Today, I walked again, through the park a few blocks from my house. This time I took my digital camera to capture some random nice shots. Unfortunately my camera had other ideas. It was temperamental and I could only snap a few. Time for something new.
In walking through the quiet serenity you can’t help but contrast it with everything that happened 9 years ago today. September 11, 2001. It was Tuesday; I was at work at Exchange Place in Jersey City. My office building was part of a big complex. To get to my building you had to walk along this indoor promenade. On one side were shops – CVS, a bakery, a restaurant, dry cleaners. On the right – it was just a wall of windows looking out over the waterfront. Looking directly across at NYC, the Twin Towers smack in the middle. At night it was gorgeous.
My desk was in the middle of the office nowhere near a window. A coworker’s mother kept calling her with stories about a plane hitting the towers, a few arriving coworkers had actually seen the first hit and saw smoke. We were all going back and forth to the windows on the Executive side of the building, turning on the radio and checking the internet.
There concern, and shock and surprise, of course. But we had no idea what was to come. Reports were coming in from everywhere. After we heard about the 2nd WTC and the other planes we all ran back to the windows. My manager was on his way back – his face, an expression of utter disbelief. He had seen the towers actually fall. When I got to the window it was just a massive cloud of dust and smoke and God knows what else.
Soon after we got word from building management to evacuate. We all trudged downstairs, outside and were just told to walk. Walk up the blocks as far away from the plaza as we could get. We did it, all the while looking back at something we could never have even fathomed; the skyline and everyone’s lives forever changed.
I worked for Morgan Stanley. We had several offices in the towers. We communicated with people over there; people from our building had transferred there. We were scared, panicked, and worried sick – about people we knew, people we didn’t know. Would there be an attack on this side of the river. And we couldn’t believe how two planes could take down the towers. Mind-boggling and inconceivable. Totally unfathomable.
There was/is PATH train station right next to my building. It was the last stop before WTC. It was so just so easy to hop the train and hang in NY for lunch and still make it back to work on time. Everything had stopped. No trains, buses. Just people walking – trying to figure things out – what happened, who did it. Is my family safe? And of course the usual mundane details of life – how am I getting home?
A coworker was able to cram 4 of us in her car and drove us all home. I sat in front of the only news I could find – on cable. Even though I knew they were down I kept switching back to the broadcast channels for any signs for life or “normalcy” – whatever the hell that it was. And I cried. Images of the burning, the collapse played over and over and over.
The next day was full of the same, with bits of more information and commentary and speculation. The firm’s emergency announcement number stated the offices were closed and things would resume on Thursday. When we came back Thursday there were flags everywhere.
The strangest part was walking along the promenade, looking over – and seeing emptiness where two towers once stood. We were still waiting to hear about people we knew personally and for others in general. We tried as best we could to “carry on” in the wake of this new world we had been plunged into.
There were stricter security checks to get in the buildings; there were barricades and cops and dogs outside. Access was restricted. Our world had seemingly turned into a police-state. And we were thankful for it.
Our offices were more crowded than ever. My building was the “Disaster Recovery Site” for the some of the WTC people. If anything happened to their offices, they would relocate to us. The same thing happened with the first WTC bombing in 1993.
The following week the company held a small memorial service in the atrium of the complex. By then we had a rudimentary count of people lost, but we knew the numbers were still to climb.
After the ceremony we got to see a coworker; my former supervisor who transferred over to WTC just months prior. He was scheduled to be one of the planes. Which plane it was should be burned in my memory but it’s not. Just the fact that he was alive, and might not have been is the thing that remains with me.
Nine years and I still can’t imagine the sorrow, heartache and trauma of those that were there, and those that lost people. History is a living thing. Every day we exist in a world changed by what happened that day. Repercussions are still felt and being dealt with. We have brave men and women still fighting to track down and eradicate the cause of this and to protect our freedoms. They need our continued love, support and gratitude for everything they and their families have and are still going through.
Regardless of whether you support the politics involved in war we need to always remember we cannot survive through hate. Hate is what caused this tragedy. In the days, weeks and months after 9/11 we came together. We weren’t black, white, brown, Catholic, Protestant, atheist, Democrat, Libertarian. We were Americans – each of us some way in pain. The coming together is what remains, and should also never be forgotten.