Monday, May 2, 2011

Nine Years, Seven Months, Twenty Days.

Still beautiful and majestic
On September 11th, 2001 I was walking from my apartment in Jersey City towards the PATH trains that cross under the Hudson River before heading up Manhattan to 33rd Street and 7th Ave.  My apartment was on a quiet side street off of Christopher Columbus Avenue, which is the main thoroughfare through downtown Jersey City, and affords a perfect view of lower Manhattan.  As I turned the corner from my street, I looked up and saw that the North Tower was apparently burning on the highest floors.  All I could see was smoke.  There was no visible fire and from where I stood no visible damage.  I also didn't have any context of what was going on yet.  So perhaps because I was both surprised and nervous, I made a dumb joke to a guy next to me - something about Steve McQueen in The Towering Inferno.  But it was the last joke I would make for awhile, because seconds later I watched a United Airlines jet slam into the South Tower.  I then watched a massive fireball form.  Seconds later I heard (or maybe felt, I don't remember) the concussion from the explosion.  The time was 9:03 AM.

After that, the first thing I did was pull out my phone and call Mary, but I couldn't get through.  The second thing I did is sprint towards the PATH station.  Whatever was going on was very bad, and both my wife and sister where in the city.  So I was going to go get them.  I got to the PATH station and jumped on a nearly empty train.  I learned later that I got on the last train of the day.

The normally 20 minute trip took almost an hour.  I got off the train at 23rd Street.  As I crossed 5th Avenue I looked south, just in time to see the South Tower buckle in on itself and free fall straight down.  To this day, I don't know exactly what I was feeling then, except for dread - there was plenty of dread.  I ran to my office.  It was just before 10:00 AM.

Once in my office, I called Mary again and got through.  She was fine, her office was farther uptown on 46th Street.  My sister worked for me, and I found her in the conference room watching TV with the 75 or so other people that worked on our floor.

For about an hour, we all sat around.  But around 11:15 AM, we were told to go home.  I called Mary again and told her that my sister, a few people from the office and I were walking uptown to get her.  On the way, I remember stopping at a bank machine and grabbing some cash and then buying some disposable cameras.  The pictures we took still make me ill when I look at them.

We picked up Mary and then had to figure out how to get back across the Hudson.  Someone told us that the ferries were running to Hoboken.  So we walked west, crossed over the West Side Highway and waited in line for 4 hours at the ferry terminal.  It was during the wait that I realized how amazing New Yorkers are.  It was a hot day and there were thousands of people waiting in line.  Lower Manhattan was burning.  No one knew what was really going on other than that two planes had just brought down two buildings, so the roar of the fighter jets streaking over the city at very low altitudes was disconcerting.  Yet I didn't see one person cause any trouble of any kind.  In fact, there was no doubt that everyone had each other's back that day.

Finally we got on a Ferry.  But when we arrived in Hoboken we were met by men in hazmat suits and sent through a long white tent where we were hosed down.  This was the creepiest part of the day.  It wasn't until later that it occurred to me that this was in reaction to fears of biological contamination.

Once we finally got home we turned on the TV, and didn't move from the couch for at least 48 hours.  But it wasn't because we where watching the non-stop TV coverage, I remember that being almost impossible to watch.  Rather, it's simply because we were numb and could barely move.

This blog hasn't been and will never be about politics, at least in any real overt way.  With that said, I'm still an old punk rocker at heart and question just about everything.  By March of 2003, the initial shock (but not the anger) of 9-11 had worn off and I was very much confused about what was going on with America's War On Terror.

But of one thing, I'll never have any doubt - I'm glad that sonofabitch is dead.

29 comments:

Lauren said...

Enjoyed reading your account of that terrible day. I didn't know that you lived in New York. I remember I was sleeping on the living floor for some unremembered reason. Then suddenly, everyone in my family started phoning -- "Turn on the News!" I didn't believe them. It was too surreal. I thought the reports were exaggerated. Then I wept for weeks. We didn't take down our American flag then someone stole it. Then we put up another until it was too tattered to fly. Thanks for putting this on your blog.

Chris K said...

Me too.

As usual, a very well written post.

I, for one, am proud of our Commander in Chief.

Cynthia said...

Thank you for this post. It still puts a lump in my throat to read stories of that day. My fiancé was stationed in Korea when 9-11 happened and to hear his story from the military side of things is intense. God bless those that were lost on that day and all our fallen heroes who fought for us.

Caroline said...

Me too.
This man was not a human being, he was pure evil.
I still cannot look at images of 9-11 without crying.
Saw this in paper;
May 1st 1945: death of Hitler was announced to the world
May 1st 2011: death bin Laden announced to the world.

JenniferLeah said...

I cannot imagine what you were feeling being THERE. I know how I felt here in Maine and it's a day I will never forget...
interesting about those dates Caroline.

misszippy said...

Wow Patrick. Too up-close and personal for you--that had to be devastating to witness. I'm glad you came out the other side of it.

Laura said...

It is still shocking to think this happened let alone read accounts like yours. Such a sad day in history and I still worry about the retatliation that might happen....

BabyWeightMyFatAss said...

I'm with Chris K. I'm glad you shared your story with us. I know May 1st means something different to those who were there the day it happened.

Jeff - DangleTheCarrot said...

Amazing how the death of UBL has brought back the memories of the morning of 9/11. I was in WashDC at the time and was thinking about this yesterday morning. Your recap was moving and although it happened 9yrs, 7mos, and twenty days ago this made it seem like yesterday.

Thanks for sharing your experience.

Christi said...

Thanks for sharing your story and you are right, I am glad he is dead also.

Julie said...

Thanks for sharing. It was rather hard to read your memories. My eyes are full of tears.

I'm glad he's gone.

Jennifer said...

Thanks Patrick.

Kovas said...

That was a crazy day. I was a kindergarten teacher at a school just outside MacDill AF Base in Tampa and we watched the second plane fly into the tower - to this day I wonder what those kids understood and what they remember today. With MacDill a primary target, we were in lockdown for most of the day. I remember returning home and being so grateful that my family was okay. Superb post Patrick.

Kovas said...

I do have to say that I've been ambivalent about bin Laden's passing, and wasn't sure why. This quote by MLK really struck me today in relation to that event:

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
- Martin Luther King, Jr

Powerful words.

TRI714 said...

WOW ! I can't even imagine. I know how I had 1000 adjetives running through my mind that day. Hearing it on the radio on a 45 minute drive to work. Speeding just so I could get in front of a t.v. I was in total disbelief until I actually saw what was going on.


Kovas- don't morn the loss of the wicked for they hold a special place in a special kingdom.

Johann said...

Well written and well understood. I'm far away and was far away that day. Yet I feel exactly the way you do about all of this. Thanks for sharing.

Stacie said...

I well written account of an unthinkable experience. I still remember that day. It's still hard to wrap my head around everything that happened and what so many people went through.

JessiePants said...

I appreciate this post very much. That day is and forever will be imprinted in my memory.

Kovas said...

Oh snap, the MLK quote is bogus. Oh well, I still agree with the idea expressed.

Aimee said...

Thanks for sharing your story with us. I remember that day very clearly too. It was so frightening. When I heard the news of his death, I was in utter shock and didn't believe it. But, like you, I'm glad he's gone. The world is a much better place now without him in it!

Kate said...

Oh, wow. Very powerful, Patrick.

Colleen said...

Wow... what a recount of events! It's the day that American's will never forget where they were when the twin towers were hit. I was in the Netherlands... it's always interesting to hear others recount the day because it was SO different than what I experienced, being in a foreign country.

I'm glad he's dead too...

RockStarTri said...

My office was 101 Hudson near the Exchange Place Path station. I was at the corner of Columbus and Washington heading towards the mall (actually the hotel where we camped out) when the second tower fell.

Even with the latest news, I'm still angry and doubt I will ever not be about that day.


Thanks for sharing. Well written

Ms. Duffy said...

Thank you for sharing.

Mike said...

Thanks for sharing. Being there must have been surreal. Glad they found the mastermind that killed so many innocent people. There is still some more unpleasant work to do.

Bruce said...

Thanks for your perspective of both the day and your last paragraph. It helped me sort through my emotions as well.

Jason said...

I cannot believe our paths nearly crossed way back then. As you know I'm from NY and worked on 47th and 3rd for a very long time.

For all I know we did cross paths at some point back then.

I have to thank you for remembering so vividly what was truly one of the worst days of my life. I too sat on the couch for 48 hours just wondering what the f just happened.

Caratunk Girl said...

Patrick, this was an amazing post, I didn't realize you were in NYC on that day.

Glenn Jones said...

Wow. That all. Just wow. And politically I'm about as far on the opposite end of the spectrum from a punk rocker, but I wholeheartedly agree with your last statement.

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