Sunday, September 10, 2006

5 Years Later

I was in New York City on September 11th, 2001. A few days later I wrote the message below, which I republish here, unedited.


Let me start by saying that since I am not at work, I have not seen any emails which have already been sent regarding this subject, but I wanted to share my long,rambling thoughts/feeling/ stream of consciousness on the matter.

Forgive the spelling errors, I am typing quickly. My view may be different than most in that a) I was in NYC (52nd street, right next to Rockefeller center) and I work on a trading floor, where information spreads instantly. In this case, we were preparing for the beginning of the trading day, when my desk actually had the first call on the tragedy, from one of our brokers in New Jersey whose office looks across the WTC (World Trade Center). He called and said the WTC had just been bombed. Our reaction was, of course, "no way", and we turned to NBC, which was just developing the coverage. An interesting note is how Wall Street reacts - terrorism, of course, is bad for everyone, so the S&P 500 futures, which trade before 9:30 am, immediately plummeted. Word soon came that it was not a bomb, but a plane, and, as if there was a sense of relief, the futures rallied back to the level they were at before the initial announcement -as if the world was saying "oh, it was just a plane, a tragic accident."

My boss, who is a pilot, turns to me and says "You cannot accidentaly hit the WTC - you can see it from 50 miles away. You have to try really hard to steer into it. This is intentional." Now, as the whole world is watching this incredible display, I am feeling a sense of surrealism, yes, it is tragic for a plane to hit the WTC, but life will go on. Suddenly there was an explosion in the second WTC tower, and I can only attempt to describe the atmosphere on the trading floor - I put my head in my hands and rubbed tears from my eyes - there's no doubt at all - this is obviously not an accident.

The indescribable feeling is that we are the USA - we are invincible, we do not know the feeling of being under attack - but we are now undoubtedly being attacked - by our own hijacked planes. Whispers spread that there are as many as 18 planes missing... Then news hits that the Pentagon has been hit by a plane...Shock - the Pentagon - isn't the Pentagon the CENTER of our national intelligence - isn't it supposed to be invincible? holy shit - we are really under attack.. I called my parents in the Boston suburbs (they are both teachers) - they were pleasantly unaware of the occurrences of the past hour - and I told them to stay away from Boston - I'm fearing that terrorists are going to crash multiple planes into our biggest cities- NY, DC are already hit - what's next? Chicago,Boston, S.F?

I called my fiance in Stamford,and begged her to get in her car and drive. "Where to?" she asked me - "West" I told her.. .away from any city. At work, many of us, including myself, live in Westchester - where were we going to go? - there was no way out of the city - no sense going to Grand Central- another possible target - perhaps to a friend's house in the city? Why not stay here - we shouldn't be a target. "We're right in midtown - right in Rockefeller Center" someone mentions.... hmmmm....

We called our offices in Chicago and San Fran, telling them to get the hell out of there, and I tried desperately to reach my friends in Boston, but was unable.. Cell phone circuits were jammed, land lines were jammed....Watching the two WTC towers, with gaping holes pouring black smoke out of them, I could only think of one thing - Armageddon - the movie - this looked JUST like Hollywood - so much so that I fear it desensitizes us... When I got home I put in my DVD of Armageddon and skipped to the scene where meteors hit NYC - if any of you have the DVD or VCR tape - go do this right now - the end of the scene, where they pan out and show the skyline, with the two towers, gashed by meteors, will strike you as horrifyingly prophetic... Deja Vu. Still, the feeling of being under a terrorist attack cannot compare with watching live on national tv as the WTC towers collapsed one by one -I must dwell on this point because I know that those of you who are not in or around NYC will not feel the same impact of this as New Yorkers do - but the WTC towers ARE NewYork, the skyline, the center of symbolic and ACTUAL commerce and finance, the symbol of American power(which of course is why they were targeted).

The towers were built to withstand the force of a Boeing727 flying into them - at the time, that was the biggest plane in the sky.... The way the towers crumbled, like an imploded building, made us all certain that there were bombs in the building - but a bomb in the lobby, even the size of the Oklahoma City bomb, would not bring down the WTC. Is it possible that the building was lined with bombs... It seems now that there were in fact no bombs, that the building simply could not stand the force of the plane embedded in it - again, perhaps my lack of engineering skill disadvantages me here, but I could not believe that the planes were still in the building, that the building had actually withstood the force of the plane, and the plane had not come out the other side.

When Oklahoma City was bombed, it was tragic, but it didn't hit home for me at all - it had no impact on my life -I read about it for a few weeks in Newsweek, saw horrifying death tolls, but was really, as most of you probably were, entirely distanced from it. This time, I have customers, brokers, friends, friends of friends, spouses of coworkers who all work in that building.. My bank is in that building... My brokerage account is in that building... I go to get Broadway tickets in that building.... As we are watching the footage on TV, I ask the guy across from me, "Chris -who else is in that building - Lehman? Merrill?" Chris says "My wife." - try to imagine how that hits you.

A kid who just started last week at work sat and stared at the TV, silently.. Lee, who works in the same office as I do later told me that the kid's father is a Fire Chief... Wow... My life, and the lives of all my coworkers, and everyone in NYC is forever changed, but the fascinating thing is that when I made it home to the suburbs, in Rye, the impact is so much less, and my fiancee who works in Stamford, CT, is at work today. I can't believe they have work - but when I think again, I realize that their lives may not be as affected, and I worry that I know now what it feels like when you think people don't care because they are not affected... But what do I expect? do I want people to walk around crying all day? I break out into sporadic tears, but I don't expect or want people to make a lifestyle out of mourning...I don't know....

A friend of Anya's was supposed to fly home from Newark to S.F. yesterday morning... That is one of the flights that was hijacked... she decided to stay another day in New Jersey... wow. Another of her friends was flying from Newark to Orlando - her flight took off, then immediately turned around and landed back in Newark....

How about those videos, from all different angles of the planes crashing into the towers - I hope to whatever powers may be that none of us will ever see an image like that in our lifetimes. Dead center, not slicing the sides, but barreling right into the WTC...Horrifying.. As Dan Rather began his national newscast"September 11'th, 2001, a day that none of us will forget for the rest of our lives." The scariest thought is that reports appear to show that the hijackers had little more than knives as weapons... To think that you can destroy NYC with knives, and some incredible planning... I don't think that people don't care, I hope I'm not misinterpreted, this event is unprecedented - unlike Pearl Harbor, unlike the Civil War (I don't know why people compare it to the Civil War when talking about the worst moment in American history) - this is the single worst moment in US history, and for that reason will not be glossed over, but I can't help thinking that Non-New Yorkers will not understand.

I tried to donate blood today, but the blood drive told me that they had so many donors that they were out of blood bags, and they were out of refrigeration space, and that Mayor Giuliani had asked them to stop drawing blood, since they had received so much supply, they had no place to put it yet. They simply took my name and phone number and told me they would call me. Driving home, I heard a girl call in on the radio who said that a classmate of hers got an email from his father that said "Son, a plane just crashed into the building two floors above me. I love you and I'll see you in heaven"... I can't even type that without crying.

I hope that all of you, and all of your friends and families are safe, and that we will all be able to get over this event, but I am fairly certain that my life,and the lives of all New Yorkers will be forever altered.


The Bracelet said...


I wish I had read that at the time, but I'm glad I read it now.

Anonymous said...

My experience was similar to yours. I still get light headed whenever I read stuff like this or catch some coverage on TV. It hasn't changed for me in five years, not sure if I'll ever shake it.


John G. Hartness said...

Wow. That's all I got. Wow. From down here, I really can't imagine what it was like there, then.

Meek said...

Thank you for reposting.

Ignatious said...

incredible post. damn.