What was I doing on Sept. 11 2001? Most assuredly the same thing that I did on Sept. 10, 2001 but even more assuredly not the same thing that I would do on Sept. 12, 2001 or ever after. Ten years on and the memories of 9-11 are still as sharp and crisp as they were that day.
And a crisp, sharp day it was. So beautiful in fact that I had opened all the car windows and shut the car radio off. I dropped off my daughter Bri at school and headed to the office enjoying the morning drive. I parked the car, grateful that alternate side of the street parking had been suspended for Primary Day, and sailed into the building on Sheepshead Bay Road. I hollered out to our receptionist, Barbara Srokin, “Hey Barbs what’s shaking today?”
“A plane flew into the Trade Center,” she replied.
And the rest, as they say, is history
The office was abuzz with speculation, what type of plane was it? Was it an accident? What floor did it hit? How many injured? As the second plane hit and subsequently the third into the Pentagon and the fourth that crashed in Shanksville, Pa. I knew, along with the rest of the city, that this was no accident and that we were under attack. I called editor and asked if he heard the news and how was this going to affect our readership. We were Brooklyn, that was Manhattan. How naive.
This would not only affect Brooklynites, but every New Yorker — and every American, forever.
The reports became more and more ominous. By the time the plan crashed in Pennsylvania and the Twin Towers had fallen, I was in flight mode, along with the rest of the city. The newsroom went into overdrive as the rest of the staff and reporters started to file in. Steve Witt immediately made arrangements with one of our photographers to drive over to Brooklyn Heights to investigate. He later would report that Atlantic Avenue was a sea of humanity, the street clogged with walkers and the smoke from the burning towers across the river made it hard to see. Tom Tracy was busy contacting his sources at the Police Department and Fire Department for the latest updates and I kept in touch with the rest of the staff in the field keeping track with who was where and with whom.
In between the office calls, I contacted my husband, who was home that day and told him, “Bob the city is under attack, go get Bri, the Trade Center was hit, the twin towers have collapsed, the Pentagon was hit, a fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania and there might be more coming.”
For once he didn’t question my orders. He got dressed and zoomed over to the school where dozens of parents were signing their children out.
My daughter’s third grade teacher, Ms. Weiner, was trying to keep the class calm as she tried to keep herself together, her fiance worked at the Trade Center and she couldn’t get in touch with him. I later learned that he had made it out safely.
My husband, with Bri in hand, walked down the street toward home. On the way he stopped at a phone booth and called me, “I can smell the smoke in the air, I see a big plume of smoke coming from the direction of the Trade Center and there are little bits of paper and ash filtering down. I’m headed home with Bri, when are you coming home?”
But home would be much later that day.
As the hours wore on and I tried to get in touch with friends that I knew were at work in the Twin Towers that day. In the days and weeks that passed, I learned that my cousin Anthony had lost his wife, (her remains have never been found), neighbors lost family members and many members of my church had either lost someone close or knew of someone that did.
The papers would go out, there would be endless memorials, street re-namings and somehow we would be able to pull it all back together, we would bounce back, we were, after all, New Yorkers, and we would re-build, bigger and better than ever, and yes we would most assuredly get the bastard that did this, no matter how long it took, Osama Bin Ladin would pay, dead or alive.
In the 10 years that have passed, journalists, politicans, theorists and even Hollywood movers and shakers have analyzed, dissected, bisected, investigated and produced documentaries and dramatizations ad nausea; endless speculation has arisen, was our government involved; theories, plots and plans would be blown out of proportion and no angle or stone would be left unturned.
In the end, you can keep all the endless rhetoric, the speculation, the guess work, who was and who wasn’t responsible, none of it really matters, the only thing that does is that in the 10 years that have come and gone, mothers have lost children, wives have lost husbands, husbands have lost wives, fathers did not walk daughters down the aisle, friends have lost friends, children have lost the loving embrace of their parents, and the lives of all New Yorkers have been forever altered.