Sunday, September 11, 2016

My 9-11 story

I'm not big on personal reminisces online, nor do I usually feel the need to recount the obligatory "where were you when".
But it's hard to believe that it's been 15 years. For better or worse, it feels like yesterday, and I'm in a reflective mood.

The evening before, on September 10th, I was in Manhattan having dinner with a friend, so I got home to Brooklyn very late. My job in Long Island was officially a consulting job at the time, and my arrival time wasn't strict, so I knew I could sleep in a little. I had my clock radio tuned to WNYC and it woke me up around 8am, but I kept hitting snooze for at least 45 minutes. I was the only one home, my parents both having left for work earlier.

Finally, closer to 9am and half-asleep, it percolated to me what the voice on the radio had been saying for the last few minutes. I was immediately awake, though I assumed (as did most for almost 20 minutes) that the first plane was an accident. I stayed at home listing to the radio, riveted to the description.I vividly remember Brian Lehrer saying very skeptically that someone on the other side of te building he was broadcasting from, who had a view of lower Manhattan, reported that another plane had just hit. It took a few minutes for Lehrer to report that it was real, and that's when t dawned on him, and me, sitting at home, that this was no accident.

I managed to reach my mother, who was stuck in her work building in lower Manhattan. She was safe, but they weren't allowing anyone to leave just yet. I tried to reach my father, but he was teaching class and it took a while. I called my work and told them that I wouldn't be coming in that day.

I turned on the TV and most of the channels, which had been broadcasting from the towers, were just snow. One channel (maybe CBS?) came in and I watched in disbelief as the towers each came down.
I finally felt like I had to get out of the house. I got in my car and drove to undeveloped section of Marine Park, on the southern end of Brooklyn, where I knew from past experience that I could see clear across all of Brooklyn to the twin towers. Along the way, I could see the smoke rising from Manhattan, hidden behind buildings and trees. When I got to the park, I could finally see Manhattan, but where the towers used to be, just a cloud of smoke, shrouding most of lower Manhattan, in fact.
I would have stayed there longer, just watching transfixed, if not for the fact that a cloud of dust & smoke from the attack that must have swept across Brooklyn settled over the neighborhood where I was standing, and I suddenly had a hard time breathing. I got back into my car and turned on the A/C which helped filter out the smoke.

Later during the day, in the afternoon, I was walking on Kings Highway on the way to a cafe with a few friends. We were getting together to try to make sense of what happened, and keep each other company in our shock. While we were walking, a great cloud of paper came over the neighborhood, fluttering down to the street. I think it was from 7 WTC, which collapsed in the afternoon. There was some insensitive person running around excitedly collecting papers for, as he called it, souvenirs.

I didn't go around collecting, but I picked up a few pages and saw that it was financial balance sheets from some company. Some of the pages were slightly singed. I kept them, and thought that I would return them to the company whose name was printed on the bottom. In the end I never got around to it and I'm not sure where they went - probably in the garbage. I'm sure that it wouldn't have made a big difference to the company after losing their entire office, but I've always regretted it nonetheless. It would have been symbolic, perhaps, but symbolism counts.