Today differs from my day ten years ago in that I slept through a lot of today. Ten years ago on September 11, 2001, I was actually up really early and went into work early. My office was on 35th and 7th in Manhattan, and I still don’t remember why I was up early, but I sat down at my desk at around 0830. Just a few minutes later, my colleague Brian, who sat next to me told me that his friend had just IM’ed him that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center Towers. My first words were “That must have been one hell of a mechanical error…”We gathered around a television someone had brought from one of the media rooms, and we saw one of the Towers on fire. Of course, at this point, there hadn’t yet been a second crash, but that happened, and the cameraperson couldn’t believe their eyes. Nor could we! Of course, at that moment, we knew it wasn’t just a mistake – we were under attack.
I immediately called my parents to let them know I was okay, and my brothers as well. At the time, I managed to get through, but I think that’s only because I was so quick about it. Most people didn’t get through on cell phones until later that day or the next.
Of course, we found out about the plane at the Pentagon and the one in Pennsylvania shortly after, and watched the Towers fall. (That was terribly shocking.) There were a number of other rumours – bombs in schools and a threat against the Empire State Building. (As our office at the time was very close to the Empire State Building, that one got the most attention.) Finally, our IT Director Bradley (my boss) kindly suggested to the management that they might want to let us go home.
So they did. It was about 1200 by then, and the entire Island was shut down. I lived in Westchester, so I couldn’t really go anywhere; I resolved to walk up to my Aunt’s apartment and see if she could put me up for the night. Along the way, I stopped at a hospital to give blood. The person on the line in front of me was very familiar to me – I couldn’t quite place her at first – but it was Mariska Hargitay of Law and Order: SVU fame. Of course, given the gravitas of the day, she was just another New Yorker trying to help, and other than an “I love your work” from the lady at the table signing people up, no one who recognised her said anything or bothered her.
I finally found out from a policeman that they were letting people off the Island – trains going out were running again. I went to GCT and boarded a Metro North train. That train was the most crowded train I’ve ever been on, and of course people were crying and screaming and trying to call people and it was general bedlam. It was a somber ride, and of those not crying or screaming, no one spoke except to comfort those who were.
I arrived home safely, and obviously, no one went to work the next day. I don’t think we went back to work until the following Monday, though my memory of the rest of the week is a bit fuzzier than on that actual day.
I found out later in the day that one of my classmates from Regis, Greg Trost, had been in one of the Towers during the attack, and had died. I was never very close to Greg, but he was easily the funniest kid in our class, and had a great outgoing spirit, and it was very difficult to hear that he’d been killed. My class have started a scholarship to Regis in his name, and hold a series of events every year in remembrance of him.
I found out later still that one of my coworkers/friends from PricewaterhouseCoopers had also been in the Towers during the attack, and she had been killed. Dominique Pandolfo was a girl I worked with at PwC who moved to Marsh and McLennan to be a trainer. As I’m told, she normally worked in the midtown office, but was doing a training session at WTC that week. She was an attractive girl with a great bubbly personality, and I had considered asking her to lunch one day.
I lived in California from January 2002 – March 2003. It was a difficult thing to leave, and especially after the attacks, but I had planned on moving in October and things had been put off for a while. When I came back, my parents sold the house we lived in shortly thereafter for their retirement to Florida, and one of the things we found in the attic is the pamphlet whose frontpage is scanned above. It’s an original from the 1970s, and one that I plan to keep. I’d been to the Towers myself on only one occasion, for a LInux User’s Group meeting, and this was after the first bombing attempt. I don’t have any of the material from that day (which would have been just my badge anyway), but as I have the pamphlet now I have something to keep as a small reminder.
Obviously, in the time since, things have changed quite a bit, and not necessarily for the best. I think George W. Bush handled the initial crisis well, but wasted huge opportunities to steer the country in a positive direction, and our politicians have been flailing ever since. I’m not going to get into the politics of it, but my feelings are that we should do what we can on the intelligence side to find and thwart potential attacks, but our current security theatre (and the naked scanning and molestations from the TSA) are not making people safer and come at great cost to our liberty. I’m hoping that in the spirit of Patriot Day, as today is now called, that we can reverse some of the gains the terrorists made that day and remember what makes America great – freedom, liberty, and justice for all. We owe it to the people we lost to remember their sacrifice and ensure that it was not in vain.