Thursday, September 11, 2008

7 years ago

It seems incredible that it's been that long. I'm going to post about my memories of that day. I didn't know A then, so the memories don't actually include him. Maybe someday I'll post some of what he's told me about that day and the days after, but some of that stuff is kind of tough. Before I get into my memories, let me give you a link to a very cool blog. It's about building awareness of different conditions, situations, etc. Today they are doing a 100 word project. They asked people to write about 9/11 in 100 words. It's worth a read.

My first 9/11 memory is simple. I arrived at work, sat down at my desk and turned on my computer as I always do. My home page is There was a little banner headline saying that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I thought it was a small plane. So I called my sister who worked on the 89th floor of 1WTC (the first one hit). I got her voice mail, just left a message saying that I had heard about the plane was just checking in to make sure she was okay. Really - I thought it was a small plane and no need to check in with her - but I have relatives that in the past have heard something as simple as that there were fire trucks seen at the WTC and they call to make sure L is okay. So - that's why I called, I really didn't think it was anything to worry about. Almost as soon as the phone was in the cradle, it rang again. It was L saying "I'm okay." She said they were trying to find her co-workers who were in the back of the office. I thought she was in the building. I still had no idea how big this really was. I didn't have access to a TV. Talking to my older sister, I learned how huge this was. I called L back asked her if she was evacuating. That's when I learned that she was not in the building, had only been just leaving her apartment to go to work when it happened. Thank God. One big memory I have is calling my older sister back and telling her repeatedly "stop crying, take a deep breath, she's okay, she's not in the building." I have no idea how much time was passing with all this. I think it all happened pretty quickly. I have an e-mail - my boss saved it for me - telling him that I would be skipping our regular 9 am Tuesday meeting because I had to try to find my mother in Ireland before she saw it on the news. Mom had gone there with her brother and sister, their spouses and a couple of cousins for a family wedding. We kind of forced her into the trip - had major regret after what happened. Anyway - for the first time that I can remember, Mom had not left all her contact numbers for her trip. I called around to various relatives/friends that might have it when my cousin called. Her mother had left the numbers. I couldn't make an international call from my phone at work, but one of my staff had a daughter in the Navy, so hers was set up for it. She had to show me how to do it - I kept flubbing it. Turns out, Mom and her siblings and the spouses had gone on a 2 day tour of Galway, so I left a message at the hotel and with my cousin's brother-in-law. Some time later my uncle called. They had stopped for lunch and saw it on TV - just what I didn't want. Apparently my aunt and uncle saw it first and decided not to tell Mom, but then she saw the TV and just collapsed into a chair. None of them had an international cell phone, but someone on their bus did and loaned it to my uncle to make the call. When I told him that L was okay, she had gone in late, I could hear him relay the news. My mom then got on the phone. All she did was cry. She would later proudly tell us "I didn't cry that day." I told her - uh - yeah Mom - you did nothing but cry when you got on the phone with me. I finally left my desk after talking to her and went downstairs to see the TV in the lounge. 2 WTC had just collapsed, 1WTC was still standing.

I remember my boss coming in and us talking about how many residents we may have lost. The town I work for is a bedroom community for NYC - about 50 min to midtown by train. A lot of our residents worked there. In the end, we lost far fewer than we had feared.

I spent part of the day online in a chatroom with friends. One friend, Carole, lived in mid-town. It was hard to call into or out of the city, but people in the city could call each other. So Carole was calling friends of friends, finding out if people were okay.

My sister had been able to get to midtown and went with a friend to a bar with a payphone. She called me from there and gave me a list of people to call to let them know she was okay. At that point, she didn't know what had happened to her co-workers who were in the office already. She thought they may all be dead. In fact, they all survived. There front door was practically impossible to get out. They got out through the file room. Amazingly, they had just cleaned up the file room a couple of weeks before, unblocking the door. One of them had been in the file room when the plane hit and was trapped under a file cabinet. They got her out and went next door into a law office. At some point, someone from the Port Authority came up and led them to a stairwell. They got down a ways to - I think - the 72nd floor where the stairwell ended and they had to cross. There were no lights, so they used the light from a cell phone to see their way. Amazing.

I think it was on this phone call that 1WTC - my sister's building - had come down. She said to me "I have no computer, I have no phone, I have no shoes." That just has always stuck with me. Like many New Yorkers who walk to work, she wore sneakers in and changed to shoes in the office. She kept her shoes under her desk. Sometimes I wonder if any of her personal belongings survived - a picture, something on her desk - but her co-workers told her that her office was in flames immediately, so I doubt anything survived.

Going home, there was nothing but the news on the radio. Where I lived at the time, my evening commute was usually 20-25 minutes of bumper to bumper traffic. Not that night. There was almost no one on the road. I remember getting on the highway and seeing three huge dump trucks going the other way - towards the city - being escorted by a state trooper. They could only have been going one place.

I spent so much of that day on the phone, fielding calls from relatives and friends, asking about my sister. There were more messages when I got home. I don't remember taking time to feel much that day. I don't think I cried until I saw members of Congress standing on the steps of the Capitol, singing "God Bless America". Some people may have thought it was hokey. I thought it was beautiful.

So, that's most of my memories from the day. Maybe sometime in the future I'll share some of what my sister and A have told me about their 9/11 experiences. It's important that we never forget.

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