Today is the 5th anniversary of the events that occurred in New York on September 11th, 2001. Watching CNN’s replay of their footage from that day, thinking back to that day, I wanted to write down my memory of that day and the days afterwards.
I was living in Brooklyn on the edge of Park Slope at the time. I woke up that day around 8:40am or so and remember after taking a shower my cousin Charlie downstairs yelled up to me to get the phone. Amy had called to tell me that something happened downtown at the World Trade Center and that I shouldn’t take the N or R train to get to work as they went beneath the Trade Center. So I thanked her and finished getting ready for the day when my cousin was telling me to come down and watch the television. We were watching CNN I think, or maybe another channel, as I remember we just kept switching between all the news channels to find out information.
A few minutes after I got downstairs the second plane hit. Completely surreal. Charlie and I were both a bit dazed, wondering what the hell was going on. Watching the news, no one knew what was going on. We stayed glued to the television, searching to find out anything, waiting to see what would happen, the news growing more dire as the moments went by…
The first tower fell. Then the second.
I think when those towers fell did it really all sink in. Until then it was just very surreal, but when those towers fell did the situation feel incredibly tragic. News coverage showed the buildings falling, then footage of people screaming and running to escape the debris. The wind that day drew the smoke and debris from the towers towards Brooklyn that day and looking out from our apartment the sky was gray and everything outside was covered with dust, the air filled with smoke. At one point Charlie wanted to know what it was like outside and so we opened the front door and stepped out for just a moment and we immediately came right back in, coughing and our eyes stinging, the air smelling noxious and toxic. The smell of the air is something which I will not forget.
We stayed glued to the news for almost the entire day. It was hard to for phone calls to get through that day, but over the day I remember getting calls to ask if I was alright (thankfully so) and was able to make calls to let family and friends know I was in Brooklyn and was alright.
We heard from Mike and Amy that they were alright and as they were in Midtown, but since all of the subways and bridges were closed, that they were going to be walking back to Brooklyn from Midtown. Charlie and I proceeded to just sit and watch the news for the entire day until Mike, Amy, and a friend of Amy’s who lived in New Jersey and couldn’t get back there all came back to the apartment, sometime in the afternoon.
They told us how crazy it was to make that long walk through the city and over the bridge, the masses of people all just trying to get home. I was glad when they made it back to the apartment as it just felt better to have more company. We all watched the news together until probably 10:00pm that day, all just trying to figure out what was going on and wondering what would happen next.
Wednesday, we all awoke and none of us left the apartment that day, again glued to the television, wondering about the day before, wondering what would happen next.
Thursday would be the first day we left the apartment. I remember we walked down 7th Ave to have brunch. A beautiful day, I remember how strange it felt to walk down such a familiar street and have it feel so unfamiliar and strange. I remember seeing other people and they looking at us and how everyone all had a strange blank look on their faces, as ours must have had as well. I don’t remember now what we did the rest of that day, but I know we had all started to get back to our lives then.
Friday was the first day I went back to work, as well as the first day I went back to Manhattan. I went to work and after a half hour there, the CEO of the company came and got us all for a company meeting. Being that we worked on the 24th floor of 1 Penn Plaza, directly above Penn Station as well as one of the tallest buildings on that side of the city next to the Empire State building, he told us that as a company we should come up with a contingency plan in case of any emergencies as well as gave us all keychain flashlights, which I guess was all one could imagine to come up with at that time. I remember right after the meeting was over, building security came into our offices and told us there was bomb scare for the building and we all had to evacuate, so we all quickly grabbed our stuff and left.
I remember walking with Tim and Will and we decided that if there was anything that was going to happen we might as well get as far away from the building as we could. We walked over from 7th Ave where the building was down to 8th or 10th Ave and up to the 40’s somewhere. After a while, we all decided to not go back to the building and just go home.
Walking around even just that brief time, I remember the city was awfully quiet with the exception of the constant sound of police and fire engine sirens in the distance. The streets were mostly closed off and people were very, very quiet as they walked around that day.
For the following month after 9/11, I remember the city slowly returning to life, not as it once was, but to a new and different life. For a month I remember it would often take twice as long to go to or come from work, as trains were frequently stopped and/or rerouted over suspicious bags, white powder, and/or possibilities of anthrax, amongst other things. I also remember how strange it was to see airplanes in the sky, wondering everytime where they were heading.
I remember the photos posted everywhere, people looking for their loved ones…
As time passed by, life moved on and the city went back into motion. We all told our stories to each other for quite some time, about what those times were like for each of us. Even now when I meet people who were there that day we exchange stories. It’s a part of our history now.