It’s been about ten years since I really talked about that day. It was an awful day and I would like to just forget it sometimes, but that’s impossible considering all the conspiracy theories, memorials, and the fact that as the tenth anniversary closes in there is no escaping it. Even just looking at the clock and noticing that I tend to always look at it when the time is 9:11, it just creeps me out. I don’t like talking about it or even thinking about it because it just seems wrong because it’s such a macabre story. I suppose it’s finally time to face it though.
It was 8:50 a.m. on a clear Tuesday morning and I was driving along the Belt Parkway/Shore Parkway in Brooklyn, New York. I was headed to work. The company that I worked for at the time had an office space in the Army Terminal which was just south and right across the river from the southern tip of Manhattan where the towers were located. As I came around the curve of the Parkway I noticed smoke coming from the North Tower. I remember thinking how awful that there was a fire in the tower. I didn’t yet know that it was caused by a plane crashing into it.
I arrived at the office just before 9:00 a.m. and as soon as I got inside everyone was already talking about the tower being on fire and that a plane had hit it. At 9:02 a.m. when the second plane hit the South Tower as we watched the live news coverage from the television in the conference room, people started panicking. It was no longer a tragic accident that we were watching, but a terrorist attack. Minutes later several of us from the office and most of the warehouse crew were in the northwest side of the warehouse taking a closer look. By then there was smoke billowing out of both towers.
I distinctly remember standing there watching and realizing that there was no way that everyone could have gotten out alive. I knew people who worked in those towers. I just stood there in shock.
One of the ladies who worked in the warehouse started frantically calling her daughter’s cell phone. Her daughter worked in the North Tower. She didn’t answer. Some of the other ladies were trying to comfort her and calm her down. Finally her daughter called her back and told her that she hadn’t gone to work that day because she was sick. I’ve never seen such instant relief flow over a person’s face.
9:40 a.m. a co-worker comes to the warehouse to tell us that a plane has just hit the Pentagon. Already panicked people were starting to lose all composure. At 9:59 a.m., we watched as the South Tower collapsed. Twenty-nine minutes later, the North tower collapsed before our eyes. In that warehouse that was normally full of activity and noise, suddenly there were only gasps as everyone just stood there in shock.
As the towers fell, clouds of ash and debris obstructed our view. We couldn’t see that the towers fell almost straight down. From our point of view the towers just sort of disappeared into huge mushrooming grey clouds of smoke. It wasn’t until we saw it replayed on the news that we could see how they actually fell.
After the towers fell, one of my co-workers and I went back into the office. The owner of the company was telling us that due to the building we were in was technically a government building, we would probably have to evacuate. Before heading back to his office, the owner comes to me and asks if I’ve contacted my parents to let them know I’m ok. I hadn’t even thought about that yet, but he was right. They were probably freaking out because all they knew was that I worked in NYC. They had no idea how close to or how far away I was from the towers.
I called my dad and told him that I was fine, but we would probably be evacuating the building soon and I would call him later once I got home. My worried parents were happy to know that I was alright.
Just before noon we closed our offices and left the building. As I was going to my car I tried calling my roommate, SB, on his cell phone. He worked in Manhattan and I hadn’t heard from him. When the towers fell so did the cellular communication towers that were on top. That meant that thousands of people in the city had no cell signal and were unable to contact their families. When I got home I immediately turned on the television and watched as every channel ran an almost continuous loop of the footage of what had happened that morning. For hours I worried and cried because of the tragedy and because I could not get in touch with my roommate and friend.
Finally later that afternoon my roommate arrived home. He had to cross the Brooklyn Bridge to get home to Brooklyn because the city had shut down all the trains and bus services going in and out of Manhattan. Thankfully he made it home safe.
I continued watching the television as new video footage began to surface showing other angles of the planes hitting the towers, of them falling, and of the terrified ash-covered people wandering the streets that were also covered in ash and debris. It looked like something from one of the end of the world movies that I had seen so many times.
In the days and weeks following that Tuesday, I found out about friends who didn’t make it out of the towers and of friends who did. Several of my friends volunteered to go to Ground Zero to help give out food and water to the firemen and rescue workers that were still digging through the rubble searching for survivors.
Within two years I moved out of New York City and back down South. The reasons that I gave my family and friends were that I missed my family and was just tired of the city. That wasn’t completely true though. I did miss my family, but I didn’t cherish the idea of going back and living with them again. The main reason I left was fear. I was afraid that something like that would happen again and I may not be so lucky next time. I was a coward.
Do I regret leaving NYC and my friends and my job? All the time. Would I ever move back there? No, probably not, because I’m still too much of a coward.