Today brings us the anniversary of the September 11th attack on the U.S. It’s hugely remembered for bringing down the two tallest World Trade Center buildings and a portion of the Pentegon.
I lived and worked in New Jersey. The place where I worked at was only a couple of miles from the George Washington Bridge. If the view had been better, I would have been able to see the WTC from there.
The morning started off the same way every other morning did. At one point, though, people started filtering into my office and mentioning that a plane had hit one of the towers. At the time I thought it was another accident involving a small plane. That would have been bad, in itself, by not a big surprise. At the time, light planes had been falling on houses.
I brought up a news site and saw a picture of the first tower and it had a big hole in it. It hadn’t been a small plane at all. I started getting instant messages from my mother who was watching TV. It was turning bad.
At one of my earlier jobs I had been told that I didn’t “schmooze” enough. That is, I didn’t go around to people and talk to them and get to know them. It was advice that I carried around since then and I thought it would be a good time to walk around the building and see the people that I knew.
Everybody was hectic in those early moments, but not panicky. That changed when the second plane hit the other tower. When the radio started reporting it was a terrorist attack everything became tense.
It was obvious that no work was going to be done that day. The company I worked for, if I remember correctly, to just go home. They set up a TV in the cafeteria and tuned it to CNN.
I roamed the hallways. I knew people who worked in Manhatten, but I was fairly sure they were far enough away to be safe. I spent my time talking to people who were very worried about their friends and families who worked at the WTC and its surrounding areas. There wasn’t anything else I could do besides listen and be sympathetic.
The news got worse. Office doors were closed. People were yelling on telephones trying to find their loved ones. I talked to someone who was missing thier mother, who worked in one of the smaller buildings around the Towers. The guy who had almost accepted a job in the WTC, but had decided against it at the last minute. “I could be dead, Walt. I could’ve been dead.”
Nothing was as bad as hearing the shriek of anguish from a woman, who had many dear friends in the Port Authority, when she heard that the towers were collapsing.
When I did leave, I got on to Route 80 and headed west. I looked in myrear view mirror and, for the first time in my memory, I could not see the Twin Towers. Just a cloud of smoke and dust.