I don’t think I ever wrote about my remembrances of 9/11/01. For years I was obsessed with talking to people who saw it all happen. I wanted details – smells, dead bodies, airplane parts. You see, although I worked just blocks away from the World Trade Center, that day I had a doctor’s appointment and was at home. First I knew about it was my secretary calling me after the first plane hit and asking me what she should do. Leave the building or stay? I put the tv on to see what she was talking about. Just as I put the tv on the second plane hit. I told her to follow the instructions of those in charge.
Listening to the television reporters I felt so alone. They were talking about reports of more planes headed our way. No one knew what was happening, except that the people inside the World Trade Center were dying. I tried to call my family in New Jersey, but couldn’t get a line out. I looked out the window and thought that I was about to die and I wasn’t able to tell my family I loved them. It was a devastating feeling.
My day then consisted of telling friends who lived uptown that I wouldn’t be meeting them as planned. They were mystified – they had no idea of what was happening all the way downtown! That was such a weird thing about the day. So scary for those who were there and those who weren’t had NO IDEA what was going on!!
As it happened, my cousin and her husband were downtown for a tour of Chinatown and got caught up in the hysteria. Since all subway service was shut down, they had to walk uptown to get to Grand Central to get a train home. They stopped at my apartment for a while, and we were glued to the tv. When they left I went outside to walk around and go see the smoke emanating from the collapsed buildings. I could certainly smell the smoke! I live close enough to have continually smelled that smoke for weeks. Horrible.
The next day I was assigned by my workplace to go to our office that happened to be right next to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner – right where the bodies were being brought. Right next to Bellevue Hospital, where desperate family members hoped to find missing family. Photos of those lost in the disaster were posted all over 1st Avenue – bus stops, fences. So desperate for information.
After that, I was assigned to “The Pier”. It was where the City Emergency Management program was working. All the city agencies had representatives and you could go beg your colleagues for help with logistical problems to get work done. I worked for Homeless Services and we needed a lot of help with garbage pickup and access for our employees to bring supplies to through to facilities within the zone cut off by the NYPD.
Finally, I was able to go back to my office. Colleagues from offices closer to “Ground Zero”, were stationed in our offices. I heard their stories. Dead bodies of those flung from the planes that hit the WTC strewn around. The tire from one of the planes planted in the street, on the corner. Friends who escaped the debris of the falling buildings by running into local garages.
Then my friends who saw the people jumping from the burning buildings. Sights never to be forgotten. Later, colleagues who were supposed to be IN the WTC at that time, but were delayed for miscellaneous reasons and so missed annihilation.
When I got back to my office, I made the time to go see “Ground Zero”. It was an unbelievable site. Not only the collapsed buildings, but the airplane parts stuck in high floors of office towers. All the stores covered in debris. The people lined up to view the devastation, but with their kids in strollers, laughing and snapping photos. REALLY??
The restaurant on the corner of my office building showcased the “wings” of a flight steward who died in the crash. It was found in a planter outside the restaurant. So much horror.
For years afterward I went to the memorial services at the WTC. Just to see all the people who remembered.
Now, I hardly think about it anymore. Every 9/11 I do. This year for some reason, I am thinking more about it. I have yet to see the museum. I must make arrangements to see it.
I never want to forget the horror of that day. It changed life in NYC forever. And the world.