I grew up in North Jersey, the Towers (and the ESB) were often a landmark when I was traveling. Sometimes, if I lost my bearings, I could find my way based on where I saw them.
In 2001, about 2.3 miles away, I was a naive freshman less than two weeks into the semester at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, and quickly dreading Calculus and Probability 101. Sometime during class we heard the windows shake but thought nothing of it, everything appeared normal.
Leaving the Morton-Pierce-Kidde complex near the Stevens Gatehouse, there was a commotion with people gathering in the Navy parking lot and on the hill leading to Sinatra Drive. At the time I did not hear what happened, I had assumed it was due to an explosion of some sort or another accident. Smoke and flame were billowing from the North Tower. I had figured it would be under control and went about the rest of my Tuesday, heading for breakfast up at Castle Point – there was no point in getting bent out of shape over something I could not control.
I can’t point to why, but i decided to sit and eat facing the Towers to watch what was happening. From the west, with the North tower engulfed, I saw what appeared then to be a green/brown plane flying toward the WTC. I thought it was a US Forestry Service or even National Guard aircraft coming to drop fire-retardant foam or something onto the fire. I saw it go behind the North Tower… and a fireball erupt on the opposite side.
(I can’t remember if this was before or after I witnessed the 2nd strike) In the Navy parking lot, I heard the hysteria and grief of my peers and the faculty reacting to the disaster itself and fearing for the safety of Stevens’ students who had Co-Op jobs in Lower Manhattan and their family and loved ones.
Immersed as I was in the events surrounding NYC, the rest of the day was a blur. News of the other crashes further broke my heart.
The smoke rising from the WTC complex, particularly the satellite/aerial photos, are the most haunting images for me. I detest the stock footage of the crashes, getting nauseated re-watching footage of just recounting that day.
14 Years later, I realize I need to record this though my memory has faded slightly and I find myself just as bewildered. The displays of humanity that day and since give me great pride; however, I am disgusted by the militarism, xenophobia, and rabid patriotism that rushed to fill the void.