Sunday, September 11, 2011

In the Thick of It: One 9-11 Memory

"A plane flew into one of the Trade Center towers."  That came from one of the engineers who just walked into the office.  I was on my way back to my desk.

Me, an administrative assistant temp about to train the new hire, working in an engineering firm near the United Nations building in Manhattan.

The new hire turned on the radio.  It was all we had, as the t.v. in the conference room was broken.  We gathered around the radio - the two admins and about five engineers.  

An accident at the World Trade?  A couple of the engineers went to make calls to their colleagues for the Port Authority (housed in the World Trade Center) was one of our clients.

We listened.  Suddenly the reporter's voice became frantic.  "A plane just slammed into the South tower! A plane just hit the South Tower!"

My hand went over my mouth and there was a collective jolt from the seven of us.  This was no accident.

I called my husband.  We made a plan to meet at noon downstairs in front of my building.  I tried my mother numerous times but couldn't get through.

I remember walking past the huge floor to ceiling window that faced south down towards the World Trade Center and saw a mass of people making their way uptown.  A mass exodus on the ground...huge mass of dark smoke in the air.  Eerie.

So for the next two hours gruesome events unfolded from the radio....the Pentagon was hit...the South tower collapsing, then the North tower...flight 93 going down in Pennsylvania...

The anger...the fear that overcame us.  Were we next?  We were right next store to the United Nations - a likely target.

A gathering in the conference room of all the employees...ranting, raving, cursing, questioning.

I headed downstairs at 12:05.  Walked through the empty lobby and through the front doors and towards my husband who waited for me outside.

Hand in hand we made our way through the crowded streets filled with walking people...people who had been down there and walked up, people who evacuated their buildings...people as stunned and confused as we were.    We passed through thick throngs of people as we made our way several blocks downtown and over to the East side to seek shelter in a friend's apartment.  The subways were shut down and we couldn't get home.

The memory of this morning and those thereafter...going home on the subway to Washington Heights surrounded by people covered in ash and soot, the stunned looks on all our faces...walking by St. Vincent's hospital at night...quiet...the medical staff waiting for the ambulances to come...but none were coming...will always remain.

A day we'll never forget.   A time that will always be with us.