On September 11, 2001, now known as Patriots Day, I was working at JP Morgan Chase on State Street in New York. Just seven blocks from the World Trade Center. I came up from the subway right after the plane hit the first tower. People were in shock. We thought it was an accident.
Like many, I continued on to my office. No one thought the Tower would fall. Nor that it was terrorism. Not in those early moments.
Getting to the office, the first thing I thought about was my wife. Years before, I had been at the scene of a helicopter crash and she feared I was dead then. When I finally came home she was very upset that I didn’t call her to let her know I survived.
This time I was going to call home! I called with my cell and office phone almost 50 times clicking on and off to finally get a line out, leaving a voice mail that I was OK.
When the second plane hit, New York was stunned.
Two thousand, nine hundred and seventy-seven people died from the 9-11 attacks in New York, the Pentagon outside Washington, DC, and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Another 10,000 were treated for injuries. in the attacks when hijacked planes crashed into the towers, The collapse of the trade center’s iconic Twin Towers produced thick dust clouds, and fires burned for months in the rubble.
By now, all phones were out, and not knowing what to do, I went down into the street. Joining my colleagues and the police, we all began directing and calming people. I even stopped some strangers from going into the subway. A bad move, I thought, if we were being attacked by a foreign agent.
Additionally, the dust was thick, which may have caused some confusion once underground.
It was the fog of war and we all feared the attacks would continue
Attempting to leave the island of Manhattan, I saw the last ferry to NJ and jumped two gates to get on it. My long-dead gym teacher who taught us vaulting came to mind. I could hear his voice say, “Are you now glad I taught you to vault?”
When we got out into the Hudson, and there was some distance between Ground Zero and myself, I clearly saw the chaos and the fires. It was and still is, unbelievable. Watching the Towers fall, the dust rising and the people plummeting to their death. (The Falling Man – An unforgettable story.)
It was something I never expected to see, thinking America was insulated from foreign attack.
Finding my way home
While my home was in Brookly, I ended up in NJ. The bridges were closed but I was finally able to get a train to Elizabeth, where we had a client office. People looked shell shocked on the trains. Everyone covered in dust, looking forlorn, lost, scared.
I shared a hotel room with a colleague. When I got out of the shower I felt better, but then realized I had no change of clothes. So I put my dust and grime infused clothes back on and went downstairs to the gift shop where the young clerk was watching TV.
She heard me come in and said, without taking her eyes off the TV “WOW, do you believe that?”
I said yes I was there. She turned around and saw that I was in need of some clothes, something they really don’t sell in a gift shop. Finding an NJ tourist T-shirt and a bathing suit, following another shower, and a short period of sleep, I heard the bridges were opened.
I took a cab over the bridge to Brooklyn, kissing the ground, then my wife, when I got to my home.
Like many, I suffered from PTSD for days. That day still haunts me. For weeks, when I would look out a skyscraper window I expected to see a plane heading for us! It also brought back memories of being in a building in NYC threatened to be bombed by the FALN in 1975.
We ran down six flights of stairs four different times. Luckily no bombs there.
Life can be too exciting at times.