I got to work that day in Midtown. I had voted in our primary in Manhattan that morning, so I was getting in by the nick of time.
My company was scheduled to have a boat outting that night. The boat was supposed to leave from North Cove Marina, which is just outside the World Financial Center, which is just across from where the WTC were.
I got to work, and a co-worker, whose cousin was (and still is, thankfully) an EMT called her and said a plane had hit the WTC. I’m thinking it’s a small 2 or 4 person plane at this point. I call my wife, and tell her she needs to turn on the TV, since our internet was down already and the radio stations weren’t saying much. She said ok, and that she’d call back, since the cordless was out of juice and she couldn’t reach the tv from where our other phone is.
She turned on the TV and saw the second plane hit about 2 seconds later.
Speculation started in the office as people showed up. Maybe Laguardia was having problems? Terrorism was the farthest from our minds at that point. As I write this, I think of the line from one of my favorite films: “Never underestimate the power of denial.”
Then we got word: the Pentagon had been hit. Suddenly, we had gone from a weird morning to being in the middle of a bad action film. We all knew at that point, without being told, that the country was under attack. We didn’t know whether to move or stay still.
Someone found a crappy little tv under one of the boss’s desks, and we tried to tune it in. Hardly any reception at all, but enough to see those images we now know so well. Smoke billowing, and now I could see that my worst fears were realized.
One of my best friend worked in the WTC. He always talked about the view from way up on the 93rd floor. I couldn’t remember what tower it was, but I could tell it didn’t look good in either tower.
I kept trying to watch, and then not being able to stomach it.
I wasn’t in the room when they collapsed. I heard that they had, but thought that only the top parts, above the impact points, had fallen, but that the rest were still there.
Again, denial was easy to come by.
I didn’t watch after that. I called my wife off and on, trying to decide what to do, and called my mother to say that we were ok.
My boss called the boat company, the one that we were supposed to use that night. Why, I don’t know. There was no way anyone was doing anything that day. But I think adherance to the things that feel normal keep us sane at times like this.
She called, and the boat captain was still crying. He driving down to the Marina, and saw the plane hit. He was still in shock. He said something about refunding her money, and that was that.
I left at 1130, and walked home. It took me an hour, but I made it. Went by Madison Square Garden, and was stunned by the silence. Everyone accepted that the trains weren’t running yet, so they just waited.
I got home at 1230, and used to be able to see the towers from my corner. I walked into the apartment, and asked my wife why I couldn’t see anything–was the smoke hiding it?
“They’re gone” she said.
Just then, a replay was on TV, and I collapsed along with the towers. Had I known, I don’t think I would have been able to make it home.
Later that day, after trying to give blood (they were turning people away, the lines were so long) and getting dinner, I got a call from the wife of my friend who worked in the WTC.
Turns out, the two of them were saying goodbye to each other downstairs in the “mall” that existed down there, and that’s when the plane hit.
Hit his office, that is. All of his coworkers that made it to work that day died instantly. People I had met, drank with, and looked forward to seeing again.
Somewhere around midnight my body gave out, and I fell asleep, hoping to awaken and see it was a dream.
The smell in the morning told me different.