I was and still do live in the Harlem/East Harlem section of Manhattan; (upper Manhattan) roughly 9 to 10 miles north of Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.
That morning my friend and I were going to meet to apply for social worker positions at the NYC Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). The Human Resources office was at 150 William Street in lower Manhattan–about 4 blocks from the World Trade Center.
I woke up that morning enthusiastic about applying for this job, and jumped in the shower. When I got out, I already had my TV on and saw smoke billowing out of the North Tower. I thought maybe it was a building fire. Just at that moment I saw that second plane crash into the South Tower. At that point I just sat on my bed and watched–thinking at first that it wasn’t real (actually thought it was some scene from a new action movie–as crazy as that sounds).
Even though I was looking at what was going on, that magnitude did not sink in. I called my friend and we decided “well since this is happening, maybe we can go down there later in the day”
Soon enough I realized that I wasn’t going anywhere. When watching people running from the area (and in my neighborhood of East Harlem -about 9 to 10 miles north of lower Manhattan- I already saw people streaming uptown from lower Manhattan) we both realized this was a catastrophe. When I saw the first tower fall, my whole body trembled, knowing full well how many people may have been killed.
In the early 90’s I was a student at the Borough of Manhattan Community College on Chambers Street–about 5 blocks north of WTC so I frequented the WTC Mall a lot, so I knew exactly what kind of devastation must have been occurring in terms of the loss of human life. In fact, I narrowly missed being caught up in the 1993 WTC bombing only because bad weather that day had kept me from walking down to the Mall that day.
When the second tower fell, I just sat there staring at my TV thinking to myself that a worst nightmare had come true: two of the tallest buildings in the world crashing down on people.
The remainder of that day I spent watching things on TV, and looking at the thousands of people walking up Manhattan from lower Manhattan (before the Subway had been re-opened). Going to the supermarket in my area, I saw people panic buying, not knowing if there was going to be another attack.
9/11 for me, as a native and current New Yorker was the saddest day of my life in terms of the city I live in and love. Though I did not know anyone personally who died in the attacks, my mother’s friend lost her son (a security guard whose only remains were his arm found in November 2001). Tragic thing is that arm was more of a physical remain that a lot of other people could hope for.
Although I and people I know continue to live our lives here, I know personally that in the back of my mind, there’s a nagging worry that there will be another attack. No, fear cannot be allowed to run our lives, but nevertheless, I think a lot of people (especially New Yorkers who survived 9/11 and are still here) have that recurring worry too.
Since 9/11/01, I been to the “Ground Zero” area many times on business, and every time I’m there, I look up to that empty sky where the towers were, the sitting area that was on Vesey Street, and Borders Books, Tower Records, the first Krispy Kreme donut shop in NYC (which was indeed in the ground level of WTC) and I can still visualize what was, and think to myself how amazing it is how people can be so filled with hate, rage, insanity and evil as to destroy so willingly and coldly as they did that day.