Remembering 9/11/01 Open Thread

Please share your stories, photos and remembrances about 9/11/01 with your neighbors here. Also feel free to link to other sites and reports about the 10th anniversary below.

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  • Eddyenergizer

    I arrived at ground zero, around 15:00 hrs. September 11, 2001… I had gone there to help in any way I could. I saw a man, a civilian like me, trying to move a heavy piece of wreckage. Without asking, I began to assist him. We spent about fifteen minutes clearing a small area of sidewalk. Finally, I asked him why we were doing this? His plan was to set-up a makeshift commissary, so we could distribute water and food to the fire and rescue personnel. As there were no such supplies coming in from the outside world, at that time. We improvised a table and set out to stock it with provisions.
    In all, there were about a two-dozen of us “civilian volunteers” in the area of Battery Park City and West Street. In a short time, we had a constant supply-line bringing provisions from the delis and supermarkets in the area and an assembly line making sandwiches. We hauled out cases of water, soda, juice, cold cuts, bread, candy and chips; anything we could easily distribute. We transported everything using shopping carts and hand-trucks borrowed from the markets. Moving these conveyances over the debris-strewn streets was physically exhausting, but we kept at it non-stop, until the stores were empty.
    For a long while, the rescuers consumed our offerings almost as fast as we could bring them. After the initial rush subsided (about 21:00 hrs), I filled up a hand basket from one of the markets and started to take bottles of water and soda directly to the rescue workers. The towers had been constructed with the columns on the outside of the building. They now lay horizontally across West Street, essentially creating, a huge steel cage containing the crushed contents, of the building. It was upon this “cage” I and the other rescuers climbed upon. They were, an oddball mix of fire fighters, New York & New Jersey state police, various government agencies, union construction workers and other civilians (Aside from the emergency services unit; the New York City police, curiously, did not take part in the recovery efforts. For the most part they just stood on the sidelines observing).
    Acrid smoke, a ghastly olfactory brew of burning plastic, paper and flesh, hung in the air like a light fog. Everything was covered with dust and ash, giving the nightmare an eerie monotone appearance; this sometimes made it difficult to distinguish what things really were. A fire fighter alerted me not to step on “that leg” I looked down at what I first thought to be a piece of tattered insulation, its image then morphed into the lucidity of shattered flesh. I did not react to the sight of these horrors the way I would have imagined. The feeling was surreal, like I was an actor on some grotesque Hollywood movie set and none of it was actually happening. How could it? How could such a thing be true? Eyes that were tortured into vapidity exposed themselves on the impassive faces of others, indicating; a similar state of incomprehension was prevalent…
    About 00:00 hrs September 12… we were all called upon to partake in the recovery effort. Everyone with a flashlight was asked to search the debris for signs of life. I had a light and searched, but found no survivors, only remains. I helped carry acetylene tanks to welders that were cutting-up the steel columns. At times all hands were gathered to move the huge, cut sections of steel so that bodies could be recovered from beneath. Slowly, the mayhem became more organized; heavier equipment was brought in, Spot fires were being extinguished. The nightmare began to sober into reality. About 05:00 hrs I collapsed in a corner, from exhaustion.
    About 07:00 hrs I awake to a new scene. The National Guard had arrived. Food and water was being brought in by the truckload. Fresh workers by the score replaced the weary rescuers that had selflessly pushed them selves to the limit for the past twenty-two hours.
    I tried to get back into helping but it soon became clear that I was no longer needed. I returned to the “commissary” only to find “John” first man I had met was getting ready to leave, as well. We talked for a few minutes, shook hands and parted. I spent an hour or so taking a few photos, until a National Guard soldier told me to put the camera away. About 10:00 hrs I left the site and started to walk home. By the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge, I saw military vehicles mounted with machineguns and I realized at that moment, the world would never be the same again…

  • Matthew Parker

    I was starting my day on September 11, 2001, working at home on 2 Grace Court, when my sister, who had been staying with me for a few weeks, came into the apartment from the gym a few blocks away and simply stated “The World Trade Center is on fire.” We looked at each other blankly for a few seconds and then went downstairs.

    We stood at the end of Grace Ct., the point overlooking the BQE and the harbor, with a few other people and watched. No one there had an idea early on what caused the fire. A few people said a small plane had crashed into the building, and I thought that perhaps it was a tourist flight that had gone wrong. The single burning tower resembled a lit cigarette on its end.

    A small crowd formed at the end of Grace Ct. and stared. One woman started crying. A guy three rows back had a big smile on his face which angered me, and I yelled at him why he was smiling when likely people were hurt or dying over there. I realize now that he likely couldn’t believe what was happening and smiling was perhaps a coping mechanism.

    The falling debris got heavy, and I remember seeing a lot of office paper flying over and also very small silica particles shimmering in the morning sunlight. We went back inside when it became difficult to breath. We were inside for a few minutes, watching what was transpiring two miles away as the crow flies on TV, when we heard the second plane hit the second tower. The explosion made my sister and I yell out “What the f**k was that??!!” and then it became clear on TV what had happened. At that point it also became clear this was not a plane accident but an attack.

    What added to the surrealness of that day was the weather. It was a perfect day. Bright blue sky, about 70 degrees, low humidity. Several times that day, I was struck by the odd juxtaposition of a stellar weather day which normally would be life affirming, and the horror that was going on in lower Manhattan. Later in the day I recall walking on Remsen Street near Borough Hall and marveling at people going about their business like it was a normal day, the gorgeous weather, and just 2 or 3 miles away, death and tremendous suffering was occurring. I found that odd, but in a way similar to every day on planet Earth where some are enjoying and thriving, and some are suffering and dying. It’s thought it was strange I was thinking these thoughts, but that’s what was going through my mind.

    I called family and friends, and checked in on elderly neighbors, though the phone land lines were jammed and so were cell lines. But eventually everyone checked in. I wondered who I knew from school or work that was being directly affected at the World Trade Center.

    During the attacks that morning news reports were coming in rapidly, some true, some false, and moment by moment, it was like waiting for the other shoe to drop. Briefly it occurred to me to gather family and leave the City for better safety; however, I remember feeling fatalistic and somewhat defiant that this was my City, that I was born here, and I live here and I’m not going to leave. It had nothing to do with bravado, patriotism, anger. I’m a native New Yorker, and I belong here, and I’m not going to leave when things get bad. After those initial thoughts, I didn’t think of it again. It was foregone that myself and my family and friends would be staying and dealing with this in the short, medium, and long term.

    I recall in the weeks after the attacks, the days getting shorter because of approaching autumn, the light fading, and the smell of burning rubber. The stress of those days was something people just dealt with. Near constant sirens, trucks rumbling down the BQE starting to clear debris from Ground Zero. I remember weeks after, walking out of the apartment with a usual joie de vivre, and then smelling the burnt rubber, which was a constant reminder of what had happened. It was difficult not to feel the heaviness and the sadness, even if one wasn’t directly affected with loss of life.

    In the weeks following, I was concerned what would happen to my city. I was born and raised here since the mid 60s and I’ve lived through the dark days of urban blight, and right before the attacks, the City was experiencing a Renaissance. I thought that the attacks would force the City back to where it was in the 70s. For about 6 months, things came to a stop or slowed down to where it seemed like things stopped – – restaurants, bars, shows, fun it seemed.

    But then the City, after taking the pause after the attacks, started its climb again. I was relieved and incredulous that after such trauma, the people decided they would stay with their City and continue to improve it. That was uplifting and it appeared to me that the collective will of the City’s people prevented a downward spiral, and instead after a pause of a few months, decided to keep moving forward.

    And yes, the decency, caring, humanity, neighborliness and warmth that people showed to each other, friends and non-friends alike was indeed heartwarming. I perceive some of that kind spirit remains with us ten years later.

  • Andrew Porter

    I was doing my usual tossing and turning last night while I tried to get to sleep, my mind going its usual rapidfire way, refusing to calm down.

    So, why does 9/11 still resonate with me, far more than it does for so many others I know?

    Maybe it’s because the World Trade Center is about a mile and a half from here. I always hated the buildings for being so ugly, but I never thought someone would try to destroy them. On top of that, when a friend was staying with me the week after the 2001 World Science Fiction Convention, somehow the WTC towers were always there. They were in the background when we went to the top of the Empire State Building, and when we took the Staten Island Ferry. And on the taxi ride to Penn Station, the driver went around the tip of Manhattan and right up West Street, right next to the WTC.

    And then, less than a week later…

    On that horrible day, the stench of the burning buildings was heavy in the air, and it stayed there!!! for another FOUR months, because this neighborhood is downwind, usually, from the WTC. I’ve described it as a combination of burning plastic and dog urine. So on those beautiful fall days when the air was crystal clear, everyone here had to shut their windows and turn on their air conditioners, because of the Stench. It was so bad for so long that I ended up escaping at the end of the year to Lyme Regis and London, just to get away.

    On that day, burnt chips of paint and papers were literally raining from the sky in my neighborhood, and thousands of people covered in gray soot walked over the Brooklyn Bridge into my neighborhood, en route home, because the subways were shut down. People here were trying their best to wash them off. It was like that scene in the remake of “War of the Worlds” where Tom Cruise is trying to shake off the dust of the people vaporized by the Martian death ray.

    My local fire station on Middagh Street lost equipment and several firemen there. They were one of the closest fire stations , so off they went, across the Brooklyn Bridge, to their doom. There’s still a giant mural painted on the doors, showing the WTC. I see it every time I walk on the block, which is every few days. Here:

    And even now, when a plane flies over on the way to land at LaGuardia, I still look up, unconsciously. Is it flying the right height? Too fast? Too low? Nope, it’s okay. Nothing to worry about. I remember during the 2002 World SF Convention, when the convention center was on the flight path in to the San Jose Airport, and all the New Yorkers were ducking when those planes came in — too low, too low! — while no one else cared. Weird New Yorkers. Ha ha. But I was honestly terrified.

    And in October 2001, when I went to the World Fantasy Convention in Montreal, with the lobby bars shut down in the Delta Centreville because so many conventions had cancelled out, there, a block away, was the Montreal World Trade Center.

    Every time there’s some sort of TV program on 9/11, I can’t watch. My eyes fill with tears. The memories are still too close to me, bringing everything back. And now, of course, the new Freedom Tower is being built. I can see the top, with the construction cranes, every day, when I go down to the Promenade to take a walk. You can see it from the ground up from the Fulton Ferry landing. It’s already about 70 stories high.

    I wrote the above, slightly altered, for an on-line list I’m on, and thought this would be the place to share it. I will also post some previously unscanned photos here, of the views of Manhattan from BH.

  • AEB

    Perhaps THE national wound. Crazy disjointed heartbreak of seeking it happen on TV and outside my then-downtown window simultaneously. One breathed the burning, debris-filled air for days.

  • AEB

    So, so sorry, Julie!

  • Alana

    I unfortunately witnessed people jumping out of the first building hit and the 2nd plane hitting building #2 2 blocks from Pace University. I jumped on the train(stupid move) one stop to high street. From home I witnessed both building sway back and forth and collapse. Very devastating experience that I will never ever ever forget.

    This Sunday I will be seeing/listening to Christina Burgos sing the National Anthem at Victorian Gardens at Wollman Rink in Central Park. Families of NYPD/FDNY get 2 for 1 admission.

  • Wrennie

    I distinctly remember thinking, in the days and weeks right after 9/11, that time would literally never actually pass beyond that moment. On 10/11/01, I was in disbelief that it had already been a month. And now here we are, 10 years later–and all of these memories are still so poignant.

  • Alana

    Julie out of curiosity, would you prefer that 9/11not be mentioned every year or that it be a huge ordeal? I didn’t lose anyone close to me and in my opinion think it must be hard on families like yours to go through it all over again every year in September.

  • Livingston

    I lived through that morning pretty much start to finish, and so witnessed many unbelievable things unfold on what was meant to be a typical workday morning. Looking at all the memorial coverage, I’m thankful that the pictures and TV footage cannot capture the sounds, vibrations, and smells from that morning. I hope I never experience anything like it again.

    Such a surreal morning–I learned that my “reality” could be taken away in less than an hour. I experienced being both lucky and feeling like a helpless pawn, all at the same time. It was the first time in my life that I was ever really trapped, not being able to escape the building where I had taken refuge on Wall St. because what was outside was even worse — while every fiber was screaming that you needed to get out of there now. Like you were having an argument with yourself. I didn’t know if I would be walking away alive that morning and all you could do was wait to see what unfolded next.

    Funny thing was the song that kept “playing” in my head that morning was REM’s “The End of the World As We Know It”. It somehow calmed me and was the perfect soundtrack to the chaos.

  • nabeguy

    I remember standing on the Promenade that evening with my wife, who was 8 months pregneant with our daughter at the time, and watching the glow emanate from the void where the towers had once stood. Seeing out local parish priest, I approached him, hoping to hear some comforting words about the future of the world that I was about to bring a child into. He just looked at me and said “I just don’t know”. At that moment, the enormity of the stunning and shocking events of that day came into focus.

  • Claude Scales

    On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I dropped my daughter Liz, then a seven year old second grader, off at her school, which was on Greenwich Street in lower Manhattan, about five blocks north of the World Trade Center. I was heading for the subway to my office in midtown, and had just turned off Greenwich onto (I think) Duane Street when I heard the sound of an aircraft passing overhead. It seemed unusually close, so I looked up, but it was already obscured by the building to my right. A few seconds later, the sound ended abruptly. There were two or three seconds of silence, then a loud bang. People behind me on Greenwich, who could see the Trade Center towers, were screaming. I ran back, looked up, and saw a gash in the side of the north tower, One World Trade Center, near the top. A moment later, a fireball erupted from the gash, then smoke started billowing out. I knew that where the plane hit was about where my friend Charlie McCrann’s office was located. I called my wife on my cell phone and told her what had happened. She suggested that I go to my office, and try to call Charlie to see if he was all right. I walked across Chambers Street in a daze, past the Tweed Courthouse to the entrance to the Lexington Avenue subway. Before going down the steps, I looked back at the burning tower for a second. Just then, I heard a whooshing noise, and saw the second plane banking steeply, curving, and plowing into the south tower. I knew then that the first plane hadn’t suffered a freakish accident, and decided I had to get back to the school. When I got there, lots of parents were gathered in the common area outside the principal’s office. The principal told us the kids were in their classrooms, and the teachers were doing what they could to keep them calm. After a while, someone said they heard that a third plane had crashed into the Pentagon. Later, we heard the noise of the south tower (the second hit but the first to go) collapsing. the principal then said that the kids would be evacuated to a school in the Village, but that any parents who wanted to take their kids home could. I was with Marie, a Brooklyn Heights neighbor who had two sons at the school, and we agreed that we would make it back to Brooklyn on foot.

    The kids were brought down and we assembled on Greenwich Street and began trekking northward. Marie and I decided we would walk over the Manhattan Bridge, as smoke was blowing toward the Brooklyn Bridge. After we had walked about a block, we heard a loud noise and realized the north tower was collapsing. I grabbed Liz’s hand and we all started to run, as a cloud of dust came up the street. When we got to Canal Street, Marie and I and our kids headed east. Marie asked a cop if the Manhattan Bridge was open; he said no, we’d have to use the Williamsburgh. We walked north through the Lower East Side and came to the Tenement Museum, where a man stood outside holding a sign that said “Water and Rest Rooms Inside.” We went in for a needed break, and the kids ate the lunches they had packed for school. Then we headed on to the bridge. Over the previous several weeks, Liz had been repeatedly playing the Cyndi Lauper CD, “She’s So Unusual.” As we walked, two songs from that album were alternating in an endless loop in my head: “Money Changes Everything” and “I Don’t Want to Be a Witness.” When we got to the Brooklyn side, we were greeted by Hasidim with cups and jugs of water. We went down to the front of Peter Lugar’s, and I was able to get Marie’s husband, Mark, on the phone. He came in their van and drove us back to the Heights.

    It wasn’t until the following evening that I worked up the courage to call Charlie’s place. His wife, Michelle, answered. “He’s missing,” she said, in a voice as bleak as I have ever heard. We had been friends for almost thirty years, first as colleagues at work and bachelor neighbors in the Village, where he would often join me for drinks at the Lion’s Head or the Bells of Hell, then later sharing the transitions to marriage and fatherhood. You can read more about him here.

  • Andrew Porter

    Stanton, go into a movie theatre and shout “Fire!”

    I’ve sent four photos directly to Homer, to post if he wants to. Two are shots taken that week, before the tragic events, and two are taken on that day, one of people on Promenade, the other from Fulton Ferry. I also joined the BHB FlickR group, but can’t figure out how to post them there.

    September 13th is also the anniversary of my mother’s death, and I usually combine the two into a day at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, surrounded by growing things and beauty.

  • Doe S

    julie, I’m so sorry for your loss and almost embarrassed for our little blog that someone would come on here and make such glib and insensitive comments. Some people just *need* for their pain to be so much more relevant and poignant than the pain of others. That said: My day started out like many other ‘work at home’ days: standing in the front window of my apartment (Concord Village), drinking coffee, staring at nothing in particular. That’s when I noticed the WTC was on fire! Couldn’t tell why or what it was, just that there was smoke billowing from the top of it. Turned on the TV, nothing much was percolating yet. THEN Fox News (!!!) made a comment about it on-air, saying they thought a prop plane had hit the WTC. I called my parents in Michigan to tell them to turn on the TV, that a small plane had hit the WTC. But then the second plane hit and we knew right away that it was an attack. After that, I remember hundreds (maybe thousands?) of people walking across the Brooklyn Bridge (which runs right in front of my complex) and most were covered in a white ash. Many were crying, some came to sit on the grass at our complex and rub their feet (walking in heels). The one thing that really stood out for me was the quiet, almost a deafening silence permeating the area. We could hear sirens blaring, but once the buildings fell: nothing, just a void. We were stunned into silence. I always thought those two buildings were tacky and ugly, but once they were gone, it felt to me like I had lost a limb (weird but true).

  • Chuck Taylor

    this is almost too much to endure… reading these heartfelt accounts, when we were all — literally — so close.

    instead of reliving my own here (i was in the heights that morning, thanks to being 10 minutes late leaving for work; otherwise, i would have been on the subway)… i’d like to share that 1010 WINS has some of the most affecting accounts from its reporters that i’ve ever heard.

    they’re airing on the station this week and are also grouped on its website. really emotional stuff from the staff that were on the scene.

  • Homer Fink

    Julie and Stanton are likely to be the same person. “Their” comments have been moderated. It’s a shame that someone would hijack a thread like this for their own sick amusement.

    Carry on.

  • Lou

    My wife and I were waiting for our moving trucks to take us from the UWS to Brooklyn Heights. We were watching NBC when they interrupted some guy being interviewed about his book (about Hemingway IRCC). Needless to say, our move didn’t happen on 9/11. My brother was down in Soho with movers who were Israeli (shleppers). My brother was taking our place in the apartment we were moving out of and the movers were going to move him in, then us out. The moment they saw the plane fly in they started insisting “Arabs! Has to be!” The moved his junk out of Manhattan mini storage and came up to the UWS. At this point they still believed they could move us to Brooklyn. We ended up unloading my brother stuff then loading our stuff into their truck. Eventually they realized they weren’t getting through and just took our stuff away in the truck. In the meantime we watched both towers fall in disbelief. I worked in SoHo on broadway and knew everyone at work would be on the balcony above Yellow Rat Bastard (since moved across the street) watching the disaster. After a million replays on TV and assuring everyone I knew by email and IM that we were okay my wife and I decided to get out of the house. In the elevator ride down my cell phone rang. It was the only call that got through to my phone that entire day. It was my friend Alex calling from Florida. His little sister was stuck at her private school on the East side. His grandmother was unreachable and he needed someone to go pick her up. It was totally random that he got through. He’d been calling everyone. Even the landlines weren’t working but his call to me got through. So we walked across from W. 85th & West End Ave to like East 80 something and got his sister. A lot of the kids in this school were the children of Wall Street types so there was a ton of crying kids freaking out as people came to pick them up. As we walked this young girl back to the West Side Air Force fighter jets roared across the sky and we had to reassure her that the attacks were over for the day. We got her home and just went home to veg out. What I’ll never forget was walking past all those restaurants and how they were just PACKED with people just talking talking talking. It was like this mass “I have to get out of the house and talk to someone” moment. Everyone was just talking. Better than cowering at home and feeling sorry. We finally moved to Brooklyn Heights on 9/13. The cops stopped our movers truck very 5 miles to inspect it and added about 3 hours of travel time to our bill. I shot some video of all the tributes. Candles, pictures, etc. The trail of smoke billowing out and going towards Jersey. I’ve never watched it again.

    If you ever want to hear a shameful story of that day ask me about what my boss at the time did.

  • shamrock

    Some poignant stories, to say the very least. 9/11 is something most of us will never forget, nor ever should.

    On 9/11 I was on the other side of the world in Java and I’ll still never forget that day. I was with my brother who worked in WTC 2 and ever so grateful that his life was spared. Before returning home to NYC, the lack of communication and inability to find out about friends and family was unnerving. I had no idea what I would be returning to. My home would never be the same.

    And Eddy Energizer, it’s people like you and stories like yours that continue to give me faith in humanity. Had I been here, most likely I would have done by best to join hands in whatever relief efforts I could too.

    Homer, thanks for the heads-up that “Stanton” and “Julie” are potentially the same people. Was rather perplexed by some of Stanton’s comments, and despite the obvious insensitivity the posts just seemed too manipulative.

  • WillowtownCop

    Please support the efforts of first responders and residents of lower Manhattan who are now dying of cancer from breathing in toxic dust. Cancer is not covered in the Zadroga Bill – Bloomburg’s goons have gone so far as to snatch a police officer’s body from a funeral home because they didn’t want “911 related cancer” on his death certificate.

  • nabeguy

    Homer, that’s beyond sick. Trolling is one thing, but you should report them to Homeland Security and see how amused they are then.

  • Teddy

    Just came home and felt like adding my own experience from that tragic day ten years ago. I had a dentist’s appointment that morning at Long Island College Hospital and was getting ready to leave when I heard the first explosion. I wondered if it was a gas explosion nearby. I turned on the TV and it wasn’t long until I saw the horrific image of 1 WTC on fire. After about 10 minutes, I went up to the roof and as I walked up the stairs, I heard the second explosion. That’s when I really got afraid and for a few seconds, I wasn’t sure if I should keep going up to roof or return to my apt, maybe getting ready to evacuate.

    Being the curious cat I continued up to the roof and I’ll never forget what I saw when I opened that roof door. I stood up there in shock for almost an hour until the first tower collapsed. I watched the smoke blow toward Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens and retreated back into the building when the wave of dust approached the Heights. That evening around sunset I went back up to the roof with my mom. The wind had shifted and now the smoke from the burning rubble, including 7 WTC which had just collapsed a couple of hours earlier, was blowing toward the North Heights and DUMBO. For the first time in my life I knew a little what it felt like to be in a war. For my mom, who was a child growing up in Augsburg, Germany during WWII, it was a reminder.

    Later that evening after watching unending coverage of the attacks (my appointment was canceled btw), I decided to change the channel and watched an episode of “Three’s Company”, which I enjoyed watching as a kid during the early 80s. That helped a little. Spending time with a good friend the next day in a local bar helped even more.

  • Willow St. Neighbor

    Julie and Stanton are the same person????
    That is beyond sick. That is pure evil.

  • north heights res

    I don’t know whether this is the right place for this, but I was driving on the BQE tonight, heading west, when hundreds and hundreds of motorcycles, with flashing lights/police/FD escorts, descended. They’d get off each exit, and then one would block the ramp onto the BQE, stopping all cars, so that the motorcycles could go around them back on the BQE.

    Then they’d slow traffic across lanes so that drivers couldn’t past them, and obstruct drivers who tried to exit.

    It was obviously either a tribute or protest of some kind, but it was also aggressive, intimidating, threatening, and dangerous. Anyone have any idea what was going on?

  • Andrew Porter

    I am sure I heard a fighter jet somewhere overhead, in the clouds, above BH this afternoon, about 5pm. A friend tells me that because of the possible threats to NYC, this is quite likely.

    I remember when the fighter jets flew low over BH on 9/11—the sound was unlike anything I’d ever heard before.

  • travy

    my first solo apartment had an unobstructed view of the harbor and i was up before work drinking coffee and watching new york 1. i heard the first plane hit and saw a finger of flames shoot out the back of the building and then office papers and ashy debris floating towards brooklyn like confetti.

    like everyone else i thought it was an accident; a blown gas line or an amateur pilot or daredevil. so weird now how at the first sign of trouble our minds turn immediately to terrorism.

    i pretty quickly called a good friend who worked in news down in miami to give him the jump on what would be the morning’s big story and was speculating to him about what had happened when what appeared to be a commercial airliner banked into the harbor and turned it’s belly towards me before gunning its engines and diving into the second tower. it disappeared into a comically large ball of flames and i’ll never forget how big and fake it looked, like a bad special effect. but more than that i remember my neighbors and people on the street below watching at the same time and how they all recoiled and started crying, some dropping to their knees and covering their faces in horror.

    a friend from fort greene was nearby and stopped by to watch it all with me and brought a disposable camera he bought. we were taking pictures and wondering how the people above the impact site would be rescued when the first building quietly collapsed like it was made of matchsticks.

    the magnitude of loss and destruction was impossible to understand and i was just stunned silent until a dust cloud got halfway across the water and appeared to be heading right for us. sort of panicking, we grabbed some stuff and ran back to his place, cutting through the fulton mall which was chaotic with disturbed people running around and ranting about the end of the world and religion.

    by the time we got to fort greene park the second building had already fallen. we sat and drank beers and watched the ruins burn then went home and watched it all over again on the news for hours until the grotesqueness of it all became too much. i passed out drunk and dazed but woke up early with a headache.

    my first meal the next day was at teresa’s which was thankfully open. i cried when i read my morning ny times but felt comforted by the sight of all the regulars also out trying to grab back a little piece of normalcy. the place filled up pretty quickly for a weekday and i laughed to myself thinking not even the destruction of lower manhattan could slow down the nyc brunch scene.

    the rest of the weeks ahead played out in much the same way it did for everyone else. the loss became more real every day. i was greatly moved by the first responders and volunteers and troubled by the reflexive turn towards war and and the growing security state. i also understood for the first time where these reactions come from.

    i eventually had to give up my great apartment. the view i loved so much was a constant reminder with the gaping whole in the skyline and the constant parade of airplanes flying by always made me jerk around and look. i still live nearby though and share many of the same thoughts and emotions as others here do. like everyplace, the heights has it’s own story that morning. rip to those we lost.

  • http://mary@reventlow mary reventlow

    I was teaching an English class at PS369@67. Although I received updates, I didn’t tell my students. My husband called and told me that
    my 10 year old daughter was with him. The telephone lines were extremely congested – i eventually contacted my 23 year old son. He was woken by the impact of the first aircraft. He told me that the garden was filled with papers from the WTC. When I walked home from school, I noticed that everything was covered in dust – I placed my scarf over my nose and mouth.

  • PierrepontSkin

    North Heights Res, there is a huge group of bikers who rode cross-country from Los Angeles to New York for 9/11. They are all made up of fire fighters and law enforcement officials. A friend of mine had the ‘pleasure of serving about 40 of them at Brazen Head on Thursday night. As I was told, they said “We were all New Yorkers on 9/11″ I think what they did was a wonderful gesture.

  • fromcolumbiastreet

    The phone woke me up. My mother’s voice asked me if I knew what was happening. A plane had flown into the World Trade Center. “Was it a small plane?” my mind turning to the story of the plane flying into the Empire State building so many years ago. She told me it looked like a big plane. I went to the front of the apartment, overlooking East 4th Street and turned on the TV. “I’ll call you back.”

    I rushed up the stairs from our fifth floor apartment, reaching the roof just in time to see the second plane in the distance. Seconds later, the windows of Tower Two shattered, flames enveloping the sky for a moment before being sucked back to the building. A couple on the roof screamed. I couldn’t breathe. I remember being shocked that there weren’t missile turrets on that roof. Without thinking about it, I guess I always assumed they were up there.

    I took stock of what I knew: My girlfriend was at the gym, no one we knew worked in the towers. One friend worked in the World Financial Center, right next store. I had to get a hold of him.

    I headed back into the stairway to find my girlfriend at our front door. “Did you see what’s happening?” she asked, somewhat blasé, as was her style.

    The phones were still working at this point and the next 45 minutes were spent talking to parents and friends, glued to the TV. I felt most at ease watching MSNBC, anchored by Brian Williams. The friend from World Financial Center told me he was on his way to work when the first plane hit. He was on the West Side Highway by Chambers Street when his car screeched to a halt. “Something blew up.” The driver told him.

    We went up to the roof again. They looked like two giant cigars, with the blackest black smoke billowing up into the sky towards Brooklyn. “We’re lucky the wind is blowing that way.” I told her. “How can you think of us?” It was all I was thinking about, keeping us safe. I turned around and looked at the Empire State Building, wondering if it was next. My girlfriend wanted to get out of the city. “We’re safe here, no one’s bombing the village.” I looked back at The Towers. “Those fires aren’t getting smaller.”

    We walked back downstairs. As soon as we walked in, we heard the people on TV – one of the Towers had collapsed. We stood in silence, neither of us wanting move.

    Our apartment became a gathering place. We told everyone who called to come over. “We’re safe here.” I kept saying. The nook living room was packed with scared people, some them in total panic. My girlfriend’s friend asked how I was so calm. She told her I was always able to stay emotionless, like a robot. I’ll never forget that. I was thinking “We’re safe here. Keep everyone here.”

    People wanted to go help. “We can’t help. Stay here.” Stay safe.

    I went to the roof and sat on the ledge facing south, waiting for what I knew was coming. The couple was still up there, recording everything. You have to look; you have to watch; you have to remember. The words ran through my mind on a loop.

    It looked like a gray banana being pealed. The building collapsed in giant arches falling away in all directions, with one giant pillar of dust and debris and death staying straight up reaching for heaven before imploding into itself. I walked back downstairs. I wish Al Gore were President, I thought to myself.

    “Something happened at The Pentagon”

    “There are fifty hijacked planes.”

    “A plane crashed in Pennsylvania.”

    “There’s a bomb on The Brooklyn Bridge”

    Where the hell is The President? In the air. Guiliani talked to us on New York 1. He was honest and sad and brave. Who needs that hick President? We’re New Yorkers, we have Guiliani. Those poor souls in DC and Pennsylvania will have to fend for themselves.

    We left the apartment as a unit, walking onto 4th street without a plan. “They’re asking Volunteers to go to the Javits Center.” “They’re asking for volunteers at Chelsea Piers.” We walked and walked and walked. At Chelsea Piers we found a long line of ambulances.

    “Why are they here?”

    “There’s no one to save.”

    Walking down the West Side Highway, I talked to my friend in Washington “We’re going to carpet bomb the whole Mideast” he predicted. We got as far as we could, dust covered people walked the other way in daze. One man had a bloody gash on his forehead but either didn’t know or didn’t care. “Do you need help?” My girlfriend asked, but he kept walking.

    They turned us away near Chambers Street. Our group thinned out as we made our way back uptown. We walked and walked and walked, ending up on 9th Avenue in the 40s. We ate and drank at some crappy sports bar. The drinks were free.

    Sadly, the rest of the day is a blur. I remember walking on 9th street and Second Ave, seeing a guy I didn’t like but loving him in that moment. I remember feeling the patriotism build on the streets, calls and roars of anger and pride echoing off the buildings. I remember “God Bless America” and “God bless you” from stranger after stranger. I remember saying it back.

    I remember the smell.

    No one wanted to go home. We knew the night would bring the next day and the next day would bring the rest of our lives in a new and different world.

    That night, as sirens roared down 2nd avenue, my girlfriend and I sat and stared at Brian Williams until after midnight. It rained, “To add insult to injury, a light rain has begun to fall on the rescue workers, making this impossible job even more difficult” he told us.

    We finally went to bed. We held each other and said we were lucky, though we didn’t believe it. Everything felt wrong. Everything felt wrong because everything was wrong.

    But we were lucky. We were safe. We were changed.