2001, 9/11, Cantor Fitzgerald, Enrique Iglesias, I can be your hero, Manhattan, New Jersey, New York City, PATH train, Port Authority Trans-Hudson, September 11, Twin Towers, United States, West Side Highway, World Trade Center
September 9, 2001 started off just like any other warm and sunny day. It was, indeed, a beautiful day. I was living just across the river from Manhattan and I would take the PATH train in to the city each morning while I worked at a small architectural design and build business. This morning was like no other as I disembarked from the 23rd Street PATH station and grabbed the cross town bus to my workplace in the artsy Chelsea district. At 8:45, when the first plane hit, I would have been riding on the bus- nothing seemed out of the ordinary-no one seemed to be aware of what had taken place (of course I was always rocking my first generation iPod and immersed myself in my music). By the time I entered our 6th floor shop I immediately noticed my good friend and co-worker standing next to the circular saw table listening intently to a radio. His face was as white as a ghost. He told me that a plane crashed into one of the twin towers and his wife who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald was just getting off of the PATH train as the plane hit and she was already heading back to Brooklyn. I almost let out a giggle as I thought of the boneheaded pilot who hit a friggin skyscraper; not realizing that the plane was jetliner, and surely not realization that lives were lost. Moments later, before I even had a chance to put my bags down, the news came of the second plane hitting the south tower at 9:03am.
That day rolled by as I was simultaneously disconnected and acutely aware of my surroundings. Calls poured in asking if we were all okay; my boss on one line, my co-workers on another, and I on another; my mom, my sisters, my now husband were all so concerned about what was happening, what I was going to do, how would I get home, was it even safe to go home? Did I have enough money? Did I want their credit card numbers in the event that the worst happened? Could they wire me cash because credit cards wouldn’t work? These mundane things we don’t think about unless an emergency hits.
Immediately after the news of the second plane hit the steady wail of sirens flowed into our large windows and I perched from the six floor window and watched the racing parade of firetrucks, ambulances, and police cars travel down 10th Avenue towards the World Trade Center. Going in the opposite direction were business men and women flooding the sidewalks, holding on to their suitcases and bags, walking quickly and quietly uptown in a zombie-like state of trance. Then came barreling down 10th Avenue were the large UPS 18-wheeler refrigerated trucks, presumably to help with the search and recover efforts downtown (to store the bodies found at ground zero!). In the background, NPR played a live moment to moment broadcast of the scene. All the while we just sat there and listened to the radio, the sirens, the sounds of feet, the eerily still, loud noise that filled the air.
At around 9:45 I decided to walk to the West Side Highway to see what I could see. There I took in the sight of the towers standing tall and vulnerable, black smoke billowing out into a cloud above. I stood there wondering how many people died? Were people still in the building? Wondering how the heck to get home?
I must have started walking back to the office just moments before the tower fell. When I got back into the office I heard the news. My good friend, fellow Capricorn, and best boss I ever had also took a walk down to the West Side Highway with some of his artist friends from the area. He returned with the color drained from his face as he relayed to me his emotions about witnessing the second tower collapse. The Twin Towers collapsed. They collapsed?!
Shortly after that I got news that the ferries were operating again and taking people across the river to New Jersey. I gathered my belongings, hugged my co-workers, and set off for a six-hour journey back to my home in Jersey. At the ferry, after waiting for about an hour and a half in a line so quiet it was peaceful, we were crammed onto the boat like cattle. Some looking down, others crying and hugging, others just stating off into the cloud of smoke that now covered downtown. We were shipped to Weehawken, and then loaded up onto a bus and transported to Hoboken, from where we could continue on the PATH train to our Jersey destination. Shell shocked. I think that word suits just fine.
In the coming days and months I watched video of the planes over and over again, I went to ground zero and stood silently as I took in each photo that was posted up on the walls of missing people, of people who died on 9/11. I latched onto the song Hero by Enrique Iglesias and cried every time as I thought about the immense loss, and feeling of community surrounding the victims and the ones they left behind. New York City was changed. The United States of America was a changed nation.
I considered quitting as PTSD developed. A fear of the PATH trains developed. The sight of the national guard stationed at every block made me shake as I couldn’t believe the USA was so vulnerable. When the ban for jetliners to fly over Manhattan was lifted I ran to my office window each time I heard the approaching roar of the engine overhead just to make sure it wasn’t aimed at a building. The sound of fire truck sirens in NYC constantly brought be back to that day, they still do…
I will never forget. I CAN never forget. There is still a place in my heart for those that lost loved ones on 9/11. You are my heroes. God bless you all.