September 11th

Never Forget 911Yes, it’s Tuesday Tip day and also, the release date of SOUTH BEACH CHICAS CATCH THEIR MAN, but all of that is inconsequential in light of the fact that it’s September 11th. Nothing has ever been the same for me since that day in 2001. I’ve seen a number of articles in the papers recently about how the remembrance ceremonies are diminishing and the day is becoming more of a historical one.

Some say that people want to forget and get on with things and yet for me, six years have passed and the memories are as clear as if they had happened yesterday. I can still remember that morning, beautiful as it was. The sky was a clear blue and you could see for miles. The air was fresh and crisp, but tinged with the hint of the scents of fall.

My husband and I used to call days like that Villanova Days. Why Villanova Days? Because they reminded us of those happy and beautiful fall days when we had just returned to school and our lives were filled with the promise of so much.

Whenever a day was as gorgeous as September 11, 2001, it was a Villanova Day and I remember thinking that as I walked to work that morning the way I walk to work almost every morning.

We don’t call them Villanova Days anymore. They don’t bring joy anymore either, only sorrow.

I was at my desk when my husband called to say something was wrong with one of the Towers. He had just come out of the Holland Tunnel and had heard a horrendous noise. Everyone was looking upward and he stopped his car to see what was happening.

That was when he got on the cell phone to tell me that he thought he saw a tail of a plane in one of the the World Trade Center Towers. He asked me to turn on my television and find out what was going on and call him back when I knew. I did turn on the television only to find out that no one knew much except that people had said that a plane had hit the Tower.

My first reaction was, “What kind of idiot could hit the tower on such a clear day?” It must have been the reaction of most New Yorkers who weren’t actually close to the Tower.

I watched for another minute or so, but then thought that I would have a better view from my boss’s office. He was in the adjacent conference room in a meeting and going into his office was not an issue. Plus, his office had spectacular views of downtown. I always loved being there in the early morning or at dusk when you could see the lights of the bridges and downtown buildings.

As I began to walk to his office, someone asked me what was going on and when I replied that a plane had hit the World Trade Center, she followed me. By the time we got to the office there was a group of about ten or so with me, staring out the windows at the very visible fire and smoke emanating from the first tower. The comments were much the same.

How could anyone hit it on such a clear day? Isn’t that a lot of fire and smoke for a small plane?

It didn’t seem like that many minutes passed when the young woman next to me said, “Look at that plane? Where is it going?”

It was another plane, plowing through the canyons of the Manhattan buildings, looking small against the panorama of the taller skyscrapers.

And then the plane hit the second Tower. An explosion blasted from the side of the building and a shower of parts, papers and flames erupted into the bright blue sky. There was a collective hush in the room and then words I can’t even remember. Murmured voices in shock and horror. It was like I was seeing a Hollywood action movie, only it wasn’t a movie. It was real life.

My boss ran into the room to turn on his television and I said, “We’re being attacked. This is an attack.”

I thought of my husband, barely blocks away from the Towers. When someone called out from their desk that the Pentagon had been hit and that there were several unaccounted for planes, it occurred to me that other landmark buildings might be next.

That we might be next.

I left the office and ran to mine. Tried to call my husband and finally got through. All of the West Side of Manhattan had been closed down and they were about to start shutting down the entire island for security reasons.

I thought of my daughter in school in New Jersey. Alone with only friends and neighbors. I didn’t want her to be alone and my husband agreed. We had to get off Manhattan somehow.

He rushed to Midtown in his van and together with two other Jersey girls at the office, we began our trek home. My husband wanted to go through the Midtown Tunnel, but I couldn’t imagine going into a tunnel. The thought of an explosion in there terrified me.

So we headed to the Queensboro Bridge, all the time listening to the radio and the reports of what was going on downtown. We were on the bridge when we heard one of the Towers was falling. We saw the cloud billowing over downtown as we came onto the upper roadway of the bridge.

I remember thinking, it’s only been twenty minutes. Only twenty minutes. Our office at that time was on the 26th floor. We had to evacuate it twice via the stairs and it took us at least 30 minutes. Maybe even 40. I thought then that no one from above the 26th floor could have made it out. That thousands were possibly dead. We started crying.

When we reached Queens, the streets were clogged with people, watching the remaining tower and listening to news reports from their cars and buildings. We somehow crawled along the streets and made it to the expressway, and made it to roadways heading to New Jersey, stopping along the way for gas to be on the safe side.

At the gas station, a man was filling up his car. He had a gun tucked into his back waistband. I knew things had just gone from bad to worse if people were arming themselves.

On the highway once again, we were moved aside as a parade of emergency vehicles rushed toward Manhattan. At one point, all traffic was diverted off the highway to allow the emergency workers full access to the roads. Little did we know that we might have been seeing some of them for the last time.

We continued on through Brooklyn only to hear that the second Tower had come down and that the Pentagon was burning. Reports came of other missing planes.

My only thought was, “Let me get home for my daughter. If this is a war and we are going to die, I want her not to be alone.” We managed to reach a neighbor on the cell phone and tell them that we were okay and were headed home. That they should wait for our daughter at the bus stop and take her with them until we got there.

We made it to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge to Staten Island and the Jersey roadways. We were only one of a few cars that were up there. The spectacle that greeted us was one of a huge grey-white wave of smoke, so big it almost seemed like clouds, spreading all across lower Manhattan. The skyline was empty of the Towers and many of the other buildings were obscured by the large cloud drifting across Lower Manhattan.

In the waters below us, ferries and dozens of boats ploughed through the Narrows, kicking up immense wakes as they rushed to and from Lower Manhattan to remove people from the area.

Ahead of us the roadways were clear and we made it home in time to meet my daughter at the bus stop. It was nearly 3. We had left Manhattan many hours earlier.

My daughter knew something was wrong that day even though the school had never told them what had happened. Parents had been coming to her school all day long to take their kids home. We explained about the Towers.

She was very upset because she had just been there a week earlier. A week earlier and she and her Dad might have been in the Towers during the attack. During the visit, she had met a lady in a nearby store while they were shopping. She and the lady had both been fashion lovers and had chatted.

She was worried about the lady and whether she had gotten out of the Tower. She refused to believe they could come down until like most Americans, we settled in front of the television to watch them fall again and again. To listen to the news and wonder why it had happened.

I went to work the next day, worried that our computer and phone systems would be affected by the electrical and communications issues that the collapse of the towers had created. Things were working. Maybe that wasn’t a good thing.

Fax after fax came in from overseas, expressing sympathy for what had happened. E-mail after e-mail. I worked with my boss to amass them, holding back tears as I did so. Wondering yet again, Why?

There are those who say we deserved it because of past actions and our affluence. That we are resented for all that we have and do not share. For all that we take and do not give. That for what we give, we ask for things in exchange.

Well, here’s something from someone who wasn’t born here. From someone who can say without reservation that this Nation shared its liberty with her. That this Nation gave her more than her own homeland did. That you cannot get something for nothing.

This Nation did not deserve 9/11 nor did those innocent people from all over the world who worked in that building and whose one bad action that morning was being responsible and going to work. People like my husband’s friend’s son who had just graduated from Villanova and taken a job at one of the financial firms destroyed by the attack. He’d been working there all of two weeks. Or like my niece’s softball coach, who never made it home.

So many didn’t make it home. When I went to the train station and parked my car on Sept. 12th, there were only a dozen cars there when the lot was usually full. Since there was no one on the train platform waiting with me and almost everyone was staying home that day, it occurred to me that the cars sitting in the lot belonged to people who might never come home to get them.

Bin Laden makes it clear what America needs to do to avoid another 9-11. America should give up capitalism and embrace Islam.

Listen up, Bin Laden! America is all about being free to choose what you want to be, including religions other than Islam. We accept all kinds of differences, sometimes a little roughly at first, but we do accept. I know. I was accepted. My family and friends were accepted. The many diverse individuals living in my town were accepted.

As for what to do next, I don’t know. But I do know one thing, however. That I want this to never happen again. It’s why I have a Never Forget section on my blog links. I never want to forget that this happened.

If you have a 9/11 site that you would like added to the blog links, please list it in the comments section so that I may consider it for inclusion. If you have your own thoughts or experiences to share, please do so.

If you want to help remember the heroes of that day, visit some of the links and make a donation.

I’ve chosen to support the Flight 93 Memorial for those who died preventing one of the plane attacks and crashed into the Pennsylvania countryside. Click here to contribute to the Flight 93 Memorial fund.

9-11 Tribute over NYC - Never Forget

5 thoughts on “September 11th”

  1. Caridad,

    My husband called me from work, waking
    me, to tell me something terrible was
    happening in New York City. I turned on
    the TV and so began the absolutely most
    terrible day in our country’s life. I’m still
    on the telephone with my husband, I see
    one of the towers, shrouded in clouds of
    smoke. I’m looking at the scene and I
    suddenly realize that I’m looking at blue
    sky! Blue sky, where only minutes before
    a building stood! I start repeating, “It’s
    gone, it’s gone!” My husband is watching
    CNN also, he’s watching the same thing
    as I. We can’t believe what we are now
    experiencing. We both suddenly realize
    that only a short time before our son was
    there, working on an off-Broadway play.
    We thank God that he is back in Houston,
    but what about those many who are now
    suffering this tragedy! Days and years
    of tears began that day, they will never
    go away. Our hearts go out to those
    lost, their families, and to our country.
    We will never forget – you are all in our
    prayers! God bless America!!!

    Pat Cochran

  2. Thank you, Gretchen for sharing.

    It was amazing to me, as the smoke cleared and the next day rose bright and beautiful, how New Yorkers of all nationalities, ethnicities and religions joined together, much like America joined together.

    They were there, helping to try and find survivors. Standing in line to give blood that was unfortunately never needed.

    New York on Sept. 12th was a war zone with the streets completely empty except for some civilians, the National Guard, and the emergency workers. There was an unnatural silence for a city that hums with life every day. The only breaks in the silence were those of the emergency vehicles racing to the Trade Center site.

    There were tears and they didn’t stop on those two days. When the smoke settled, the waiting began. Every day you were greeted by a barrage of happy, smiling faces in home photos that people had turned into posters in their effort to seek news of their missing loved ones.

    The faces of a father and son who had worked together. Sisters and brothers who also had been employed at the same location. We can only hope they were together, sharing their last moments on earth with their loved ones when the Towers collapsed.

    There wasn’t a day for the next several months and beyond that we didn’t cry. That we didn’t hope for a miracle.

    You are right that this act united so many as nothing else could.

    And as some warned, it woke a sleeping lion who was content to lay in the sun rather than protect its territory.

    That lion will not rest and should not rest any longer. It should be ever vigilant and prepared to roar when it is threatened. To act if need be.

  3. I had a dental emergency that day and had stopped by the dentist’s office on my way to the convention center downtown in Kansas City, Missouri. I remember the assistant telling me a plane had hit the world trade center and remember thinking how silly. It must have been a piper cherokee, or some other small plane. I wondered if it had just bounced off. The news was sketchy at first and it took awhile for us to realize what was happening.

    Hundreds of health care professionals were gathered in Kansas City that day from across the world. They were there to discuss the latest in computer informatics for healthcare, have a few drinks and network.

    I entered the hall where the keynote speaker, a celebrated expert on the recently decoded human genome was gamely giving his presentation. His image was displayed on a huge center screen. The crowd was sat quietly watching the screens but not his image. The two smaller side screens were tuned to CNN where we watched the twenty foot images of the twin towers fall over and over just as you did.

    The thing that struck me and that those so close to the epicenter of this tragedy may not have noticed was a ground swell of effort that began the moment the smoke cleared and people began to understand what had happened. We had perhaps slightly fewer than 100 healthcare professionals attending from the New York Metropolitan area. These people were stranded in the Midwest during one of the most intense emergency situations their facilities had ever seen.

    There were no planes flying and train service to Kansas City is almost non-existent. Every car that could be rented was. The company hired buses to drive – particularly the east coast participants – back home. The energy was incredible; it was an amazing demonstration of how the health care community throws its back behind an effort whenever emergencies occur. Offers of supplies and equipment as well as medical professionals came from every corner of the country. Everyone was trying to figure out some large or small way they could help.

    The thing I think the terrorists fundamentally misunderstood about us as Americans is that we band together to support each other in times of need. We always have. I don’t think there was another thing they could have done to cement our identities as Americans the way this series of tragic events could.

    I spent the weekend with my extended family, camping at a bluegrass music festival. Even at that fairground in the middle of rural Kansas the events of 9/11 were present. People prayed and sang and stood together under the clear blue sky, wondering at the quiet and the missing contrails, stalwart in the face of an uncertain future.

    We were nowhere near New York, or DC or Pennsylvania and our perception of the events that occurred can’t compete with the loss and grief you must have experienced being so close. But we and I think all Americans, were touched by this tragedy.

    That weekend we were reminded to cherish each other and this country whose heart but not its soul had been broken.

    Thank you Caridad, for reminding me and for telling us your story.

  4. I waited for you to call me back…I was so frightened that the one person I knew who worked in NYC was in trouble and there was nothing I could do to help.
    All those people I didn’t know…it didn’t matter. They were all a part of me, a part of us. We all still mourn. We have to, because once we start to forget, we’re easy prey to those bent on destroying us.
    You did call, you were safe…we all cried here and will cry whenever we think about 9-11. Please, God, bless America.

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