Thursday, September 10, 2009

My 9/11 - One of many stories

I realize the blogosphere is going to be teeming with tributes, memorials, editorials, opinion pieces about the attacks of September 11, 2001. And you know what? It should be. If you don't agree, oh away from this page for now. Here's how I saw the day:


"What do you mean, the Towers are GONE???"

My co-worker Scott said that when he was finally able to get through to his girlfriend on his cell. We'd just been evacuated to the far corner of the building on the 4th floor of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The foundations of our building had just been shaken for the second time in an hour, our windows blown out. A wickedly fast-moving thick gray-brown cloud made us feel we were enveloped in a huge dirty cotton ball - we couldn't see anything. We had no idea what was happening. We knew the towers were hit by planes. Now we thought our building was next.

I had been on the phone with Lori when the second wave hit us. That horrid rumble, that ear-shattering constant explosion of breaking glass began as I was trying to get the story that was unfolding all around me from my wife, watching on TV. As the wave of destruction washed over us again, the phone fell silent. It would be hours before I would speak to her again. I wanted to crawl under my desk in the fetal position and stick my thumb in my mouth. The fire warden for our floor rushed us into the hall where we would remain for 2 hours. I helped fetch water and plug holes in windows with wet towels. I did it in order to not go screaming insane. It kept my hands and feet moving. It kept me from thinking of my wife and my children. It kept me from thinking about dying.

Hours earlier, looking up at the first plane-sized gash in the Towers from the steps of the bank, I was wondering in an off-hand way how in the hell they were going to get Fire, Police and EMT's up that high? I was likely in a bit of shock...I, and most of the people I was talking to that morning, couldn't yet conceive of the idea of, well, THAT...being deliberate. Half-jokingly, we postulated it was some drunken fool in a Cessna. The size of the hole in the building told a different story, and as paper from the doomed tower started to rain down on us as we re-entered the bank, I think we all started down the path to fear.

When I returned to my desk I decided to call my father, to see if he'd been watching the news or listening to the radio. He answered the phone confused...I'd woken him up and my Mom was already at work. I began to relay the events as I knew them, when


Author's note: There is no word in the English language that could adequately describe that sound/feeling. Comic book writers earn their bread and butter making up words to go with crazy sound phenomena (THOOM! KEEERRRACKKKK! Any lover of comics form the 70's knows what I mean) I could use one of those words right now...but the only word that I can come up with is BOOM

The air...quivered. I was inside a fortified Federal building, and I felt that BOOM in my toes. My first thought was "My God, the Tower fell over!", remembering the deep gash. Only being 2 blocks away on the 4th floor, we couldn't see much of anything that was going on at the Trade Center, and Security wasn't letting us leave the bank, now.

A minute later, Vadim, a coworker and friend of mine came running down the aisle, top-speed. "WE'RE BEING ATTACKED!!!! WE'RE BEING ATTACKED!!!!", he screamed. I grabbed him by the shoulders and told him to knock it off, he was scaring folks (I didn't know about 'folks', but he was sure as shit scaring ME.). He continued screaming, "NONO! The OTHER tower's been hit by a plane too!!!" He ran off screaming his message like a demented town crier.

The next 7-8 hours zip by in my memory as a blur, like fast-moving photos barely glimpsed at. Running out into the hall. Trying to run down the stairs and being forced back up...the 1st collapse...breaking windows...coughing...panic...tears. Plugging up the windows, getting water to people who needed it. The 2nd collapse...more breaking windows...more coughing...more panic. Rumors of a truck bomb at the State Department...rumors of planes dropping out of the sky like dead gnats...The Pentagon is breached...talking to my wife for that brief moment - she was watching the tower come down on TV as our call got cut off. All the while being enveloped by that brown cloud that swirled like a solid soup outside the windows.

Leaving the bank in the late afternoon in what looked like nuclear winter. Walking through 2-3 inch thick pulverized powder in the street...I don't even want to think of what that powder was comprised of (I kept my dusty shoes for 5 years without ever wearing them again). Walking to South Street Seaport to escape by Ferry. Somehow, some way, not drinking that day after less than 2 weeks of sobriety.

Home. My son, hugging me and asking why I was covered in dust. My wife, shell-shocked as I was, looking at me with blood-shot and tired eyes. The baby sleeping in his car seat, not a care in the world. I look up to God and begin to cry.

I am a lucky, lucky man.


I've no solutions. I've no opinions I'd like to share about the events of that day. I only ask you to hold your loved ones closer, tell those you love that you love them. The crazed panic that goes through your mind when you think you're about to die "Jesus, did I kiss the kids today? Did I tell her I loved her today? Please let the last things I said to them be kind words!"

Cherish. Cherish. Cherish.

Daily Mass Readings
1 Timothy:1-2, 12-14
Psalm 15:1-2, 5,7-8,11
Luke 6:39-42

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