Remembering 9/11/01

9/11/01 started as a beautiful morning as I left Brooklyn for work in Manhattan around 8:00am. The extreme clearness and intense blueness of the sky was remarkable. When I reached 59th and Lexington and climbed up to street level from the subway, the streets were unusually quiet. A cab driver pulled quickly to the sidewalk to ask me if I was aware of what had happened. He explained that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.

Walking west I reached Park Avenue and looking downtown could see the plume of smoke wafting east.

Cell phone availability was intermittent. I was lucky and got through to my partner in Brooklyn and told him not to even try to get into Manhattan. He walked out to Flatbush Avenue and gave me a shocking account as he watched the buildings eventually fall and disappear.

Walking the halls of the firm was disheartening. Many were desperate to notify friends and family that they were ok. I remember one secretary sitting by her phone waiting for word from her husband who worked in one of the towers. We later learned that he did not survive the attack. A woman in Accounting also lost her twin sister.

From the conference room on the 26th floor we could watch as hundreds of people walked north trying to leave the city. The bridges had been sealed to traffic entering Manhattan.

I was the manager of technology for the New York office of a large law firm at that time and in the days that followed we worked to make space and technology available to other firms that had been directly affected by the disaster. I had been stoic up to the point when I had to ask other offices around the country if they could help by sending equipment. During that conference call I wasn’t completely successful in keeping myself together. I’m welling now up as I remember that call.

I don’t remember how or why, but my colleague Dawn and I were able to get on a subway and make it to Brooklyn later that afternoon. It was strange since we had to go through downtown to do it. When we got out of the train the smell of burning everything filled the air. It was sickening. There was also a snowfall of burned bits of paper and, I’m sure, other things. It blanketed cars and streets and sidewalks. The smell stayed in the air for many days after.

I had worked for 20 years in the Wall Street area and wondered if people I knew that were still downtown were alright. Later I heard their stories of hiding in doorways, being covered in ash, or trying to run ahead of the approaching billows of smoke and debris. And other stories of the loss of loved ones.

For a long time afterward, maybe still, there was a shock, an unreality to that day. For me the loss to the city I love so much was not unlike losing my mother. My history was changed forever and there is a day, a single day, when it happened.

Please share your memories of 9/11.

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