In Our Own Words
Ordinary (and extraordinary) people share their thoughts about our post September 11th world.
Do you have a story to share? Please send it for inclusion here. Certainly this is not the only collection, but it's ours. And just like the walls of missing posters, prayers, and memorials, there is room for everyone's message, and each one is valuable.
n Wednesday morning and wept in relief when I heard his exhausted voice. He had been there. He was alive. Firefighters he's worked with for years were not. As of October 21st he was still attending funerals.
Sunday, September 16th,
All over, people are leaving flowers and lit candles by firehouses. They cheer and wave when we drive by. They look at us sadly from a distance. They approach carefully and speak their sympathy. We have received cards, food, and discounts for funerals.
At the site, a thousand volunteers are unused every day. They come from all over the country, and transportation was very restricted for most of them.
Today I finally have a break in the pace for the worst of reasons. I am going to a funeral, the first of many to come.
Ken has also emphasized that one of the best ways you can help is by contributing to the fund for the families of the lost firefighters.
When I heard about the first plane (as I was sitting on the toilet listening to NPR..."and where were you when you first heard?" oh well, it WAS 5:45 AM here, afterall)....anyway....when I heard about the first plane, I thought some idiot obviously has some navigation training needs.
When I heard about the second plane, it hit me that I was, am and will always be a New Yorker, and they hurt my city. It was as if a personal friend was attacked. Those Towers, were the sentries that guarded us (at least from New Jersey or Staten Island). The Empire State was the beauty and the Towers were the strength of NYC architecture. All week I was crying, sobbing saying "they hurt my city." At the time I didn't know that they'd also killed my cousin.
But, you know? Now that I know they killed my cousin (controller of Windows on the World), it doesn't feel much different from them hurting my city. We all experienced hideous losses, when it hits your family it's just more in your face. Though watching it first hand is in your face enough.
For the first week, I stayed up late watching TV. I couldn't get enough of it. I watched the telethons and gave the money. It seemed so surreal to send disaster relief money to the city you lived in for 27 years and that is the richest city in the world. Now I think I've shut down. I watch sitcoms (yeccch) and only occasionally watch the news. When I think about Howie (cousin), I don't feel anything. I try to go through the days as if everything is normal. It's a lot easier to do from 3,000 miles away.
I see American flags all over and something about them bothers me. I know it's supposed to make people feel better. But to me it smacks of "my team is better than your team...my country is better than your country...my way of life is better than your way of life...my religion is better than your religion." It brings me back to Vietnam when people who were against the war were beaten up for being unamerican, by people waving the flag as an emblem of their superiority.
Mona Rosenthal, Pasadena, California
This breathtaking story was circulated at the Securities Industry Automation Corporation.
The events of September 11 still haunt all of us and will for some time and maybe forever. There are plenty of stories which began on that day, New Yorkers in fights for survival, making their escape from Downtown Manhattan. This is our story, as it happened, from 86 Trinity at the Amex [American Exchange], on that fateful day. This is my account of it, I think it needs to be told.
I was running up Wall Street from Water Street when the second plane hit, my bus had stopped its route at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge to turn around, so I had to hoof it to get to work. The sky was foreboding and dark, office papers drifted down from high above pushed outward by the blast of the impact, like some morbid ticker tape parade. People hurried toward the seaport, some running, some screaming, others crying. This scene accurately foreshadowed what was to come, to an unsuspecting downtown business district.
My team were already busy at work on the [American Exchange trading] floor, as the events unfolded before their eyes on CNBC, CNN and other news services. From the 1993 WTC bombing I had a decent idea of what to do. Since the Con Ed power grid goes beneath the WTC, I went to the Amex service desk to get ready for an immediate powerdown. Before doing so, I ordered all my technicians to the commsite for safety and to keep track of them.
While at the service desk, we saw that the Pentagon had been hit, and felt how widespread this event could be. I went back and forth to our commsite and the desk several times. Then while on the trading floor, there came a crash and the entire building shook. People began to scream and run off the floor. I just remember standing there looking up at the giant high gold leafed ceiling waiting for it to break open in a shower of rubble. I went to the front of the building to see what happened. I went downstairs and looked at the front glass doors and they were as black as pitch. One could not even see the smoke moving across them. It was then that I realized that we were in trouble.
So I proceeded to the Comsite, through a clogged hallway of very frightened people. A senior person was doing his best to calm them and direct them. I moved thru the crowd and went to talk with my team. They were anxious, yet very calm. We handed out respirators which we used to clean equipment and rags which, when wet, would help folks breathe. By this time, a lot of people from the hallways had come into our area also, to seek clean air, which we had due to our old air conditioners which were standalone, and not vented to the outside. We did our best to calm everyone down.
We came up with a plan, and that simply was to evacuate via the back door at 123 Greenwich Street and make our way down to the waters edge via Battery Park where the ferries are. Hopefully, there would be clean air there. Then we could take ferries, or travel along the coast to the bridges, or just jump in, if we had to. I had a walkman at my desk and gave it to someone to monitor who confirmed that the first building had fallen, much to our shock. Then a third shift tech called in from home and I asked him how did the building fall, How!? He couldnt tell from the video.
I went out on Greenwich Street, twice, to check the air quality and ash levels, and noticed they were diminishing by the second test. Since I felt that we were targets, too and did not know the scope of what was happening, thought it best to go. Most others thought that way also, so no big decision here. We readied up and the team was together.
Just then, security came in and said the Police want us to evacuate. So there it was, the decision made .time to go .we were ready, our plan in place, our masks ready, we also put hats on which we had from the Amex.
We went calmly in two files out that back door into what can only be described as a Pompeiian situation. It was dark like early night, and the entire area was covered by an Erie grey ash blanket...almost like a new snowfall....we could hardly recognize the landscape, it was like a nuclear winter scenario. We proceeded up Greenwich street and turned left up Rector with the intention to turn right on Trinity Place wherein we would have a direct route to the water and hopefully clean' air and blue sky at battery Park near the Ferry. We were not prepared for what happened next.
I carried up the rear and yelled for my crew to stay together... Just then, another rumble. Louder than loud....sounding like jets flying over, very close...but no! People began to scream...then run at full pace.. (the second building was collapsing....we did not know that!!)
I stopped and turned to see what I saw...and what I saw rising from the blackness which already draped us....was this monstrous heaving wall of debris, smoke, pulverized concrete and glass , a mass the size of a building , brown and black and much denser then the already blackened sky....It was traveling at us as I stood almost frozen, in what was a timeless second of awe and amazement ....this beautiful, wonderful, horrible terrible mass of fury coming at us from both down Trinity Street and up from Rector Street, on the perpendicular.....like we were in a giant bowling alley It was moving fast, 150mph fast...I knew instantly we couldn't out run it. And when the trance of that eternal second was broken...I too, turned and ran...Just then I saw a door to a cafe swinging slightly from the corner of my eye...I grabbed someone in front of me and pulled him in, as the cloud blew by...ominously... Again, we were plunged into complete darkness, smoke began to fill the room, as it had filled the Exchange...and for the second time I really thought that this was it... I thought the building was going to come down or catch fire all I could think about was what a mess I had left my apartment in, and that someone would have to clean it!!
Several of my crew who were further down the street were knocked down and pounded into the ground. They are all OK, now. Others managed to find refuge in buildings up along our route. They were in groups of two or three all separated from each other. It was agonizing not knowing if everyone was all right, but I trusted in their common sense and survivability. We tried calling on the Nextels which at first was futile. Several of our group were in the café with me along with a fireman from Flushing, and several other fine folks. We just waited to see if the once again blackened streets would clear.
We waited quite a while not knowing what was happening out there, as the soot settled. From my Walkman I learned that the second building had collapsed I dared not tell anyone.
Outside brief rays of light hit the street, as the ash settled. This was encouraging, and we decided to wait a little more to get better air. Smoke was slowly finding its way into our area, and it was getting hard to breathe... We decided to make a break and complete the escape to Battery Park and the waters edge. We began to establish contact with the group, meeting at different intervals or hearing of their safety ahead of us. Some took to the ferries, we made for the bridges, upon hearing that all of us were accounted for.
We then made our way to the Manhattan bridge and joined a mass exodus of thosands who wearily crossed the expanse, not exactly sure what just happen, each with their own story, quiet and pensive, certainly happy to be walking to blue sky... looking back periodically at the scarred darkened smoke filled skyscape where the once ever prominent symbols of our beloved city once stood.
This story was just an average story and does not compare to what happened to those at the site; New Yorks Bravest, New Yorks Finest, workers, air travelers, moms and dads and kids... all gone in an instant... in a snapshot of time an event indelibly imprinted in our memories...objectified...
I have seen "gound Zero" several times. I have seen the wreckage right next door... It is awesome, and terrible... and unbelievably close. In the days following the attack weve worked to recover the operation, the building and our ability to trade.
Wed come to work over the Brooklyn bridge with police escorts, through many checkpoints, with Army, Airforce, and National guard manning the stations. On the roofs of buildings, anti-aircraft guns were in place, while Helicopter gunships circled over downtown. F-16, and F-18 Fighter jets routinely patrolled the Hudson and East Rivers. This brought a sense of comfort to me, if not a bigger sense of the surrealness of the situation. The place where we worked was indeed a war zone.
Four or five times we were evacuated from our work areas at the NYSE [New York Stock Exchange] or the Amex with bone chilling quickness and renewed fears. The reason was the uncertainty of stability of some of the larger buildings which shadow our area. There was a tenseness which pervaded our beings when at these work sites. No one ever yelled, everyone was always aware of their position in relation to ground zero and those unstable buildings. We always worked in twos or threes, having radios which communicated with our buildings security desk in case of an alert or evacuation command.
New Yorkers have risen to this challenge and responded to this event not in anger or in blame but in compassion and love and a willingness to help. I have never hugged so many people hello in my life! I have met folks from the nationl guard, the army, fire departments and from FEMA . as far away as Riverside Calif [!]...I thanked them, they thanked New Yorkers for being so kind!!
Its all been very emotional.
The country has risen to the challenge and the world has responded in kind...We are now closer as a humanity then we have ever been...we have set the example, one of determination and resilience, and that is our best and most poignant retaliation.
I am impressed and proud of my teams ability to handle this ordeal and to return to work not 24 hours after the event in some cases, to the very spots from which we literally ran for our lives. They represented themselves well in the disaster support effort.
Three weeks slipped by in what seems like a split second. Id like to commend my managers [names cut for privacy], I like to thank the SIAC [Securities Industry Automation Corporation] techs at the NYSE for supporting us so proficiently [names cut]. An incredible amount of work was completed by SIAC and the Exchanges to demonstrate to the world our determination and fortitude. Again, I thank everyone for their support and their efforts from Security, to Operations, to HR, to Engineering, QA, Development, and Facilities engineering.
There are so many of you and you are all responsible for the statement the Amex made Monday morning, Oct 1st, 2001 by being the first American Company to open within the frozen zone, one block from ground zero. This is SIAC at its best.
I think it was Saturday afternoon 9/29, on my way home, when I heard the bells of Trinity Church ringing for the first time since the event, with power restored , a warm inner light illuminated its majestic stained glass windows. I had forgotten about those bells and what they meant to me. The history of them; when they rung in victory in other churches built on that site, for the sons of the American revolution, for the war of 1812, the Civil war, WW1, WWII and now again for a tearful recognition of a different kind of victory , but always to the same formula of American spirit, expert in the art of life and the ability to move forward in freedom and democracy.
Those bells sounded so wonderful.
This could be a fabrication, but since I only received it once (meaning it wasnt heavily circulated), and since the details have the ring of truth, Im sharing it as with the others here, its a story that needs to be told. If you know anything about this story (especially if its a hoax), please let me know. The unidentified author apparently lives in Washington DC but was stuck in Colorado during attacks.
I just wanted to drop you all a note and let you know that I arrived safe and sound into Dulles Airport tonight at about 6:00. It was an interesting flight. The airport in Denver was almost spooky, it was so empty and quiet.
No one was in line for the security check point when I got there so that went fairly quickly, just x-ray of my bags and then a chemical test to be sure nothing explosive was on them. Then I waited 2 1/2 hours to board the plane. What happened after we boarded was interesting and thought I would share it with you.
The pilot/captain came on the loudspeaker after the doors were closed. His speech went like this: "First I want to thank you for being brave enough to fly today. The doors are now closed and we have no help from the outside for any problems that might occur inside this plane. As you could tell when you checked in, the government has made some changes to increase security in the airports. They have not, however, made any rules about what happens after those doors close. Until they do that, we have made our own rules and I want to share them with you. Once those doors close, we only have each other.
The security has taken care of a threat like guns with all of the increased scanning, etc. Then we have the supposed bomb. If you have a bomb, there is no need to tell me about it, or anyone else on this plane; you are already in control. So, for this flight, there are no bombs that exist on this plane. Now, the threats that are left are things like plastics, wood, knives, and other weapons that can be made or things like that which can be used as weapons.
Here is our plan and our rules. If someone or several people stand up and say they are hijacking this plane, I want you all to stand up together. Then take whatever you have available to you and throw it at them. Throw it at their faces and heads so they will have to raise their hands to protect themselves. The very best protection you have against knives are the pillows and blankets. Whoever is close to these people should then try to get a blanket over their head-then they won't be able to see. Once that is done, get them down and keep them there. Do not let them up. I will then land the plane at the closest place and we WILL take care of them. After all, there are usually only a few of them and we are 200+ strong! We will not allow them to take over this plane. I find it interesting that the US Constitution begins with the words "We, the people" -- that's who we are, THE people and we will not be defeated."
With that, the passengers on the plane all began to applaud, people had tears in their eyes, and we began the trip toward the runway. The flight attendant then began the safety speech. One of the things she said is that we are all so busy and live our lives at such a fast pace. She asked that everyone turn to their neighbors on either side and introduce themselves, tell each other something about your families and children, show pictures, whatever. She said "for today, we consider you family. We will treat you as such and ask that you do the same with us."
Throughout the flight we learned that for the crew, this was their first flight since Tuesday's tragedies. It was a day that everyone leaned on each other and together everyone was stronger than any one person alone. It was quite an experience. You can imagine the feeling when that plane touched down at Dulles and we heard "welcome to Washington Dulles Airport, where the local time is 5:40." Again, the cabin was filled with applause.
It has been a very long day and one that I am glad is over. I have been constantly reminded this day of the article in JAAMT that Barbara Williams recently wrote where she referenced the tornados in Oklahoma and said something like, "Do we get mad and shake our fists at God in anger? No, we go on and conquer our fears and continue our lives." It is my hope that is what we do now. Last night I saw a program with college students where one of them said that at their campus there are no more hyphenated titles, i.e., African-American, etc., everyone is just an American. No one will ever be able to take that pride away from us.