September 11, 2001 was a beautiful fall day. The sky was blue, the day was mild. I’d gotten up a little late that morning. My wife suggested that I should take the later train (about 40 minutes later), but I really wanted to stop in Borders Bookstore in the World Trade Center that morning. I did that once every couple of weeks, just to browse thru the books. So I pushed myself out the door, drove to the train station, and caught my usual train which took me to Hoboken, NJ. From there I took the Path train to the World Trade Center, but completely forgot that I wanted to stop at Borders, and entered the Courtlandt St subway station. After I paid my subway fare I remembered that I’d intended to stop at Borders, but decided that I’d either stop tonight on the way home or tomorrow morning. The time was about 8:10. I got my usual R train and headed into Brooklyn, just as I had every work day for the last several years. I arrived, as usual, at my desk at about 8:30.
About 9:00 a co-worker came in and told us that a plane had apparently hit the World Trade Center, that he saw the smoke on his way in. We turned on a radio and heard that a small plane had hit the North Tower. It seemed like an accident. As the news rolled in, we learned that it was a passenger jet, not a small plane, that hit the tower. Then the South Tower was hit. Then there were reports of a plane hitting the Pentagon. I called my wife to tell her I was OK, she said they were watching the news on a TV. I thought it was a little odd that she didn’t seem concerned about me since my commute took me thru the World Trade Center, but I decided not to press the issue.
A few of us decided to walk down to the East River to see what was happening, when we got there my first impression was that there was a lot of paper in the air, apparently sucked from the towers. There was a huge hole in the North Tower, full of flames. The South Tower was partially hidden from view by the North, but it was obvious that it was burning too. We were too far away to see the people falling, we didn’t hear about that until later.
At this point I was thinking that the fire department would evacuate the buildings, put out the fires, and then something would need to be done to repair the towers. It never occured to me that the towers might be too badly damaged to repair. Then the South Tower (or what I could see of it behind the North Tower) sort of tipped at the top, then collapsed in a rain of dust and debris.
I didn’t have another coherent thought for the rest of the day. I couldn’t stay there anymore, we left, headed back to our office building, where we found that the building (a New York City municipal building) was evacuated and locked down, we weren’t allowed back in. We met up with our manager, and we all went to her apartment a few blocks away. On the way I stopped in a store for a bottle of soda and learned that the North Tower had collapsed, but I was numb at that point. I remember repeatedly thinking “This day needs to be over.”
Since New York City was pretty much locked down I couldn’t get home, so I and some others spent the night at our managers apartment. The next morning we decided not to open, and by then the transportation system was functioning, so I headed for home via the Path train in Mid-town Manhattan. Everyone I saw on the way home had a thousand-yard stare, like they were in shock. From the train I could see the smoke rising from where the towers had been, that column of smoke would be part of the landscape for a long time.
I arrived home in the early afternoon. My wife arrived home from work at her usual hour. As we talked about the events of the previous day I mentioned that I’d been in the basement of the World Trade center a half-hour before the first plane hit. She sat bolt upright and said “You were WHAT?” She’d completely forgotten that my daily commute took me thru the World Trade Center, which was just as well or she’d have been beside herself with worry.
Do not forget what happened that day. Do not forget what you were doing, where you were. Do not forget that three thousand people who did nothing more sinister than show up for work or ride a plane died that day. Do not forget that those people were murdered, they did not die in a natural disaster. Do not forget who murdered them.
Can’t (and won’t) add a single thing. Thank you, Mark.