September 12, 2012

Fond memories of 9/11.




Where were you on this day? How do you remember 9/11?


On it's 11th anniversary (oh my how time flies), I'm reflecting on the fateful day.

I was over 20, living in New York City.  I remember this day like it just happened. I remember a late Summer morning; leaves were still green, the sun still rose very early so it's daylight by 6AM. Then I lived on Staten Island, worked in the heart of Rockerfellar center on 50th Street in Uptown Manhattan; it was at least an hour commute from start to finish taking the bus, the ferry and then the 1/9 subway train.

Like any other morning, I woke up as usual to start my day; I prayed, went straight to the shower, got dressed, skipped breakfast and set out for work. My trip was mostly uneventful; I remember getting on the #9 train right around 8:45 AM. Our train must have stopped at Cortlandt Street (underground Subway in World Trade Center) around 8:50, I remember because I was in my office's building by 9:05AM. I used to work in 50 Rockefeller plaza (a.k.a 50 Rock); 30 Rock– the NBC building is next door and Fox news channel building is a stones throw away on Avenue of Americas (reminds me of the many mornings I caught the Todays Show). The Rockefeller Center Ice Skating rink is also located adjacent to 50 Rock.

Five to ten minutes after getting to work I remember my unit supervisor saying someone bombed the World Trade Center; that was the most absurd thing I ever heard (well, at the time). He said it was on the news, no one on staff that day wanted to believe it. Then another staff member confirmed it. I still couldn't believe it because I literally just passed that area on my way to work. We all looked out the windows and noticed people gathering by the news station buildings (NBC and Fox News channel) where, of course they had a number of TV screens on the windows facing the public. It was beginning to look scary, people were in panic, many stayed glued by the TV screens, I refused to look at any of them; matter of fact I never looked at the TV screens, the chaos and panic on the streets were enough. The radio and TV stations continued to cover events as they unfolded; the exact time the North tower was hit, then the South tower, then the collapse of both buildings. Realizing what would be the turn of events that morning, my office shut down operation. We needed to find our way home.
Doomsday in NYC Sept. 11 2001.
Outside the chaos was growing. I remember feeling like somehow I was on the set of 'Independence Day'; surreal doesn't even begin to describe it and not in a good way. You had the crowd that were glued to the TV screens in abject fear, you had people that were running and screaming, NYPD patrolled everywhere trying to maintain some type of order. Traffic and people were redirected towards Uptown as people continued to crowd the streets. I packed up and left my office building. While on the street, the news continued to unfold the turn of events. First it was assumed to be some terror bombing, then footage showed American Airlines flight 11 crash into the North tower followed by United Airlines flight 175 crashing into the South tower soon after that (at the time, I just heard from people, I refused to look at the screens). Then people screamed and watched in horror as the towers began to fall. Total chaos does not begin to describe this day. Everyone was in high panic, then you had others that would start running for no reason, it didn't help matters at all.

As I left 50 Rock, I headed west on 50th street. In my mind somehow I remained calm but nervous, especially when around people who didn't know how to act. It's funny how you imagine you'd react to such a situation and how you actually react to such a situation. My adrenaline was on high gear. I wasn't as afraid as I was nervous. I approached Avenue of Americas (6th Ave) and that's when I saw it; thick smoke that was palpable more than 50 streets from the actual location of the event, it really set a nasty gloom on the environment, the weather changed. I stared right into downtown and people continued to flock towards my direction heading Uptown, some where running between the east and the west side. "What do I do?" "Where do I go?" I was stuck the God forsaken place. The subways stopped running, the whole city shut down. High volume of traffic remained as people were trying to leave Manhattan. At the time, the options were: if you were Downtown, you trekked across the Brooklyn bridge and prayed it didn't get bombed too, take the Staten Island Ferry and cross over to Staten Island, travel further Uptown towards the Bronx and connect to New Jersey; I would eventually do the latter. I kind of followed the directions of NYPD. They car pooled as many people as they could into big buses, cars. I made it into one of the big buses.
Light show replaces what used to be the twin towers, part of NYC skyline.
The whole entire ride out of the city, everyone was in panic; every jerk, move, gallop felt drastic. At one point we thought the bus was going to tumble over trying to make its way past very tight traffic on George Washington bridge (could this be any more vivid right now?!)

Slowly, but surely, we crossed over the 4760 ft long bridge into New Jersey. It didn't matter where I was, I could see the thick smoke bellowing into the sky like a big dark cloud. By the time I reached Staten Island, the beautiful Manhattan skyline landmarked by the twin towers appeared non-existent. Everywhere was covered in smoke. I remember one of the advantages of living on Staten Island being the fact that it's a small place. Living close to the shore line of Hudson river, you can enjoy the glory and beauty of the skyline at night; the twin towers stood on one end to the left, the Empire state building stood closely behind to the right. The twin towers would sometimes be illuminated according to the holiday or season. An important part of New York was gone; it just didn't feel like New York anymore. Even till this day, I miss that.

It was when I finally got home that I summoned the courage to watch TV. All the channels put the event on constant replay, the exact time each plane slammed into the buildings until it's collapse. I could hear people just screaming in horror. I could see people caught in the thick smoke when the towers fell, I feared for anybody that might have still been in the building. I imagined what it was like in the offices between the 77th and 99th floors of both buildings, where there were probably meetings, conferences, people who had just settled to work for that day. I got scared for the first time that day; as It turned out, Cortlandt Street subway station was completely destroyed and a train with passengers was caught under. The South tower fell approximately an hour after my #9 train made a stop at the station. If anyone was wondering was Armageddon would be like, maybe that could give you an idea (or not). The rest of the day, all I could do was pray (and then watched some more TV).

What are your memories of 9/11?

3 comments :

  1. This is a nicely written recount of the day...thanks for sharing it. I was young, 12 or 13 years old and found out about it through a Neopets chatroom haha! Everyone was posting about it and I ran into the living room to tell my parents to turn on the TV. Like a lot of people I didn't really comprehend what had happened till years later.

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  2. I totally remember that day, who could ! I was in class and all the law students ended up in a classroom as we saw with horror the second towel fell down !

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  3. Even here in Australia as an 11 year old I remember it like it was yesterday. The front page of the newspaper and turning on the television.. it played for days non-stop. Frightening. xo

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