On this day in 2001, the lives of millions of us were affected forever. Nearly 3000 people lost their lives that day. And for many more the loss would be felt for many years to come. Broken families, upended lives, economic hardships, and a sense of freedom that sadly hasn’t existed since.
I can remember the day like yesterday. If you lived in the NY area, then you would know that that day started out as one of the nicest, clearest days in memory. The fresh September air was extraordinary. I was working in Woodbridge NJ, roughly 17 miles from lower Manahattan. I was working for a firm that was headquartered in Woodbridge at the time. After 12 years at that firm, I had enjoyed a senior management position and enjoyed a large corner office, which directly faced the Twin Towers. I would often look up from my keyboard to marvel at the lower Manhattan skyline. On most days the haze was too thick to really discern any detail, but on that day the towers could be viewed clearly. I also kept a pair of binoculars on the windowsill, just for such a day.
That morning there was a planned meeting in my office that was to begin at 9a. Around 8:50a, I went to use the rest room and there encountered an associate. Ed asked me if I had heard about the small plane that hit one of the Twin Towers. I hadn’t yet. So both Ed and I went back to my office to actually see what was going on. Sure enough, we did see smoke coming from the top of tower. What a weird accident we assumed. Soon my staff starting coming into my office for the scheduled meeting. But by that time all eyes were focused on the Towers. Then someone brought in a radio so we could listen to the news in real time. Within the next ten minutes, we all knew what was going on – “hijacked”, “terrorists”, “commercial aircraft”. The meeting would never happen.
For the next hour or more, there was pandemonium in that office. I think at one point there were 2 dozen people in there staring in disbelief and horror. Some people were crying, most went back and forth between break-rooms (where TVs had been setup) and city-facing windows to observe in person. At around 10:30, without any instruction, direction, or even deliberation people just began to slowly and quietly leave the building to go home to their families. Myself, before heading home, I first went to fill up my gas tank. I thought there may be some outside chance of needing to flee far from the city. I then drove home, not panicked but completely numb. Once there, all of the neighbors eventually congregated together in backyards, where we literally stayed until late that night. Because of the FAA ban on all air traffic, the silence was deafening, especially considering that we were in one of the most densely populated areas of the globe. The profound absence of background noise was really strange. Teary eyes all glued to large screen TV sets for the remainder of the night, watching the hideous replay of flying bodies, collapsing buildings, fleeing people, and loved ones aimlessly putting up “Looking for…” signs.
I spent one more sad year in that building in Woodbridge, NJ and after 13 years with that company left for good. For me, that day marked the end of what had been a very comfortable existence. The optimism and excitement of go-go ’90’s were officially dead and a new era of disquiet emerged to take its place.
Never Forget…and God Bless the USA