outside. Emergency vehicles were streaming into the area, their sirens reverberating everywhere. I looked up at the two blazing WTC towers and tried to pinch myself awake, hoping that I was just asleep in some bad nightmare. Police and firefighters were already trying to shoo the gathered crowds away from the area with little success, and a fighter jet passed by with an ear-splitting roar.

At this point, adrenaline kicked in as I realized that it wasn't going to be a normal day. I decided that I needed to leave Manhattan because if I were to walk all the way home to the Upper East Side, I'd pass an infinite number of potential targets in Midtown along the way. The ferries to New Jersey, right next to the WFC, were already mobbed, so I decided to walk very briskly towards the Staten Island Ferry Terminal at the tip of Manhattan.

I got to the ferry gate inside the terminal at about 10:00am when I heard and felt a loud rumble, like that of the subway running underneath. For a split second, I was afraid that I was in the middle of a nuclear blast and that I would be incinerated alive. The masses of people inside the terminal started screaming, even pushing and shoving, as a light grey smoke started permeating the terminal building. (Later I found out that this was when the WTC South Tower collapsed.) Fortunately, a ferry pulled in that very moment and the ferry gates opened. Everybody tore at the emergency compartments and donned life jackets. Although there was panic and tension in the air, there was also a sense of relief as people knew that they were somewhat safer at that moment on a boat than on land. The ferry soon pulled out and many people began meditating or praying openly, some with rosary beads in hand.

About 20 minutes into the ride, another round of screaming came from the areas of the boat that had a view outside. (This was when the WTC North Tower collapsed.) The captain came on the PA system to say that everything on the boat was all right and that we'd be safe. People began expressing relief as we pulled in to the dock at Staten Island, started putting away our life jackets into neat piles, and gratefully thanked and acknowledged the ferry staff.

As I got off the ferry, I looked back towards Manhattan and saw plumes of smoke from where the WTC towers had stood triumphantly just hours earlier. A piece of my heart literally died right that moment. The greater WTC/WFC complex, and all of Lower Manhattan including Wall Street, was where my career had begun just a year before, and I had many positive memories shared with friends and colleagues there. I couldn't believe that it was all gone.

I gradually snaked my way through Staten Island on whatever buses were in service, thinking that I'd be able to make my way into Brooklyn, and eventually Manhattan, through the Verrazano Bridge. Indeed, I got all the way to the entrance to the bridge, and it was here that I finally heard a news update through someone's car radio. For the rest of the day, I debated the meaning of life with some of the many people gathered there. Why were we spared? If you believed in karma, then why were the innocent people who perished so cruelly and painfully not spared? We couldn't come up with convincing answers, but at the very least it was tremendously helpful to share reassuring wishes and thoughts with complete strangers and to shake and hold their hands.

I finally got back to where I was living then, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, early that evening, and it was later when I broke down after fully processing all that had happened, particularly the fact that because I had been walking briskly that morning, I had passed through the WTC complex and avoided danger by 30 seconds. I later heard that people in the lobby of the WTC buildings at the moment the planes hit had been burned by flames shooting out of the elevator shafts, while others outside had been injured by falling glass and debris.

As many here from New York can attest to, the weeks and months that followed were very stressful. Smoke from the WTC blanketed the city depending on which way the wind blew, while every single phonebooth or lamp post was plastered with "missing" posters and later became makeshift shrines as people taped flowers and candles to them. The anthrax scare came soon thereafter, and from my team's temporary office in Times Square, we could see hazmat crews going into neighboring buildings; there was even a brief, but false, scare in our building, part of which hosted a major publishing firm. The American Airlines plane crash at JFK that fall triggered another round of worried phone calls from relatives and friends hoping that we weren't on that plane.

My firm started moving back into its offices at the WFC around Thanksgiving of that year, despite lingering air quality concerns. We were told that building management had shut off the building's air flow to the outside before the WTC buildings collapsed, and that the building had undergone thorough interior cleaning and air quality testing. On the outside, our building was unscathed by the WTC collapse, but the Amex/Lehman building next door suffered extensive damage. Amex couldn't move back in until a year after the fact. Lehman, meanwhile, never moved back. They started from scratch, taking over the Sheraton Manhattan hotel in Midtown for several months before moving into a brand new skyscraper just north of Times Square that Morgan Stanley sold them because they no longer wanted the bulk of their workforce concentrated in one small area (MS's headquarters are just down the street at 1585 Broadway).

To get to work at the WFC, we now needed to make a huge detour on foot, bus, or taxi around Ground Zero, now an excruciatingly painful, open wound which we could also see glimpses of through our windows. Even the WFC Winter Garden was punctured by huge beams of steel, like splinters on skin. Sometimes, at night, when we'd wait outside for taxis, we'd run back inside because we were freaked out by vividly ghastly, dusty whirlwinds coming out of Ground Zero just a block away. The memorial lights that debuted later were a more calming influence.

Gradually, over the next year or two, things returned to normal. The immediate WFC neighborhood sprang back to life, and the view from our windows changed from masses of deformed steel and debris into that of an open pit and construction site. For me, the fact that I was very busy at work in the months and years that followed helped me cope with daily life in New York and around Ground Zero, so that I wasn't bogged down by worry, anxiety, or negative thoughts.

I've since moved on and don't currently live in the New York area. While I don't think about 9/11 every day, I do live knowing that every day is a good day if I just wake up, that I've been very lucky in many respects, and that I should draw inspiration from the acts of the many heroes of 9/11 - whether the deceased, the emergency responders, or simply everyday people working with others to make their communities better and more civil places.

09-11-2011, 10:21 AM
Hard to believe. :(

Where were you and what were you doing when you found out?

I was here in Dublin and living in the city centre at the time. It was a beautiful Tuesday just like it was in NYC. Mr. allezfred and I had been out to lunch (I was working from home that day) and when we got back to our apartment, I just happened to switch on the TV. I'd been watching a rebroadcast of the VMAs the night before (the awards show had actually taken place a few days earlier. It was the one where Britney Spears danced with the albino snake around her neck. :yikes: ), so the channel that came on was MTV UK/Ireland. There was a ticker at the bottom of the screen that said "A major disaster has occurred in NYC. Please change to a news channel for further information."

I watched the news for the rest of that day. It was all very hard to process. Difficult to believe now that there was a time when the average had no idea who Osama bin Laden or Al-Qaeda were.

People from over 90 countries died in the attacks, including 6 from Ireland. The Irish government declared the following Friday 14 September a National Day of Mourning. I didn't know anybody who died on 9/11, although I had met Fr. Mychal Judge on a trip to NYC as a child.

RIP to all the innocent people who died in the attacks. :(

09-11-2011, 10:28 AM
Thank you for sharing that. It really does make one think about the fragility of life. Thirty seconds saved your life-- and we are glad that you are here among us, V.

John 3 17
09-11-2011, 10:46 AM
UMBS Go Blue:
Wow. I had no idea you were there that day; I've seen your username for years and had no idea. Thank you for sharing such a well-written, thoughtful post. *Chills*



God Bless America.


09-11-2011, 10:57 AM
Hard to believe. :(

Where were you and what were you doing when you found out?

I was working on the Cunard liner QE2 at the time and we were one day into our journey from Southampton to New York. Just a week earlier I had been in New York and had visited the World Trade Center (I'd been to NY many times but had never gotten around to making that trip so on a whim, a friend and I decided to go there.)

Anyway I was in my cabin and doing that nights set list for the ballroom - I was lead vocalist with the QE2 orchestra - and had the news on when all of a sudden this horror started unfolding infront of me. I watched until the second plane went in then quickly dressed and went upstairs to the public rooms where everyone was just gathered around TV screens and watching in abject terror. No one really moved the whole day; the ships activities ground to a halt as passenegrrs and crew watched events unfold.

Most of the passengers were Americans and many had friends or relatives who worked in the trade center and their screams and cries when the towers collapsed is something that still haunts me and is the first thing I remember when anyone mentions 9/11. To compound their agony, we were in the middle of the atlantic so it's not as if you could just hit the phones and try and contact someone. Many had no contact at all either by the ships satellite or email until we made it to the US. :( Also back then you lost all TV signals after a time and we spent the following 2 days with no TV at all. It was so hard on those passengers who feared for friends and loved ones and the whole voyage seemed to take forever.

There was a lot of debate about whether or not to turn back and head for Southampton, but with planes grounded there seemed little chance of the American passengers making it home that way. Also under discussion were terrorist threats to the QE2 and those of us onboard. This was the world's most famous ocean liner at the time. We were trailed by submarines for the rest of our voyage and diverted to Boston.

A bomb scare in Boston harbour meant we were held at sea for a further 6 hours but eventually were given the go ahead to sail in. Almost everyone was on deck and we were greeted by literally thousands of people lining the quayside waving stars and stripes as well as a few union jacks, applauding as we docked. It was one of the most moving scenes I have ever witnessed and one I shall never forget.

RIP to all those who lost their lives 10 years ago. :(

09-11-2011, 11:32 AM
UMBS, I never knew you were so close. Harrowing read, thanks for sharing.

My experience is, I suppose, notable for not being much of an experience at all. I was a senior in college. My 9:15 am Infographics class had been canceled, so like the good college student I was, I slept in. My sister called me around noon and woke me up, and told me everything that happened. The first thought I had was, "We're at war!" Turned on the TV and my computer, and watched the news for about 10 hours straight, thinking that it looked like a movie, not real life. It was so surreal that all I wanted to do was watch everything to understand the reality.

I was a journalism major and worked at the school newspaper, and there was a big fight between the editors and advisers about going to NYC - we were only about a 7 hour drive away, and the students wanted to go and report. Eventually the advisers allowed a few editors and a photographer to go to NYC a week later.

At the time, I also remember feeling a very big shift in "the mood of the world". We went from the very heady 90s, a promising and bright future, to this horror. It almost felt like an alternate universe that wasn't supposed to happen. Suddenly everyone was scared, threats were extremely real, it was a jolt to the system.

09-11-2011, 11:42 AM
Very sobering stories. Thank you all for sharing them.

I have a cousin who had just begun a new job near the WTC on 9/10. Her building was evacuated due to the smoke & falling debris. She & her coworkers were taken to a hospital for evaluation. She came home to Southern NJ for a few days, and returned to her apartment after a few weeks, due to all the smoke, etc.

I was in school covering the homeroom period for a 4th grade class. The phone rang shortly after 8:46. Another teacher told me the news that she had just heard. I was shocked, but had to keep a brave face in front of the kids. Later that morning there was early dismissal as teachers and students scrambled to call home to let their parents know that something awful had happened in our country. When I got home, the first person I called was the my cousin's mother, who was frantically waiting to hear from her daughter. They finally made phone contact later in the day.

RIP to all the victims of that day. My thoughts and prayers are with all the families who suffered such irreplaceable losses that day. May they have the strength to continue to carry on.

09-11-2011, 11:57 AM
Thank you for sharing your stories, UMBS Go Blue and floskate.

I was living in Providence, Rhode Island, ten years ago. I was in school during the attacks. Although I wasn't anywhere near New York, I remember being really scared.

RIP to all the victims of the attacks and my heart is with all those who lost a family member or a friend.

John 3 17
09-11-2011, 01:28 PM
Hard to believe. :(

Where were you and what were you doing when you found out?

I'm in the Central time zone (an hour behind NY) so I was asleep in bed. My mom was awake before me and started yelling and crying. That's how I woke up that morning. I yelled "What's the matter?" and she answered "America's been attacked!" I turned the tv on in my room, thinking, "I'll see what it is and go back to bed." I quickly saw that three planes had been flown into the WTC and the Pentagon by terrorists. Then, I learned that news of a fourth plane (what would turn out to be Flight 93, of course) was "missing" and that's when I started crying realizing that this may not be over yet.

We live near Chicago and my dad worked at O'Hare back then. My mom and I didn't want him to go to work, but he insisted. I was so worried that Chicago might be a target and worried about my dad insisting on going to the airport. My older sister came to our house and stayed all day while we watched the news non-stop and tried to explain what had happened to my two nephews (they were 9 and 5 at the time). Prayed all day, too. Watched President Bush give his address from the WH because he wanted to show the country that he was not afraid to be in the capital & his famous bullhorn speech, "they'll hear from all of us soon". I remember the congressmen and senators all gathering on the Capitol steps to sing "God Bless America" together. It was beautiful.

I remember the silence of no airplanes overhead for weeks while all flights were grounded. Eery. I remember being happy and nervous when they were heard flying again.

A few weeks later, we heard a sonic boom caused by fighter jets escorting a plane that had an "unruly" passenger onboard.

Eventually the story of the heroes of Flight 93 came to be known. Their heroism was one bright spot in those dark, dark days. I am still in awe of them when I hear their story all this time later.

Here's one of the songs that always plays in my head on the anniversaries:

Alan Jackson's "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tq8PBdR3pg4)


09-11-2011, 01:35 PM
Irish TV has just started their broadcast of the memorial ceremony.

09-11-2011, 01:49 PM
I'm getting the WTC Memorial live her, as well as a review on the Dicsovery Channel and an investigative review (which I find inappropriate today) on National Geographic, who will also interview George W. Bush next.

Such a tragedy. There really are no words.

09-11-2011, 01:54 PM
Hearing "The Minstrel Boy" being played as the second piece of music really brings it home the involvement of Americans of Irish descent in the rescue efforts on the day. :(

09-11-2011, 01:56 PM
Hearing the names read out is so heart breaking.

One of my friends went to the memorial in Sydney. :( This was really felt so world wide - almost 400 foreigners killed, more than 50 nationalities, including 10 Australians.


09-11-2011, 01:59 PM
We're getting pictures from the commemoration ceremony in Dublin. President McAleese making a wonderful speech. May love triumph indeed.

09-11-2011, 02:05 PM
The Brooklyn Youth Chorus' rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" brought tears to my eyes - such beauty and purity amidst the destruction and tragedy at Ground Zero ... :fragile: