I lived on the (way) Upper East Side of Manhattan (York Avenue). I had been laid off from my Senior Designer position in a small graphic design firm in July of that year: a casualty of the dot-com bust. I had decided to take it easy the rest of that summer and once September hit, really push to find a job. I recently returned from a trip to Las Vegas and Southern Utah with my boyfriend (now-husband) John and was ready to hit the streets.
I had been in touch with various recruiters and spoke with one about arranging an interview at the Aon Corporation. Aon was at 2 World Trade Center (the 98th to 105th floors) and I immediately got a funny feeling about it, and although I really didn't want to work in the World Trade Center, beggars couldn't be choosers so I agreed. The recruiter said she'd get back to me. This was the Friday before September 11th.
Something else that sticks in my mind about the days leading up to the attacks was a small fire on September 9th in the trash area of my building. My balcony looked out onto the back of the building and there was smoke and flames shooting out of the dumpsters and the smell of burning trash and rubber. We phoned downstairs to tell our doorman and the maintenance people, then watched as firefighters easily put out the flames. We even spoke with them to find out how the fire started and they seemed rather lighthearted about it, just a simple trash fire started by a stray cigarette butt. Only days later, these firefighters would be called in the line of duty to do the unimaginable.
The morning of Tuesday, September 11th, as many have said, was probably one of the most gorgeous days in New York. Comfortable, warm temperatures and not a cloud in a bright clear blue sky. I spent the morning, as usual, online (using a dial-up connection back then) looking for jobs and reading various websites. Approximately 9am, I get a call from my youngest brother who asked me if I was watching the TV. I asked him, jokingly, "Why? Who died?" His sobering response, "A lot of people". I turned on the TV with dread to one of the most surreal images I have ever seen, flames and smoke shooting from the North Tower. I ran out onto my balcony and I could just see trails of smoke in the south sky even though I was a few miles north. Ran back to the TV just in time to watch the second plane crash into the South Tower. I remember screaming "Oh my G-d!" over and over and then going over who I knew in those buildings. I started calling my family to make sure they were safe. My oldest brother was on vacation. My second brother was at his lower midtown office, and my youngest brother was at his office in Edison, NJ. My parents were home in NJ and were fine. John was working as a disaster recovery specialist in midtown so he was full on in disaster mode and advised me to get money from the ATM as well as food and other provisions. At this point, we didn't know what exactly was going on and what ramifications this would have so it was a good idea to get money and have a fully stocked pantry/fridge. As it was, some banks ATM networks were damaged and ended up being non-operational. I stayed at the television until both towers fell.
The hours passed and I ran around my neighborhood of First & York Avenues and 74th Street, collecting emergency provisions and running into strangers who all had the same stunned look on their face. We all talked to one another about the incredulity of what had happened, who might have been behind it and what would result from it. The subways were stopped and the waves of people walking home from downtown had begun. Some were covered in ash after being caught in the collapse and there was a steady stream of emergency vehicles rushing downtown. I returned home and spoke to my brother Stu. Trains to NJ were stopped so I told him to come up to my apartment and wait it out. He walked about 50 blocks north, stayed for a while and had lunch, but he wanted to try to get home to his family in Central Jersey. My building had about 30 odd floors and when I went up to the roof to look downtown, I could see smoke on the horizon. At this point, the wind was blowing southward and the smoke was going towards Brooklyn. Returning to my apartment, I stayed glued to the TV and watched as 7 World Trade Center fell around 4:00pm in the afternoon.
The next morning, the wind shifted and the smoke started blowing uptown. There was an acrid burning smell in the air. A friend and I walked over to Lenox Hill Hospital and inquired about donating blood. We were sent to another building, but were asked us to come back another week as they had enough at the time. So many people were willing to donate blood, but because so few survivors were being found, blood was not urgently needed. Due to a blood disorder that I have, I wouldn't have been able to donate anyway.
The week went on and much of it was spent in front of the television watching the 24/7 coverage. Business stopped, people walked around with a dazed look in their faces. The one thing that stands out from the aftermath is the camaraderie you felt with your fellow New Yorkers. Strangers talked to one another to share their stories. It was unlike any time I have ever had in my years in the city.
That Saturday, September 16th, John and I took our usual bike ride across Central Park and downtown along the West Side Highway. We were stopped before we reached the Village. There was a wall of news people, vans and equipment from all the major networks around the world and a steady flow of emergency responders heading south. Groups of people congregated along the road to cheer on the firemen, EMTs, police, doctors and other emergency personnel. Signs thanking them were everywhere and there was a steady stream of applause as they passed by. The following photos show the view south towards where the Towers were and the smoke rising above Ground Zero. These were taken before I had access to a digital camera so the prints have faded in just 10 short years.
|News vans lining the West Side Highway next to the bike path looking north|
|People adding yellow ribbons to a fence to remember those missing. Signs hang thanking emergency workers for their Herculean efforts.|
Downtown and the Wall Street area was closed off for weeks. As the streets were cleaned of debris and ash, areas opened up. Towards the end of September, I was at Pearl Paint in the Chinatown area and walked down to see the devastation for myself. The remainder of these photos show the area looking towards Broadway. The pile is clearly visible as are the skeletal remains of the towers. The pile was still smoking weeks later and continued to do so for some time.
Like many people around the world, and especially being a New Yorker, I will never forget that day. The word that so many people used to describe it was "surreal". Incredibly, I didn't lose any relations or friends that day, however, there were many cases where a friend of a friend was lost, or the husband of someone I knew. Stories came out about close calls and how one person escaped the collapse of the towers, or spent hours trying to walk home across the Brooklyn Bridge. Looking back, it's hard to believe what happened that day. It was unimaginable and we will never forget.
The products shown above commemorate the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. They are for sale in my Zazzle shop with the bulk of royalties earned going to a 9/11 charitable foundation.