September 11, 2001 EyewitnessI saw the first plane hit. To this day, nine years and counting, I can see in my mind’s eye the flight path, going down the NYC skyline saying to myself, very quietly in the back of my mind, that doesn’t look right. I was brushing my hair in the rear view mirror; it’s always about the hair, isn’t it? Out of the corner of my eye I see a plane in a spot where, well, one is not accustomed to seeing a large plane flying. My car is heading due east along Rt 3, the highway the leads into the Lincoln Tunnel. On a map it is directly west of the Empire State Building. It is right by the Meadowlands, where Giants Stadium is located. I am running late as there was a meeting last night for marketing association I headed and it went really well. A day late and a dollar short, story of my life.
That Monday night there was a crazy sky, purple hazy coloring, unlike anything I had ever seen. A funnel cloud came through and there were traffic accidents galore. The meeting went extremely well, something that as president, I wasn’t only grateful for, but proud of. So I while I was patting myself on the back and brushing my hair, life, as we know it, was about to change.
I was listening to the radio, you know, the radio bite played nationwide saying’…we’re getting word that a small plane flew into the World Trade Center.’ Way in the back of my mind I’m thinking, that was no small plane.
As always, there is that morning commuter traffic so well known in these parts, after leaning out my window in vain – why – I don’t know, but was, I pulled over. My office was just off the exit but you can tell something else had just happened. There was more smoke. Another explosion. The second plane. Walked into my 3rd floor office, my company, which is so conservative it makes Rush Limbaugh look like a bleeding liberal, was in chaos. Utter chaos. Radios blasting AM News. We can look out and see the skyline, especially the twin towers. Picture if you will a cubicle solely for coffee, with a view. The twin towers can be seen above the coffee maker. We were all looking. There was smoke everywhere. Something happened; it became obvious that the south tower had collapsed. There stood the north tower. Alone. For what seemed like an eternity. Then, in a moment that froze in time, an image I will take to my grave, one floor collapsed and fell on the next. It happened again. And again. Over and over. I was alone when it first started tumbling down but everyone came back to see. People were crying, screaming. As the smoke somewhat cleared the skyline, the skyline I saw being built, the restaurant where my wife and me got engaged, this place where we knew so many people, was gone.
I packed up and went home and put the flag out. You know me; I’m the guy that always puts the flag out, no matter what. In two days, everywhere in our area was covered in a sea of red, white and blue. That light, with sirens wailing everywhere, I, along with you, was watching the news when suddenly police cars swarmed a van that had been pulled over. It was reported at the time that people were under arrest as maps of the George Washington Bridge and explosives were found. What put fear into me for the first time in my life was the spot where the incident occurred, the exact spot I had pulled over ten hours earlier that day.
We could not go back to work until Friday as the highways leading into the city were shut down. On Friday, when we were able to go back it was eerie, as this was the day President Bush visited the site. Fighter jets were everywhere. Although we ‘New Yorkers’ are supposed to be used to everything, this was a bit much.
Eventually, we tried to resume something that was close to normal, as normal as we could get. We could see the fire rage on for 100 days, going into the city, which I did many times was chilling as you drove right through the tunnel and everywhere you looked there were armed military personnel. No worries about paying the tolls these days.
There were many of us who donated services, legal medical professional. I was assigned a telecommunications company that needed to tell their customers that they were open and ready for business. I met with them, discussed their options and set forth on as business plan. It worked out very well as they were one of the first companies who decided to stay in lower Manhattan. This caused a domino affect and many companies whom originally were leaving stayed. I was invited to an appreciation dinner at American Park, a restaurant located in Battery Park. This was in February, the second night the flood lights went on marking the spot of the twin towers. The view from the restaurant was dead-on to the lights, a sight I will not soon forget.
I do not live-and-die with September 11th events, that right is reserved for others. Simply thought that with no fanfare that you may be interested in an eye witness view of that horrible day.
I wrote this as a blog and typically it is taboo to write the same story twice. Considering the anniversary is upon us, I thought you might to read this here.