Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11 Remembered

I have shared with some of you my experiences of 9/11.   For those who I haven't, I will do here.

September 11, 2001 was a very clear day, similar to today in the northeast.   There wasn't a cloud in the sky.   I worked for Instinet Corporation at the time.  We had a correspondent clearing division that was located on the 15th floor of the North Tower.   I had recently moved to that division a few months earlier.

As my habit, I usually got to the office just before 8:00AM.   That day was no exception.   I was just talking on the phone discussing getting tickets to a West Point football game in October.   Just as I hung up the phone, a very loud sound resonated through the floor and the building began to sway.   It seemed at the time the floor moved 4 or 5 feet in one direction, and then back to it's normal location.   I looked out the window of my office and saw debris falling from the sky.   I had no idea what happened, but memories of the bombing in 1993 came to mind.   Seemed strange to see the debris though.

The few of us in the office left their desks and congregated in a common area.   One woman said, stand in your doorways, you will be safe.   Now that was just plain stupid.

We made our way to the stairwells and started the orderly exit out of the building.   At about the 10th floor, the flow stopped.   That was the first time I ever feared for my life; being stuck somewhere with the anticipation that something bad could truly happen that was outside of my control.   I found a door out of the stairwell that opened into the 10th floor.   I asked the security guard what he knew.   He said a small private plan crashed into the building.   That seemed to relieve me a bit.

I made my way back to the stairwell and miraculously the traffic began to move downward until we finally made it to the lobby.   I still remember passing a NY fireman who was making his way up the stairs with full gear, most probably never to come back down.

The lobby looked like a disaster scene.   The windows were blown out, water on the floors, and huge amounts of debris in the plaza.   We walked single file out of the lobby through the Vista hotel next door until we finally made it to West Street.   I met up with my friend Lou across the street and we contemplated what to do.    As we talked, I heard the roar of a jet and looked up at the South Tower that was just across the street.   My first thought was that an Air Force fighter jet was flying over to inspect the damage.   But I could see the outline of a grey commercial jet, engines roaring, fly directly into the building overhead.   Our first instinct was to run.   And we ran as fast as we could toward the Hudson River until we though we were safe from the falling debris.

The rest of the day was pretty much a daze.   Lou and I walked around downtown trying to figure out what happened, and what was happening.   Every few minutes we looked up at the Trade Center towers wondering how they would ever fix the gigantic holes that were now in the building.   Little did we know that job would never have to be done.

We made our way to the Staten Island Ferry just as the first building came down, and could finally see daylight again when we were half way across the harbor.   We found refuge in a Staten Island hospital office due the generosity of a man we met on the boat who worked there.   Lou called a friend of his who lived in SI who offered us a place for the night.   The next day, we both finally made it home.

Anyone who was in New York during that time can remember the fear and uncertainty that engulfed the city.   Anthrax scares and fear of more bombings made us all very uneasy.   Overtime, the fear subsided and we got back to our business.   But for that one day in September, life stood still.

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