Greetings and thanks to whoever is kind and
patient enough to take the time to read all this.
This is my experience with the World Trade Center.
Photo © 2001 Vito Macaluso
This version of the site is formatted for desktop or laptop computers.
But I've caught up to the 21st century.
Which means, if you're visiting from a mobile device,
for a better experience, please
click here, thanks.
Before I begin, after years of thinking and talking about it, I've decided now
in 2017 to finally update this site. Over the years, whenever I've expressed
an inclination to do so, many people that I know have expressed to
me rather passionately that I should leave this alone as a "monument"
of sorts, as an authentic reflection and expression of what went down at the time.
Thus, the only "updates" I've done have been to change the formatting,
or fix typos, while leaving the original text and pictures unchanged.
Nevertheless, there are a number of reasons why I've finally endeavored to update this:
In deference to many friends' sensibilities that I should preserve this "monument"
and leave it alone, I've thus far resisted the urge to edit many writings out of this piece.
My sister Susan, who worked with me at the WTC, and is talked about prominently
on the site in spots, passed away of a heart attack in January 2002 at the age of 34,
a few months after I wrote and shared all of this. 9/11 affected her extremely deeply.
My family and I have long believed that the post-9/11 stress contributed to her death.
At the time, I never updated this site with this information because of two thoughts:
First, she was a very private person, and while she shared a number of fascinating
pictures with me at the time that were taken from inside the WTC, she did so with the
admonition that, "This isn't for your web site." So until now, I've honored those wishes.
Secondly, there were enough "pathos" on this site that to mention my sister's death
in any way seemed "exploitative" to me, not to mention her admonitions in my ears.
After all this time, as I revisit this, to have never updated this site with this
information, without an acknowledgement of her in some tangible way, just
seems wrong to me now. I want to acknowledge her. It feels okay to do so now.
A lot has happened since I wrote this. When I re-read this after not looking at it
for a long time, I realized that I left a number of questions unanswered, and some
anecdotes and situations unresolved that have since been resolved, for better, or
worse. I've decided to answer/resolve them, after leaving them hanging for so long.
Over the years, I've come across some pictures and audio that I didn't have
access to when I wrote this that display and express exactly what I experienced
back then. I feel that these additions will only serve to enhance the site, and
bring across what was experienced.
I've added some first-hand accounts from co-workers that have been shared with
me since I first wrote this. Some of them are pretty harrowing. But each
"perspective" adds a modicum of understanding to what happened that day.
A seriously fascinating and remarkable archaeological discovery was made by
the NYC Sanitation department. An eagle-eyed visitor to this site spotted it.
The discovery is too
bizarre and uncanny
not to share.
was a complete miss in the original version of this essay.
How I failed to mention it is beyond my comprehension.
This has been rectified with this update.
Time and experience has a way of changing people. After reading what I wrote,
I must confess that I no longer hold to many of the views that I expressed at
the time. My perspective has changed and been refined to a great degree.
I'm also a much more private person now than I was when I wrote this,
and I can't believe now how open I was back then.
After all these years, I can finally deal with it in a somewhat detached manner.
However, what I *have* done (for now) is insert new text circa 2017 that reflects my
current views, or refines and clarifies what I expressed back then. I've also added
some anecdotes or answered some questions, or followed up on some aspects that
were left unresolved at the time. Whenever I've done this, I've made it clear that it's an
*addition*, to the original text, and the added text is in blue.
I've also added additional pictures, audio, and video where I've felt it enhanced the site,
most especially where it was able to portray accurately what I experienced at the time.
While I attempted to "paint word pictures" as best I could, sometimes an actual picture
or audio simply does a better job. I've also added a number of links to other web sites
that either fill in gaps, or have particularly interesting information and/or stories
about aspects related to 9/11 and the WTC that are related to this site in some way.
I'm well aware that my additions and "hindsight" interrupt the "flow" at times.
And while that may be regrettable, one is always free to skip over the additions.
As of this writing, I'm still editing and adding to this "work in progress", but
I believe the edits are now about 98% done, and any further tweaks and refinements
to *this* page should be minor. However, I am still working on an "epilogue",
in which I intend to write about events that have occurred in the ensuing fifteen-plus
years since this was originally written, and also share some thoughts and aspects
pertaining to 9/11, the WTC, and my own personal "journey" that perhaps are beyond
the scope of this original missive.
Also, I took many pictures of Manhattan from Jersey City as the new Freedom
Tower thing was being built. I intend to put together a pictorial which shows
its progress over a number of years.
Having said all this, I must also acknowledge that so much of what I wrote, I'd long since
forgotten about. So in a way, I'm kind of glad that I preserved it all at the time,
or it would have been lost through the mists of time.
So for now, the "original" text gets a stay of execution,
though parts of it make me wince.
It was what it was.
End 2017 Update
Table of Contents
3rd Week of August 2001
Fri Sept 7, 2001
Sat Sept 8, 2001
Sun Sept 9, 2001
Mon Sept 10, 2001
Tuesday September 11, 2001
Wed Sept 12, 2001
Thu Sept 13, 2001
Fri Sept 14, 2001
Sat Sept 15, 2001
Sun Sept 16, 2001
Late September thoughts
Sept 19, 2001
Sept 20-21, 2001
Sept 22, 2001
Sept 24, 2001
Sept 27, 2001
Sept 29-30, 2001
Oct 2, 2001
Oct 6-8, 2001
Oct 9-12, 2001
Oct 13-14, 2001
Oct 15-16, 2001
Oct 17, 2001
Oct 18, 2001
My name is Edward Jerlin.
I am trying to make some kind of sense of September 11, 2001.
You see, I used to work in the World Trade Center.
I am trying to deal with a sense of loss and emptiness that is overwhelming me.
I am trying to organize my thoughts and experiences and put them down on paper,
well, on a hard disc, really. ;-)
This needs to come out. Therapy...
This is my "story".
It most certainly pales in comparison to many others I've heard,
but it's mine, nevertheless, which makes it... well... mine.
Nothing more; nothing less; nothing special, I guess.
Certainly, I'm one of the lucky ones.
Note: I've left off people's last names to protect their privacy.
This is largely the story of one New Yorker's "relationship" to a couple of
very tall buildings (if indeed one can have a "relationship" to a building),
and to a city he has always loved...
Thanks to Tanya Kiskanyan, a co-worker, and to Charlie Siedenburg,
a family friend, who were both gracious enough to share their pictures with me.
A very special thanks to Vito Macaluso, a co-worker, fellow Staten Islander,
and dear friend who not only took many of the pictures on this site
but is someone who shares the same love for New York City that I do.
The reason his pictures mean the world to me is that they were taken
from the perspective of a person who truly loves New York.
I grew up on Staten Island, New York City and have lived there all my life.
When I was a kid, every evening, my Mom would drive my two sisters and
me to the Staten Island Ferry terminal to pick up my Dad, who worked
in downtown Manhattan for the New York City Finance Department.
We watched the "Twin Towers" slowly go up from the other side of NY harbor,
inch by inch,
little by little,
day by day,
wondering just how tall they'd eventually get.
They eventually got pretty tall.
Dad said they were the tallest buildings in the world at that time.
Two of them...
one was not enough for NYC...
though only one of them had a cool 30-story antenna sticking out of the top.
Those towers held a fascination for me even then.
I never tired of looking at them in admiration...
Late 70s-Early 80s
As I was growing up, occasionally my Dad would let me travel into
"The City" from Staten Island after school, via the Staten Island Ferry,
and meet him for dinner, or a Mets or Knicks game after work.
A couple of views from lower deck of The Staten Island Ferry:
Another yellow SI Ferry boat is in the foreground:
Approaching the dock:
Photos © 1984, 1999, 2001 Vito Macaluso
The *energy* there is just amazing.
It is something that defies all words or description.
Unless you've actually been in downtown Manhattan,
you probably have no clue what I'm talking about, but that's okay.
Downtown has a feel, a pace, a flavor, an aroma, that is indescribable.
No other city is like it.
Oh, there are other cities that are just wonderful and unique for their own reasons.
Each city has its own "flavor".
But New York... that has always been magic for me.
From the first time I ever visited my Dad in "The City",
I knew I wanted to work there when I grew up, just like Dad.
But not just because of my Dad...
There was *something* about The City that I just gravitated towards.
It *energized* me in a special way that again, cannot be put into words.
How do you describe the aroma of your Mom's cooking?
Unless you've *experienced* it, words are not adequate.
It's a feeling... a sensation... an aura...
But I especially always wanted to know what was inside those Twin Towers.
It never occurred to me that it was just office space when I was a kid.
I just wanted to know what it was like to be in there.
It must be really special to be able to go in there...
I went to college at SUNY in Potsdam, New York, 400 miles away from home,
on the other side of the state, a few miles from Canada. During October break
of my sophomore year, I brought a couple of good college friends home with
me to visit. I played the role of "tour guide" that weekend, not just for my
friends, but for me too -- going all sorts of places Mom would never let
me go just a couple of years earlier. It was a cool thing being able to
show off "The City" to my friends and to see it anew through their eyes.
Anyway, one of the places I just *had* to show them was the Twin Towers.
I had never been in them before.
I had always wanted to go there and see what it was like from the top.
Going to the top of the Twin Towers was
by far my favorite part of the weekend.
The view from there is breathtaking.
On a clear day, you can see nearly 45 miles.
The cars all look like little toy matchbox cars from up there.
Photos © 1981, 1984 Vito Macaluso
The perspective... the exhilaration...
You feel like you're on top of the world...
The Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges over the East River:
View from the top looking north at Manhattan:
Looking south, The Statue of Liberty and Staten Island
Photos © 1983 Edward Jerlin
I only went to the top a handful of times more in my life,
almost always to show off the view to a friend...
I graduated college with a Computer Science degree.
Went on the job search...
A search that often took me into downtown Manhattan, where the jobs were.
The idea of working anywhere else just never entered into my equation.
One day, I decided to go to the top of the Twin Towers by myself, for myself.
I distinctly remember, even at the age of 22,
wondering what was inside the rest of these two buildings!
All I had ever seen was the lobby, and the observation deck at the top.
I envied the people who worked there, especially those near the top.
That must be awesome.
Through the years, I often thought of going to the top by myself again,
but I never got around to it. It was always something I'd do "soon"...
September 9, 1986
I start my first "real" job working for Garban Computer Systems,
a subsidiary of Garban Securities, a government bond brokerage at
120 Broadway, one block southeast of the World Trade Center.
I would work in this building for 14 years, enjoying most of it.
But no matter what kind of a day I had, I always enjoyed being in downtown Manhattan.
All the famous parades up the "Canyon of Heroes" passed right in front of 120 Broadway.
I especially enjoyed peeking at the Twin Towers all the time.
I never got tired of that, nor of the view of the skyline from New
York harbor during my commute, aboard the Staten Island Ferry.
120 Broadway as seen from The World Trade Center observation deck
Photo © 1984 Vito Macaluso
EJ in front of 120 Broadway in 2005
Photo © 2005 PJ & EJ
February 26, 1993
The first World Trade Center bombing.
I got in late that day because I was working from home in the morning,
helping to test and set up an ISDN phone line from work that went into my
house for the purposes of being able to work out of my home occasionally or
at night during emergencies or system problems with the London or Tokyo offices.
While on the ferry, I noticed what seemed to be an unusual
amount of fire trucks, police cars, and ambulance traffic.
I made my way to work, amid a boatload of activity, sirens, and mayhem.
I asked if anyone knew what was going on. Everyone had
heard and felt some kind of a "bang", which shook the building.
They said that the power fluttered for a few seconds,
but after that all was fine where we were.
All kinds of rumors were flying. The most prevalent one
was that a transformer in a subway station had blown.
Another was that some kind of electrical blast had occurred.
It was quite some time before the idea of it being a bomb
and the reality of that took hold.
It's amazing the extent to which the Internet has changed everything.
Now, there is no need for dedicated ISDN lines.
And everyone seems to know everything instantly via the Internet.
The idea of nearly an entire day going by before everyone even
realized the reality that it was a bomb is foreign to us now.
Everyone has the world in the palm of one's hand, wireless.
I've had this odd thought...
The bible says that when Jesus comes back, everyone will see it.
In biblical times, that would have been impossible.
Now... with the Internet and communications...
it seems to me that it's possible.
Most of the world seemed to be aware of what happened on 9/11 almost
instantly, whereas in 1993, much of the day went by without information.
How quickly things have changed.
For some reason, this did not really affect me.
I have absolutely no idea why -- but it didn't.
It sure affected my professional life for a couple of weeks...
With the Twin Towers closed, our two primary competitors,
Cantor Fitzgerald and RMJ, were temporarily out of business.
Thus, we got a boatload of trading activity -- so much that
we actually had to run an "end of day" procedure in the
middle of the day because the system didn't have enough
space to handle the activity, until we expanded the system.
Double shifts were par for the course that week...
But again, the bombing didn't *affect* me.
Like many others, I felt sorry for those affected,
but even though it was only a block away,
the situation didn't *reach* me.
I never even tried to venture over there.
I had no desire to.
I can't figure out why this is.
Was it a defense mechanism?
Apathy? Indifference? Selfishness?
The idea that the fact that this *didn't* affect me is
somehow *wrong* had never occurred to me until now.
I said to a number of friends and family in September 2001
that I would never look at distant suffering and "calamities"
as seen in the news and on television with disinterest again.
I was wrong.
It took some time...
far less time than I care to admit...
but I returned to "default mode" for lack of a better term...
...which means that not every distant calamity affects me.
In fact, it pains me to confess that most of them don't.
Oh they do... of course they do...
but not *really*,
not in a truly *empathetic* way.
Not in a gut-wrenching-rot-gut way.
Not the way I thought it would.
I think I've figured out why that is.
I alluded to it in my original writing up above.
It's a necessary defense mechanism.
I believe that if we truly empathized with every hurt, we couldn't survive.
It would simply overwhelm us; it would be extreme overload.
I remember being annoyed a few months after September 11 with
friends who weren't from New York who just kind of moved on from it.
How could they do that?
How could they just move on?
How could they not care?
A friend who lived through the Oklahoma City bombing graciously explained it to me:
While they could feel concern and sadness and feel bad,
they weren't *living* it every day like New Yorkers were.
And she asked me not to blame them, and to offer grace to them.
Because they simply don't understand, and can't understand.
And be grateful that they don't understand;
it's best for them that they don't!
And why would you want them to?
Be glad and thankful that they're living their lives!
She was right.
And her admonition to me helped.
And my anger subsided.
And I stopped blaming the world for not caring.
What a blessing she was.
I thank God for placing her in my life at that time.
Another related thought, if I may...
A few months later, my sister had a heart
attack and was in the emergency room...
What a nasty place to be.
People near death...
People brought in from accidents...
People coming down off drugs and getting violent...
A dude defecating in the corner...
Nothing but misery, and EMS workers trying to help...
And it hit me that this goes on *every minute of every day*.
It's going on right now as you read this.
There's this undercurrent to life all around us.
It's happening right now.
But not for us.
Not at the moment, anyway.
I don't know how EMS, hospital workers, and first-responders do it.
They deal with it every day.
And if we thought about it, or tried to empathize with it,
it would be beyond overwhelming, and we couldn't live our lives.
There would be no joy, no life.
So to all those to whom I expressed anger at the time for not getting it:
I'm sorry. Please forgive me.
And I hope you never get it.
The subject of the Twin Towers became a frequent topic of conversation
though, among New Yorkers, especially those who worked in the area.
Apparently, from what everyone was told, both by the media, and by
"insiders" who knew the buildings well (engineers, builders, etc.),
the effect of the bomb on the Twin Towers was likened to that of a
flea on one's leg, despite the extensive damage we read about in the
newspapers. None of the essential supports were affected in any way.
The general consensus was that those buildings were indestructible.
They were built to withstand almost anything, including earthquakes,
apparently. To try to blow these buildings up was seen as pure folly.
The size of the bomb required would be so conspicuous, they'd never
be able to smuggle it in...
So life went on, although security increased noticeably for some time.
Extra cops were everywhere.
You needed to show your building pass to enter any building.
If you didn't work there, you had to get a visitor's pass.
A security guard was stationed on each floor.
Nothing major... it seemed to most of us to be more for show than anything.
Life went on...
How things have changed...
I don't know what it's like in other areas, but in the NYC area,
one cannot go into any office building without a building pass,
or a visitor's pass anymore, and one must have a reason to
be there, and a confirmation from someone in the building.
Back in 1986 when I first started working in NYC, as far as I
could tell, anyone could just walk into any building and nobody
stopped you. I remember applying for jobs by just walking in,
finding out where HR was for any given firm, and asking to fill
out an application. I entered 120 Broadway for years, walking
right through the lobby to the elevators, and going up to work,
on the 21st floor, without any security guards or anything.
I've mentioned this to a few of the long-time "veterans" at work,
and it's amazing how quickly we all forgot about that. The idea
of a building without security guards no longer enters our minds.
It's simply a fact of life now.
Garban buys/merges with one of our primary competitors, ICAP,
formerly known as RMJ. Although ICAP was located in the World
Trade Center, it was generally assumed that they would be moved
to 120 Broadway with us. Their programmers were assimilated
into our staff at 120. For some time, their brokers remained at
the World Trade Center, while ours remained at 120 Broadway.
For some time, not much changed.
Some departments were streamlined;
in some cases we usurped them,
in others, they usurped us.
Each company had their strong points, and the strong points of each
were taken advantage of. The usual corporate merger stuff, I guess.
Most of this went over my head and didn't affect me.
I was still responsible for the same systems.
At some point, it was decided that we should all be located in one place.
I heard that Jersey City was being considered.
No WAY I wanted to work in some generic office building in Jersey.
I loved working in downtown Manhattan.
Then the rumors began that we were all moving to the World Trade Center.
After all these years, I'm going to see the inside of those buildings!
I'm going to see the view from there!
I did have misgivings...
but not the same ones others had:
More than a few of my co-workers expressed concerns about moving
INTO where the bombing had occurred just a few years earlier.
None of this concerned me.
I thought such talk was kind of silly, actually.
That kind of thing could never happen again.
Besides, the idea of being able to blow up the Twin Towers
seemed preposterous after the previous failed attempt.
If anything, we were probably moving into the safest place in the world.
It's just that I'm one of those people for whom change is a stressful thing.
When I was a little kid, my Mom had to warn me ahead of time if we were
going shopping or something. I had to be prepared for change.
120 Broadway was my home and although I had something to look forward to,
leaving 120 after 14 years there kind of bummed me out. And the time
and effort it took to get all the systems moved while remaining operational
was quite a task, one that required many hours of extra work for all involved.
So Garban moved into the 25th and 26th floors of 1 World Trade Center:
The northwest building -- the one with the huge 30-story antenna on the top.
The Garban Trading Floor on the 26th floor:
Note: No support columns anywhere:
Photo © 2000 Vito Macaluso
My World Trade Center All-Access 24/7 Pass
Note the little tower logos:
Photo © 2001 Edward Jerlin
Some people in other departments of the firm also moved into the
55th floor of the other building, 2 WTC. I was one of the last people
to move, finally taking up a permanent residence in October 2000.
Nevertheless, I very quickly adapted and ended up loving working there.
I admittedly was not above using my seniority to maneuver into getting
a mint window cubicle near the northwest corner of the 26th floor,
overlooking the Hudson River and some monstrous sunsets.
Although the view was fantastic,
it could also be slightly frustrating to look at.
The windows were quite narrow, maybe 2 feet wide,
and went from ceiling to floor, interspersed with
2-foot-wide beams that also went from ceiling to floor.
What this means is that you couldn't really see the whole view at once.
You kind of had to look left and right and see
the whole panorama in long narrow sections.
And you couldn't open the windows.
They were permanent.
If you've ever been to the observation deck (the top inside
floor, not the outdoor roof), you know what I'm talking about
regarding the windows. It was like that on every floor.
I've read that this design gave them a "windowless" look about them.
I guess I never realized that because I've seen the towers up close
so many times that I know what the windows look like. The windows
were kept clean by window washing machines that were automatic
and traveled up and down the side of the building!
Still, even with the semi-obstructed view, this was so cool.
The entire time I worked there, no matter where I was in the building,
I would take the time to check out everyone else's view.
The ones in the other building on the 55th floor had the best view of all,
looking south over New York Harbor towards Staten Island,
with an unobstructed view of the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano Bridge.
Still, I told more than one person I worked with that if I had to
work on any floor higher than 26 or so, that I'd quite possibly
have to consider finding another job. Not out of any fear for my
safety or anything, but because my ears would pop all the time
from the change in air pressure when you go up that high!
Being a musician, I'm always conscious of taking care of my ears
(i.e. wearing ear plugs at loud gigs and concerts.)
Anyway, I kept planning to bring my camera to work and get shots
of the city from all the various vantage points sometime "soon"...
The View From The Trading Floor - Thanks Vito!
Photo © 2000 Vito Macaluso
2017 Addendum: "Shantytown"
In retrospect, while not taking any pictures may be one of my regrets,
one photographic miss is particularly lamentable, and as I read this now,
it's probably the biggest omission of the original version of this essay.
While I worked in the northwest corner, the executives and IT took up
most of the west side of the 26th floor, and the broker trading floor took
up most of the south side of the floor, the northeast corner of the
26th floor had *never* been occupied since the WTC's inception.
Which means that the northeast corner was completely *unfinished*.
Which means that it was still in its *original* state since 1973, just
a concrete slab of a floor, with all the original construction exposed
and intact, including the connections to the outer support beams.
It was essentially a huge empty section of floor.
One could play a football game in there if one wanted.
Remember, there were no support columns to interfere.
It had a phenomenal view of the city to the north,
with a glimpse of the East River bridges to the east.
It was an eerie and fascinating place...
tranquil, unlit, even a tad mysterious...
undisturbed for 27 years...
a place which time forgot...
...and apparently, the owners of the building had forgotten it too.
There was a door which led to it that had remained unlocked.
Surreptitious sidebar meetings would happen in there.
Brokers would go in there to smoke, even though the entire building
was supposed to be smoke-free by order of the NYC Fire Commissioner
(understandably so in retrospect, in fact, I wasn't allowed to bring
my space heater to the WTC when we moved from 120 Broadway).
Garban also took advantage of the "unused" space to (ahem) store
whatever equipment, flotsam, and jetsam were deemed superfluous.
Thus, this area of the floor was dubbed "Shantytown" by the brokers.
There was old computer equipment and servers in there.
There were PCs, screens, old telephones, cables,
office equipment, file cabinets, desks, chairs...
Speaking of chairs...
My old ugly green chair
that I mention elsewhere on this site always
ended up in Shantytown whenever some well-meaning, but clueless
person would try to replace my wonderful old chair with a new one.
Which is exactly how I found out about "Shantytown":
"Someone replaced my chair! !@#$%! I want my chair back!"
"Did you check to see if the chair ended up in Shantytown?"
"Dude, you've never been to Shantytown?!?"
"No, what's Shantytown?"
"Come on, I'll take you there..."
Anyway, it was a nifty sanctuary,
a hideaway with an amazing view,
a lamentably undocumented piece of history now.
I wish I had made it a priority to take pictures of it.
I certainly planned to do so, something I'd get to "eventually".
I can't help but wonder what those pictures might have been worth...
I came across
this wonderfully poignant video about 9/10/01 which
contains a reasonable visual respresentation of Shantytown, along
with an excellent description of it, narrated by one of the occupants.
The 91st and 92nd floors of 1 WTC, the North Tower that I worked in,
were occupied by artists who had been donated the studio space.
Much of their space was also unfinished, so apparently we weren't the only ones.
The visuals begin at 8:06 in the video, but for some fascinating context
about how eerie the place could be, you would do well to watch it from 6:50.
Only the first screenshot gives a hint of how vast the space was,
while the other two give an idea of how stark it was. I guess the
primary difference was that our space was unlit. In fact, because it
was unlit, it offered an incredible view of the Manhattan at night...
...if one was brave enough to venture there.
When you work in the Twin Towers, the topic of conversation between
people is often the towers themselves -- especially on any windy day.
You see, the towers used to move and sway with the wind.
They were designed that way.
If they didn't bend, they'd break!!
On a windy day, you'd not only feel them sway slightly,
but you'd hear the walls creak, especially in the corners!
To some, it was kind of disconcerting, but I loved it, reveled in it even.
I enjoyed describing it to friends and family.
The towers go many, many sub-levels into the ground.
When the towers were built, they were on the water's edge,
right on the edge of where the "real" Manhattan island,
the island God created, ended. They drilled and dug into the
bedrock and made this HUGE hole into which the foundation is laid.
Only bedrock could support such a construction.
To give you an idea of just how much bedrock they dug out:
They then proceeded to use what they dug out to make the
landfill that the lower west side is on -- what is now the
World Financial Center and Battery Park City.
Yes, Manhattan physically grew considerably because
of the construction of the World Trade Center.
I could go on all day with "Twin Towers trivia", but there are
many other sources to get that information. But I did want to
share a couple of aspects which stood out the most for me.
I get a jury duty notice to appear on April 11.
In New York, jury duty is mandatory; there are no exemptions
for anyone anymore. However, they are fair about it.
You're allowed to defer it once to a date of your choosing,
from 2 to 6 months after your summons date.
The deadline for a new Garban trading system in Australia was
fast approaching, and it was deemed by management that I could
not serve on jury duty at this time. I didn't agree; I felt I'd be
able to make my deadline -- but I couldn't guarantee it. (sigh)
So my boss Gordon and I picked another time. Since jury duty can
last from 2 days to a number of weeks, depending on if you get
picked for a case or not, we had to check the schedule carefully.
Many people were on vacation in August, including me for two weeks.
I certainly didn't want jury duty affecting my vacation plans,
so we decided to go for a week in September when everyone
would be back, but before new systems would be due.
We opted for the first full week, September 10.
1st Week of August 2001
My family vacation to Tennessee/North Carolina, which was wonderful.
The people and the Blue Ridge Mountains are all incredible, even
amidst some of the cheesiest (but fun) attractions I've ever encountered.
The difference between Newark Airport in New Jersey and the airport in
Tennessee is striking. In a nutshell, there is no security in the least in
Tennessee. You just pretty much walk right in to your plane after checking in.
Everything is open and nobody checks anything once you've checked your bags in.
My wife Kirsten, who really doesn't share my love of New York,
keeps noting the difference and how nice and open and relaxing
the Tennessee airport is. No crowds. No rush. No hassle.
It is difficult to argue with her on this.
Monday, August 20, 2001
A good friend of mine Roddy is visiting from Pennsylvania over the weekend.
He joins me in the city for lunch. He grew up on Staten Island before
his parents moved to Pennsylvania before his senior year of high school.
He plans to move back here soon because he loves it here; it's home to him.
After lunch, I encourage him to check out the top of the twin towers,
which is something he'd never done despite having lived here.
As we approach the escalator, Roddy asks me to join him.
"Nah, it's getting a little late; I've taken a much longer
lunch today than I really should. I'll see you later."
I watch him go up the escalator and I head back to work.
Unknown to me at the time, he changes his mind and
decides not to go up there by himself. There are other
things he wants to do and see while he's here.
The twin towers' observation deck can wait until next time...
Some time during the 3rd week of August 2001
I will attempt to set this scene and attempt to adequately describe and explain it.
I had an "Epiphany" of sorts, a moment in time, a realization, an awareness...
I am absolutely not making this up.
This really happened.
It's lunch time.
It's a lunch time like any other normal day.
Nothing unusual, really.
I've finished my lunch and I've decided to enjoy a small
piece of what's left of the summer, my favorite season.
It is an absolutely gorgeous day:
blue skies, a couple of clouds drifting by,
85 degrees, nice breeze, near perfect.
What an absolutely delightful summer it's been...
I'm sitting in what I'd call a HUGE courtyard that
is situated in the middle of the World Trade Center.
In the middle of the courtyard is a nice interesting
waterfall-type thingy with a globe-like statue in the middle.
Around it, laid out in circles is a place for lots of people to sit.
Below is a massive underground shopping mall.
In front of me and to the left of me are the Twin Towers
as I face west towards the north tower, the one I work in.
There have been free concerts in this courtyard all summer long,
both during lunch hour and in the evening, but today, it is quiet,
probably because I'm eating a late lunch, because I got in late
that day, which is kind of the norm for me. ;-) Anyway...
I'm sitting here looking up...
and up... and up... and up... and up...
at these towers.
Photo © 2001 Vito Macaluso
Photo © 1983 Edward Jerlin
I'm feeling good -- thinking about the summer I've had,
the family vacation I recently took to Tennessee,
the vacation/honeymoon I've got coming up next week
in Montauk, Long Island, the Yes (progrock band) concert
I had just seen in Philadelphia, and the Yes concerts I
had to look forward to in a couple of weeks at
Jones Beach and Radio City Music Hall...
And it hits me like a ton of bricks all at once.
The moment probably lasted all of 5-10 seconds...
The thoughts zipping through my head very quickly...
But these thoughts bring an uncontrollable smile to my face...
"Wow, Jerlin, life is GOOD! This is IT!
You are exactly where you've always wanted to be right now.
You've got a freakin' corner office at ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER
overlooking the Hudson River, working for some great bosses,
doing what you've always wanted to do,
working where you've always wanted to work.
When someone asks me where I work, I get to say with pride
'ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER, BABYYYIIIEEE!'
This is THE place to be.
When you say ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER,
everybody knows exactly where you are.
You've been taking this whole scene for granted for too long, Jerlin.
Work or no work, daily grind or no daily grind,
you've got to wake up and appreciate what you get to go to every day..."
This moment is so vivid to me.
It passed very quickly, but it woke me up -- gave me an awareness --
that indeed, carried vaguely, but measurably and sometimes even
euphorically into the next couple of weeks, although not with
the clarity and acuteness of feeling that I had at that moment.
I am so thankful that I had this moment.
It is a moment that taught me something valuable.
It is a moment I will cherish forever...
2017 Perspective and Video:
This entry remains my favorite part of this essay.
Really, none of the other entries can touch this.
I still want to relive that moment,
and have in my head many times...
I found a video that just about takes me there.
Hopefully it captures for you, what it was like
to sit between the towers in the central plaza.
A number of things really struck me about the video:
He's sitting in pretty much exactly the same spot that I was.
There's a dude in front of him reading a newspaper.
I remember there being a dude reading a newspaper
in that same spot, only he was wearing a suit.
The moment on the video lasts about as long as mine did.
And it looks at and pans on the same views in the same way.
The video was shot on Saturday, August 18, 2001, the end
of the 3rd week of August, probably a day or two after my
experience. What are the chances of that being the case?
Even though it's at dusk, rather than mid-day, it has the same
"feel" to me, kind of bucolic and relaxing, which is ironic,
given it's in the middle of downtown NYC. But that really is
how it felt there -- possibly even more so in the video because
it's at dusk, so the crowds are slightly less dense, which I
suppose allows me to "idealize" the moment even more so.
The maker of the video wrote in the description:
"You never know the value of what you have till you lose it."
Click on the screenshot below to watch it.
A nice view of the towers begins at 4:07.
But the "Epiphany" starts at 4:49, and runs until 6:24.
Friday, September 7, 2001
I leave work a little early so I can catch the Long Island
Railroad out to Kirsten's parents' house, where I'll be
meeting her for the Yes concert in Jones Beach.
It's not often that I get to leave work early on a Friday.
Friday is usually when we install new systems, because there's
no London or Tokyo system to worry about over the weekend.
But I'm not installing anything because I've got jury duty
next week and will not be here to support the system.
Besides, I've got a Yes concert to go to!
Little did I know that this would be the last time I'd ever see my
desk, my "professional home", some very special sentimental
photos, a lot of my "stuff", some of which is irreplaceable,
my ugly one-of-a-kind very-old green chair that followed me
from 120 Broadway that leans back a certain way at just the
right angle unlike any other chair I've ever sat in for
maximum comfort so as to fit my slouching without giving me
a backache, (I've turned down offers of a new chair zillions
of times and even recovered that chair from the scrap heap
twice over the years because a well-meaning person tried to
replace it with a new one), and this view of the Hudson River.
I'd like to say that my memory of this moment is vivid.
Alas, I cannot.
At best, it's a fuzzy memory because it was completely unremarkable.
How many "moments" do we have in our life that are like this?
We can appreciate life's moments as we look back on them,
yet life can only be lived forwards...
Life does not have a "rewind" button, except in our memories...
some of which are recorded and etched in our mind clearly,
others of which pass by unremarkably and are seemingly gone forever...
beyond our grasp, beyond our ability to recall or remember...
Saturday, September 8, 2001
The Yes concert at Radio City Music Hall is probably the best
concert I've ever experienced. Yes are playing with the Long
Island Symphony for the second night in a row and the sound
is crystal clear. There is no better place to hear a concert from
an aural perspective. They don't call it "The Great Hall" for nothing!
It is the last concert of Yes' North American "Yessymphonic" tour.
I'm getting to hear the orchestrations in exquisite detail for the first time.
I hear French Horns.
I hear flutes.
I hear glockenspiels.
I hear harps.
I hear woodwinds.
I am eating up and relishing every single moment of this concert.
Okay, you're probably asking what the relevance of this is.
The relevance is that this was one of those little "peaks" in my life.
And it would be the last time that I'd be able to truly enjoy music for some time.
And it's relevant because of what Jon Anderson, Yes' lead singer,
poignantly said at one point during the concert. Since I recorded
the show, here's a word-for-word transcription of some of Jon's
"Thank you so much, great to be here in NEW YORK CITYYYYYIIIEEE!
We always seem to arrive at nighttime, get into the hotel and
you wake up in the morning get out in the street you go,
'[gasp/inhale] wow it's New York City!'
It's wonderful... crazy... (pause)...
How do you do it?"
"This is the end of our tour.
It couldn't have happened at a better place or a better time for us."
Reportedly, Yes and their entire road crew left NYC on Monday night,
the last "normal" night NYC would see for a long, long, time...
Sunday, September 9, 2001
This is the 15th anniversary of my working at Garban.
After church, our new pastor asks me where I work.
I answer someone for the last time,
"The 26th floor of 1 World Trade Center!"
Monday, September 10, 2001
I report to jury duty.
The courthouse is right by the Staten Island Ferry terminal,
one block from water's edge and a beautiful view of the harbor,
The Statue of Liberty, numerous landmark bridges, and in my opinion,
THE view of the Manhattan skyline.
Jury duty is generally pretty boring.
You do a lot of sitting around waiting to be called for a case.
We get more than a few speeches via the judge, a video, and
some pamphlets apologizing for our inconvenience, and reminding
us of the importance of doing our civic duty. Personally, I've
always enjoyed jury duty and never seen it as an inconvenience.
I've always considered it to be a privilege. It would be nice to
be picked for a case someday, but I guess I'm just too
opinionated to be seen as neutral on anything. ;-)
I actually got on a murder case a few years ago. I took really
detailed notes and have considered telling that story someday.
Anyway, to help mitigate our boredom, they've got
television screens lined up along each wall of a large room.
They are playing a movie.
The movie they are playing is "Armageddon", the "big asteroid will
hit the earth but Bruce Willis and his boys will save the day" movie.
I kid you not.
Some other Staten Islanders who I've told this to have told me,
"They played that when I had jury duty!"
There is one scene in the movie where a bunch of asteroids rain
down on New York City. I'm watching all kinds of famous landmarks,
including the Twin Towers, get hit by flaming asteroids, some of
which appear to hit the very windows I'd probably be looking out of.
I smirk and roll my eyes.
Never one to lack an opinion/criticism about anything, I think to myself,
"This is so stupid! This is insulting my intelligence!
Asteroids of that size would have burnt up long before they
got through the atmosphere. And even if they did get through,
the chances of them hitting New York are minuscule!"
Little did I know that the next day I'd be seeing the real thing...
Oh, there's more to this day. Yikes, I almost forgot about this.
Right next to the ferry terminal, they've built a brand new stadium
for the minor league "Staten Island Yankees". My opinion of using
taxpayers' money to build it to make some rich owner who was
born with a silver spoon in his mouth richer, not to mention
taking away precious parking for the average commuter-
working-stiff is unprintable in a public place.
Since I had been taking the express bus to work every day
since we moved to the Twin Towers, I hadn't seen the stadium,
or the esplanade/park they've built along the north shore.
Today was my first look at it.
Part of the selling point of the park is its
gorgeous view of the harbor and the city skyline.
I have to grudgingly admit that they've done quite a nice job of it,
especially the park which spans quite a bit of the water's edge.
This area was a virtual dump for decades.
Amazing that they could build this in about six months,
yet it's taken them twelve years to rebuild the Brooklyn-Queens
Expressway and the end of the expressway construction will
probably be beyond the end of my lifetime. Money talks, I guess.
2017 Interjection: The BQE is *still* under construction. No joke.
At any rate, after they dismiss us from jury duty around noon,
I take a good hour or so to enjoy the new scene and drive
slowly along the shore.
It seems that I'm almost the only one here at the midday hour.
I enjoy the solace.
Photo taken on September 10, 2001 3:15pm
Photo © 2001 Evan Kuz
I'd like to be able to say that this was one of those
"awareness" moments like that lunch hour I had a couple of
weeks ago, but alas, this is destined to be merely one of
those "I wish I had remembered/appreciated it more" experiences.
This was to be the last time I'd ever see the city I grew up with.
How I wish I could hit the rewind button on my life.
I'd play this hour over and over...
Excuse me while I wipe away a tear here...
What follows is my recollection of September 11, 2001.
It meanders between past and present tense,
so as to attempt to adequately explain what I went through.
It is a rambling account.
Please take it for what it is...
Tuesday, September 11, 2001
I'm not due at jury duty until 9:30am.
The extra sleep is most welcome.
I've been told that unless I'm called for a case,
this will be my last day of jury duty. Bummer.
(Oops, did I say that? I hope my boss doesn't read this!)
My wife Kirsten takes my daughter Megan to school and
I'm in the house alone. I take my shower, get dressed
and go downstairs. I'm eating breakfast in my kitchen
when I hear a distant "boom" that causes the house to
vibrate just slightly -- not an actual shake or anything;
just one of those "sympathetic vibration" type of things.
I think to myself,
"Are they still doing construction around here?
Will it ever end?" Yes, it sounded close by.
(In piecing my personal time line with what went down,
I've determined that this must have been the sound of the
second plane hitting the south tower. I'm guessing that I
was in the shower for the first plane hitting the north tower.)
After all these years, I recently came across
a video which,
to my ears and recollection, is the first time I've heard
any audio related to 9/11 that has the exact "boom" sound
that I heard when the second plane hit the south tower, 2 WTC.
The impact is heard just before the 2-minute mark on the video.
It is a difficult video to watch, as it is an "as it happened" authentic shot
by an ordinary citizen, rather than being a sanitized network representation
of what happened, with the audio taken out, or a voice-over or soundtrack added.
As such, it has some rather authentic salty language. I grabbed a brief audio
snippet of the impact and the immediate reaction with the saltiness taken out.
Click on the box to the left to hear it.
I get my wallet, my keys, and my cell phone, which is provided by
my employer so that they can get in touch with me at any time.
I turn on my cell phone as I'm walking to the car and I see that
I have a voice mail waiting for me. A voice mail at this time
in the morning almost always means there's a problem at
work with one of my systems that requires my assistance.
"Sigh... I don't need this !#$% now.
This was supposed to be a nice day.
I wonder what the problem is this time? (frustrated sigh)"
I sit down in my car and dial in for the message.
It's my wife, Kirsten.
My immediate reaction is "oh good, it's not work."
The signal is intermittently breaking up, and my ears
kind of "relaxed" as soon as I hear that it's her, so I miss
out on a few details of what she says. Nevertheless,
I've still got the message saved on my voice mail.
Here's what she said:
Robotic operator: "Tuesday, September 11, 9:02AM"
Kirsten: "Hi Ed, um, there is a huge fire at the World Trade
Center I don't know if your building is going to be affected
by this or not but (pause) you should check in with them,
ah, it's all over the news it's incredible, I, I just hope that
nobody's hurt it doesn't look like it's on your floor, um,
and I don't know what building it is. But anyway,
I'm so glad you're not there right now (exhale)
I'll talk to you later, talk to you later, bye."
For some odd reason, I opt to save this message.
I rarely do this and there was no real reason to save it.
So I think to myself,
"Well, I'm running late.
I'll check in with work after I get to jury duty.
I'm sure it's no big deal."
Kirsten would normally be in the city every Tuesday for vocal
instruction (she's a singer/music teacher.) For some reason,
I thought she was calling me from the city from a vantage point
of being a first-hand witness. I had completely forgotten that
this week, she had switched to Monday in anticipation of
starting her part-time teaching job on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
She was actually calling me from the gym.
I turn on the radio as I do every morning on my way to the
bus stop, except this time, I'm driving to the courthouse.
The radio is set for 660AM WFAN sports talk radio from the
Mets game from the night before. At this time in the morning,
Imus is on.
My thoughts, which went by very quickly:
"They're talking about the World Trade Center fire!
Cool, I'll be able to hear what's going on. What?!
Two planes? One hitting each tower? When did this
go down? Two planes? Two? Is that right? They must
have that wrong. Two? If so, that ain't no accident!
Could that be the boom I heard? Did this just happen, then?
Nobody from work has called me; it must not be too bad."
What a stupid narcissist I can be.
If I was escaping from a burning building, I wouldn't be wasting time
calling a co-worker who wasn't there to let them know what was going on.
As I mention later on in this essay, another person I worked closely with
was working from home and had no idea anything was even wrong until the
building collapsed, and the system he was working on suddenly disconnected.
Of course I can justify these inane thoughts by rationalizing that
I didn't realize the extent of the damage at that point in time.
And I believe that a natural defense mechanism is to minimize disasters
and assume the best until one knows the full extent of what's happening.
But yes, I had those thoughts in the moment, I must confess.
But... eesh... what a narcissist.
I immediately switch to News Radio 880AM WCBS.
I remember being pretty calm at this point.
I clearly remember thinking, word-for-word,
"Well, I'm heading towards the north shore and the harbor.
Maybe I'll be able to see something from there."
I wince when I recall that thought.
I was not prepared for the scene I was about to see.
When the towers first came into view, my heart skipped.
The smoke was unbelievable.
Black black smoke.
Lots of it.
The towers looked like two smoke stacks.
And I could actually see flames coming out of one of the floors of my building.
It was ugly.
Now I was concerned.
These were taken from Hoboken, New Jersey, northwest of the Trade Center.
That's the Verrazano Bridge to Staten Island in the background to the right.
Photos © 2001 Charlie Siedenburg
I have to concentrate on the road.
I'll look at it after I park.
Still, there's no avoiding seeing the smoke.
How much smoke could there be?
Where's the end of it?
I park my car about a ten-minute walk from the
courthouse because there's no parking around there.
I proceed to Richmond Terrace, which goes along
the north shore, overlooking the harbor.
I can't believe what I'm seeing:
Two black smoke stacks with thick, black smoke, which
the wind is steering east towards the right as I look north.
The smoke appears to cover half of Brooklyn and
extends out towards and beyond the Verrazano Bridge,
which connects Brooklyn with Staten Island.
There is no end to the smoke.
It goes out beyond the horizon.
It's black the whole way out.
(In all the television coverage I saw, I did not see a single
"distance" shot that came anywhere near adequately conveying the
amount of smoke there was that covered miles and miles of the city.
I did see one satellite picture which showed all of New York City.
The towers and the smoke could be seen clearly.
The end of the trail of smoke was off the end of the picture.)
After years and years, this screen shot from a youtube video that I came across very
recently is the first time I can recall seeing a picture that truly and adequately shows
the view and perspective that I had from my vantage point on Staten Island's North Shore.
While it's not detailed enough to be able to see the flames shooting out from the top floors
of the North Tower (the one with the antenna), it's an accurate view of the smoke that I've
described. The smoke extended far to the right, beyond the Verrazano Bridge, beyond the
horizon, beyond anyone's ability to see an end to it from there over the Atlantic Ocean:
Here are a couple of the satellite pictures I referred to that came from the International
Space Station. I added a small red "x" at my approximate location on Staten Island:
I'm passing by a number of people as I walk along Richmond Terrace.
I mention to a few that I was supposed to be there, but I was
heading to jury duty today. Some of them look at me as if I'm a ghost.
Most of them say, "God bless you!" One elderly woman gives me a hug!
I ask a lot of questions.
Nobody seems to know anything -- until I speak with
one guy who tells me that he saw the second plane hit.
He described it as coming in low right over his head,
right over Staten Island, from the south, over the harbor,
and hitting the tower head on.
I ask him to describe it again, because I'm trying to fathom it,
but he politely declines. Maybe he's lying? Later on, someone
else describes the same thing. Eesh. This made my skin crawl.
He wasn't lying.
It amazes me how many utterly inane "conspiracy theories" are out there
that claim that there were no planes, that it was all a bunch of Forrest
Gump-like doctored video and photo-shopping, and that the towers came
down solely because of bombs that were planted. How anyone actually believes
this stuff is beyond me. I know and have talked to so many people who
saw first-hand the planes fly into the buildings. It also amazes me that
whenever I've ever pointed this out to a conspiracy advocate, they reject me
(and anyone else who expresses this) as some kind of government operative
who must be in on the conspiracy. There are a lot of crazy people out there.
I keep trying to call work from my cell phone, using the
"walkie-talkie" function, via which you can directly ring
anyone on our network with a press of a button. Not really
thinking clearly, I first try ringing up my "roommate" Burt,
who shares my cubicle. He just happened to be the first
person I thought of. No answer. Busy. I keep trying.
Nothing but busy beeps. It hits me that I should try my boss,
Gordon. Nothing. Busy. More busy beeps.
I keep trying until I reach the courthouse to no avail.
I linger at the entrance for a couple of minutes,
but it's past time to go in.
I guess I have an excuse to be late today.
I go through the metal detector and go to the front desk.
Everyone seems to be pretty calm. Nobody knows much.
They tell me that there will probably be a delay because one
of the lawyers is coming from Manhattan, but that's all they know.
One guy in the corner has his Walkman radio on.
I go sit by him.
It's there that I find out that the Pentagon has been hit.
WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?!
Now I'm incredulous, in shock.
This was definitely no accident.
This is surreal.
I remember thinking, "This is a 'Kennedy assassination' moment."
I always wanted to have a "where were you when..." moment.
Now, I regretted ever thinking that.
I can't explain these moribund thoughts, or why I had them.
I'm merely relaying them as best as I can remember.
At this point, what was on the radio was like a blur.
I remember going to the front desk asking questions and not really
getting any answers, but I couldn't tell you what I asked or what
they said, but they were quite patient with everyone.
I went back to my seat and listened to this guy's radio, but I
couldn't tell you what was said. I gave up trying to ring up
Gordon, as the phone could not get a connection from inside this
building and the "busy beep" was getting annoying to all around me.
I was recalling the smoke.
It was up high towards the top, I think.
It had looked like everything on our floor was okay.
The smoke was going up and out over Brooklyn, not down.
Oh God, those people near the top.
Oh... I can't think about that.
I won't think about that...
Some woman comes in and screams,
"ONE OF THE TOWERS JUST COLLAPSED!
THE BUILDING COLLAPSED!!"
Everyone runs out of the courthouse.
Nobody tries to stop us.
I'm never one for a "mob mentality", or "rubber-necking",
but I'm out of there with everyone else, heading down
the steep hill one block towards the water.
I'll try to describe the view from there.
If I thought there was smoke before, I was wrong.
Now there was smoke.
The north tower, the one on the left, the one with the antenna,
the one I worked in, is standing. I can see the lower half of it,
and the top of the antenna sticking up through the top of the smoke,
which is obscuring the upper half of the building.
The smoke is completely obscuring the other tower... or so I thought.
The smoke was beginning to obscure the north tower.
But the top of the antenna was still sticking up through the top.
I think we were all waiting to see just how much of the other
tower had caved in. You couldn't see any of it through the smoke.
I was kind of expecting to maybe see the top portion in some
kind of state of disrepair, or something.
Slowly, the smoke eventually began to clear a little...
Where's the tower?
The smoke must still be too thick for us to see it.
The smoke continued to clear enough to see the buildings behind the
south tower. No. Something's wrong. Something's very wrong here.
Where's the other tower?
It can't just be... be... gone.
It totally collapsed?
None of it is there? That can't be!
Many of us standing there went through the same bit at that point.
No. No... Oh... oh !#$%... oh... God...
That's when I lost it.
I completely lost it.
I was standing on the courthouse steps, and I just sat
down and put my head in my hands, weeping uncontrollably.
Photos © 2001 Charlie Siedenburg
Nobody thought a tower would go down.
Nobody thought one could go down.
I don't think that possibility occurred to anyone.
I've yet to meet a single person who conceived
that either tower would topple.
That was actually true at the time I wrote that.
However, shortly after I wrote that, a number of co-workers did in fact relate
that they thought the buildings, especially tower 2 (the south tower),
looked unstable, and that they heard some very unsettling and disquieting
creaking types of noises and groans emanating from the building, and as
result, they resolved to get as far away as possible, as quickly as possible.
I'm thankful that they did.
Finally, I heard a couple of people who saw it describing it as
going straight down, caving in on itself. That seems impossible,
but yet, if my memory of the skyline is right, all of the other
surrounding buildings are somehow still there.
Wow, it didn't topple over?
Just straight down?
We had people in there on the 55th floor.
I won't think about that.
The antenna is still sticking up through the top of the smoke.
Look at it!
It's so thick!
It's covering all of downtown!
Then another thought crossed my mind...
something I'm not sure anyone around me considered.
I'm so glad I was wrong about this, but I thought,
"Oh my God, everyone in downtown Manhattan is going to die
because they can't possibly breathe through all of that!"
Photo © 2001 Charlie Siedenburg
That thought completely overwhelmed me for about a minute or so.
I drove that thought out.
I've got to think clearly.
The antenna is still sticking up through the top of the smoke.
We're still okay.
That tower collapsing was a complete fluke.
That's not supposed to happen.
Then all kinds of weirdo thoughts start running through my head.
"Oh my, what the heck will the skyline look like with only one tower?"
Yes, I was actually trying to picture the skyline with only one tower.
In my head, it came out... wrong.
Then another overwhelming thought hit me:
"We'll never be able to call them the Twin Towers again."
That thought overwhelmed me and saddened me greatly.
But what a weird thing to think.
I was mourning the freakin' building!
What was wrong with me?
The antenna is still sticking up through the top of the smoke.
I've long since given up on trying to ring up Gordon.
Everyone around me is getting busy signals on their cell phones.
My understanding is that nearly all communications seem to go
through the World Trade Center, via that huge 30-story antenna.
The antenna is still sticking up through the top of the smoke.
We're still okay.
But that smoke... how could anyone survive that?
No, don't think about that.
Oh no... oh my God...
I don't know why it didn't hit me until now,
but the realization hit me hard:
My sister Susan works on the 25th floor right below me!!
What is wrong with me?
Why didn't I think of that?!
This instantly renews my futile cell phone activity.
I'm trying to ring up my sister who has a phone just like mine.
That was a connection beep!
I know it was!
I got a connection, but I had erroneously taken my thumb off the
walkie-talkie because I was just pressing it in rapid-fire fashion.
In order to talk, you need to hold the thumb down. Keep trying, Jerlin.
"Sue? Sue!! Are you there? It's Ed! This is Ed! Where are you?
I'm on Staten Island. I'm on jury duty.
Can you hear me? Where are you?"
I actually get a digi-noise-garbled message from her.
I can make out "I'm on the ferry" somewhere in the middle.
My first good news of the day.
I begin sobbing all over again.
Through garbled messages, I ascertain that she's on her
way to Staten Island. I see a ferry boat, but it seems
to be going towards Manhattan. Somebody is confused.
Why would any boat be going towards Manhattan, towards all that?
Oh, right. To help people get out of there. Duh.
The confusion is mine. I'm not thinking clearly.
Get it together, Jerlin. You need to think clearly.
I'm sure I heard she was coming here.
"Sue, do you want me to wait here for you?
I'm on the corner of Schuyler and Richmond Terrace."
Very dumb question.
What else should I do?
Go home without her? Not.
I ascertain that she's definitely coming here.
"Where are you? I can't see your boat."
The smoke covers at least a third of the harbor,
and a good portion of Brooklyn and far beyond.
Oh my, how could anyone survive that?
I am overwhelmed again.
I have to remind myself that my sister is okay.
That's good news.
The antenna is still sticking up through the top of the smoke.
We're still okay.
Oh God, I hope Mom doesn't know about this.
If she sees this, she will completely freak out.
Mom and Dad are in Boston right now.
Dad is getting his annual physical from Boston University Medical
Center because of this rare disease amyloidosis he had that is
only treated in Boston. We almost lost him, but the experimental
treatment he got 6 years ago has worked a miracle. I hope Mom
and Dad don't know about this. Can't think about that now.
I can't do anything about that right now.
I'm sure that Kirsten (my wife) must be uptown by now.
At least she's okay. I don't know how she'll get home, though.
I'll probably have to pick up Megan (my daughter) from school.
Someone begins yelling that they're closing the courthouse and that
they're giving out certificates that prove you did your civic duty.
I take another look and I see another ferry emerging from the smoke.
That must be Sue's ferry.
She won't be here for at least another 15 minutes.
So I go back to the courthouse. What else can I do?
I walk in, and there's a guy calling out people's names.
Amazingly enough, I'm the third name I hear.
I get my certificate. He tells me I'm all done with jury duty.
Photo © 2001 Edward Jerlin
I go back down the hill to the shore.
Photo © 2001 Charlie Siedenburg
WHERE'S THE ANTENNA?
It can't be gone!
But people are talking about it falling straight down like the other one.
Twins to the end.
At this point, everything is a blur.
My memory is pretty foggy.
I remember still hoping that part of the building was still standing
underneath all that smoke, that maybe something was left of it.
But mostly, I just remember all the smoke.
Photo © 2001 Charlie Siedenburg
Nothing you've seen on television could begin to convey the amount of smoke there was.
So I sit and wait for my sister.
I don't know how long it took, but it seemed to take a long time.
Efforts to ring up Gordon were fruitless.
God, I hope they got out of there somehow.
But the smoke... where could they have gone to get out of that?
Photo © 2001 Charlie Siedenburg
The idea that anyone I worked with could be gone is too
overwhelming to contemplate. I refuse to mourn anyone
in any way unless/until I find anything out.
That's the only way to deal with this.
I'm assuming they all got out. Period.
But everything I've worked on for 15 years is gone.
It was all so overwhelming.
People were taking pictures and videotaping.
That seemed "wrong" to me.
I had earlier very briefly entertained the thought of going back to
get my camera but immediately felt the "wrongness" of doing that,
although I can't explain why it seemed "wrong", given that I've been
morosely looking at any picture anyone has with a moribund fascination.
The ferry has been docked for some time, but still no sign of my sister.
"Sue, where are you?"
"I'm almost there, be patient."
A couple of minutes later:
"Ed, where are you, I'm right here."
"Where? I'm on the steps."
"I don't see you."
"Where are you?"
"I'm right on the corner."
We were 10 feet from each other for a good minute before we saw each other.
I never hugged my sister so tight before.
Her friend Cheryl was with her.
Somehow they found each other.
Don't know why I never mentioned it here before, but
Susan and Cheryl were covered in fine tan-grey dust.
They had given up trying to wipe it off, and decided
that touching it might not be a very good idea.
After we cried and hugged and did whatever else it was we did,
we slowly made our way towards my car, along the water's edge.
At this point, I did a lot of listening and asked a lot of questions.
What follows is probably a poor second-hand description of what
she went through until we met up.
Turns out that my sister was late for work. (typical Jerlin trait)
She was supposed to be in at 8:30, but was running late and hit
a boatload of traffic to boot. She was in one of the last buses
to come out of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel into Manhattan.
The bus driver let everyone off just outside the tunnel without
even going on to the street because there was nowhere to go,
as traffic was at a complete standstill.
Just after she got off the bus, the second plane hit.
She described the sound as the most sickening thing she'd ever heard:
A loud roar followed by a tremendous crunching noise, that continued on
and on in waves for 10-20 seconds. She had no idea what the heck was
going on, but she saw a lot of people running towards her, from the north.
My sister and many others described the sound as a "wwwwwwffffffffump."
I found a video which has a clip that sounds like what they all described
It's right at the 8:45 mark on the video. It's a harrowing thing to
watch, so if you'd rather not go there, I grabbed the audio of it.
Click on the box to the left to hear it.
She thought to herself,
"Whatever it is, it must be bad. I'm a 10 minute walk from
the Trade Center from here and people are running here."
Then she got a look of the flames and decided she had to find her
friend Cheryl who worked on Broadway. She just did not want to
be alone. She briefly panicked, but then calmed herself down with
the thought, "Nobody cares about you and your own little problem.
Everyone else is dealing with his or her own problem.
Get a grip and get out of here."
Somehow, Sue and Cheryl found each other just outside Cheryl's office building.
From there you couldn't see the towers which are obscured by other buildings.
So they went back to a spot where you could see them.
There were lots of people standing around, completely quiet,
just looking, saying nothing except an occasional quiet muttering,
"oh my God." At that point my sister decided they needed to leave
Manhattan, so they made their way to the ferry.
My sister never looked back after that.
She didn't see anything because she didn't want to see.
The boat had just come in, and the people on the boat were getting off.
It was kind of chaotic, but then again, it always is when those
getting off are mixing with those trying to get on. She got on the
boat and sat on the "outside" portion on the upper deck. (For those
familiar with the Staten Island Ferry, this was one of the "new" boats,
where "outside" is really kind of inside with the huge windows open.
In the winter, they're closed.)
The boat sat there for an inordinate amount of time.
It didn't occur to my sister that they were probably waiting
as long as possible so as to let as many people get on as possible.
She just wanted to leave.
At some point, one of the towers collapsed.
They had no idea what was going on, but the smoke started coming in.
My sister opted to stay outside and breathe through her shirt,
where there were not too many people, rather than go inside and
be claustrophobic and crowded. It didn't occur to anyone to close
the windows. Leaving them open was supposed to result in fresh air.
At this point, after a mostly orderly and calm atmosphere,
people began to panic and a couple of people were trying
to get under her seat to get at her life preserver!
She yelled back at them and told them to calm down and get
their own !#$% life preserver! After some time of panic,
many other people, including Cheryl, were yelling for
people to calm down. It seemed to work.
At some point, the ferry finally began to move.
Turns out it was the last boat out of there for some time,
because the boats would not be able to dock due to the smoke,
because you couldn't see more than a couple of feet in front of you.
She described the smoke as this light tan/grayish powdery mist,
with these metallic sparkly things floating around --
kind of like pixie dust.
She had turned the volume down on her cell phone.
She hadn't tried to call anyone because she saw that
nobody else's around her had worked. But she looked
down at hers and saw my name pop up on the screen.
She had no idea I was on jury duty and had thought I was in the building.
She knew at this point that I had at least tried to call her.
Through the garbled messages, she got "jury duty" and "Schuyler and Richmond
Terrace" and the asinine "do you want me to wait for you?" question. ;-)
Anyway, as we looked out at a smoke-buried Manhattan,
we decided that there was nothing left to see.
Photo © 2001 Charlie Siedenburg
Anyway, we walked to my car, turned on the radio, and slowly drove
Cheryl home. Although others on Staten Island have described
chaotic traffic, my recollection is that everyone was extra
courteous and moving at a solid 15 mph out of sheer numbness,
although maybe it was just me and my own numbness going at 15 mph...
My wife picked up my daughter from school.
She insists that everyone was driving like a complete lunatic,
speeding, cutting people off, not giving a care about anyone else.
Her experience was very different from mine, but that's her recollection.
We were supposed to go and vote in the NYC mayoral primaries,
but we heard on the radio that the election was postponed.
I then went to Sue's house. I had thought that my wife Kirsten was
in the city, so calling home would have been useless. So I thought.
And I didn't want to be alone, so I stayed with Sue for awhile.
She had all kinds of calls from friends and family on her answering
machine, but strangely enough, nothing from Mom and Dad. Good!
Maybe they somehow didn't know what had happened!
(They couldn't get through, but I had no way of knowing this.)
One message was from one of her supervisors at work
who lives on Long Island and wasn't due in until 11am.
We called him back. He had heard from and named 4-5
people from our job that he knew had gotten out okay.
That's good, very good.
If some of them got out, maybe it's possible that most of them or
even all of them did. I wonder about those on the 55th floor of the
other building, though. I can't let myself thing about that right now.
We had to call Mom and Dad and let them know we were okay.
Sue had the number at the hotel they were staying at in Boston.
It was hard to get through, but eventually we did.
We left a message at the front desk.
Turns out Mom and Dad were at Boston University Hospital with Dad
getting a blood work-up when they found out about the planes
hitting the towers. Once the nurses and doctors found out that
they had two kids who worked there, they brought, no, shepherded
my parents into one of the doctor's offices, away from any news
or television. Apparently, they heard that one of the buildings
had collapsed and did not want my parents to know about that until
they could ascertain if we were okay or not. My Mom had to be
calmed down and reassured. They let Mom use one of the doctor's
email to try to email my sister and me, since no phones were getting
through. Somehow, at some point, the message we left with the
hotel got through to them as: "SON AND DAUGHTER OKAY. HOME."
It was after they got this message that they found out about the
buildings collapsing. I am very grateful for the way the doctors and
nurses compassionately handled my parents. Knowing my Mom, they
quite possibly spared her a complete panic attack/meltdown/heart attack.
Anyway, back at my sister's house, the phone rings.
She's home! HOME? How did you get home? Oh...
She was worried about Sue and decided to call there.
She was worried about me too, just in case jury duty ended
and I had decided to go in for some reason. I felt bad that
I hadn't called home, but she understood why I hadn't.
Anyway, I didn't want to leave Sue alone, but I wanted to see Kirsten.
So I lingered for awhile, and then invited Sue over. She declined.
"Call me or come over if you need me for anything."
The rest of the day is kind of hazy.
Lots of calling people and getting calls from people and
telling parts of this rambling story over and over again.
Lots of hearing from very dear friends whom I hadn't heard
from in quite some time -- college buddies and the like,
some of whom knew I worked in the Twin Towers,
all of whom knew I worked "in the city".
It was incredibly difficult to get through on the phones.
I didn't want to use my cell phone (not that it would have worked)
because the battery charger was at work. I wanted to save the
battery time for when I'd need it. I figured this was it for the cell
phone anyway. No job, no phone. Lots of watching television.
(I watched more television this week than I do in a year...)
I complained and protested when my wife insisted we get cable TV last year.
I had held her off for years until my whole extended family wailed on
me for not getting cable for her at a family cousin's party last year. ;-)
Our not having cable TV had become a running family joke...
I didn't even find out until much later that anyone without cable
TV in New York had no reception for weeks because all of the
television stations transmitted via the 30-story antenna on top of
1 World Trade Center! Only CBS channel 2 could be seen because they're
the only ones who had a backup transmitter at the Empire State Building.
I'll never hear the end of this. ;-)
Anyway, I did have Gordon's home phone number, the only home
phone number I had from anyone at work, because it was in my wallet,
whereas, all other numbers were in a file at work -- now buried in
a pile of rubble. So at some point, I called him and eventually got
through. He was there, as were a number of other people from work,
including my other boss Greg. Amid a lot of crazy conversation,
and some relaying of stories (which I'll get into later), I got a
couple of important things out of the call:
1. As far as they knew, everyone who worked
for us was accounted for and got out safely.
I had no idea how they could know this,
but I was *not* about to question it.
I was all too happy to accept this completely at face value.
2. All of upper-level management was going to have a meeting
tomorrow morning in Jersey City somewhere and decide what,
if anything, to do. Sit tight, and they'd call me soon and let
me know what, if anything, would be going on.
My next door neighbor, Joe, is a fireman.
He has 8-year old quadruplets: two boys and two girls.
I find out that he's okay; he wasn't there when the buildings
came down, but the entire department got called in and he's
either there or on his way there now. He's a good man and a
great father to his kids. Ah, any description I give of him
will be inadequate here. Suffice to say, I don't think he has
any idea just how much I admire him. We really don't speak
with each other that often. He and all of his brothers in the
Fire Department will forever be my heroes.
I really need to tell him this soon.
Joe spent most of his waking hours at the WTC for months.
He also seemingly went to funerals almost every week for months.
We always knew when he was heading to one or coming back from one
when he was wearing a suit. That went on well into 2002, if I recall.
I get a call from a dear Internet friend, djp.
He and I help run a Yes (the band I saw Friday and Saturday night)
email discussion group. It occurs to me that I should send out
an email letting all those who know me 2-dimensionally as a bunch
of words on a computer screen and as a nutty Yessucker that I'm okay.
Here is what I posted to the Yes list, warts and all.
I include it verbatim because it's the only actual writing I have
from that day, thus, it kind of conveys my thoughts at that time
a little better than my "retrospective perspective" can adequately do:
"Greetings to all,
I was on jury duty today. Go figure.
The court house is near the ferry terminal on
Staten Island overlooking the harbor.
I saw it from there.
I want to make sense of some of my thoughts, and get
them down in writing, but that's for another time.
I work, er, worked on the 26th floor of 1 WTC,
the 1st tower to get hit, and the second to go down,
the northeast one with the antenna on top.
I talked to my boss and as far as he knows, everyone who
works for us got out okay. I've received lots of personal
stories from locals. I know of someone as high up as the
90th floor getting out. I can only hope that's true of most.
But many firefighters and policemen and ambulance workers
were going in while others were leaving. They are the real heroes.
My next door neighbor is a fireman.
He's there now helping people, or trying to.
But everything I've worked on the past 15 years is gone.
At this point I'm numb.
Guess I've got to look for a new job...
I appreciate all the thoughts and prayers from many of you.
Let's pray for this crazy world.
Something has changed forever, and I'll never be able
to look at Manhattan quite the same way again.
I eventually talked at length to Dad, once he got through.
I'm 37 years old.
It's been a long time since Dad had to be... well, DAD, you know?
I remember that moment/milestone in my life -- my sister Karen's
wedding -- when I shared a beer with Dad for the first time.
A line was crossed from which one seemingly cannot return.
It was then that Dad didn't have to be DAD anymore.
Today, Dad was DAD.
I was a little kid again, his only son,
looking up to him, needing him.
We almost lost him a few years ago.
He's in Boston now because of that.
I know I won't have him forever.
But today, he's DAD.
Again, the rest of the day is hazy.
Lots of television.
Lots of making and receiving phone calls.
Lots of tears.
Lots of disbelief.
Lots of numbness.
Very little comprehension of this whole ordeal.
No anger... somehow, no anger. None. Really.
I don't think I got to sleep until 3-4am.
Sheer exhaustion is the only way I'm going to be able to sleep...
Wednesday, September 12, 2001
The next day is hazy also, and more of the same.
Making/receiving phone calls.
An overwhelming sense of loss.
Trying to understand, to comprehend, the incomprehensible.
The one "activity" I actually took part in was to go back
to Richmond Terrace to see first-hand, what was left.
Surprisingly, hardly anyone was there. I don't know what
I was expecting, but being virtually alone surprised me,
especially given how much pandemonium there was here yesterday.
I will attempt to organize some of the many feelings and thoughts
I went through as I looked out over the harbor this day and during
the week to come. Some of these feelings/writings were
culled/re-organized from emails written to friends at the time.
Some is as I am trying to remember it.
I look out across the harbor, and what I see continues to shock me:
The Twin Towers are replaced by a "puff" of smoke.
Nearly all of the rest of the smoke that covered half the city has dissipated.
But seeing "poof" where Twin Towers are supposed to be looks...
Somehow, the skyline looks -- smaller.
The Twin Towers made everything else around them appear bigger --
Now... looking at it in person...
the reality of not seeing the Towers...
the feeling of emptiness...
Trust me on this:
I used to think that I thought I knew what this "tragic" stuff
was like and whatever. But seeing this stuff on TV and seeing it
for real are just two different things. I see all the stuff
on TV and it isn't real to me, even though I'm intimately
familiar with every scene they show. I go to the water's edge
of the island and look out over the harbor and look with my own eyes,
and it's real.
I've tried to find the word/words to describe it.
But wrong is the only word that fits for me.
I will never be able to look at Manhattan the same way.
I never tired of admiring that skyline.
It rarely ever failed to demand my attention no matter where I saw it from.
If you're not from the general NYC area, I'm not sure you can
adequately understand the "wrongness" of the Twin Towers NOT being there.
You can (scratch that) could see those towers from everywhere...
Jersey, upstate, Long Island...
Think about it:
If you could see 45 miles on a clear day from the top of the towers,
that means that the towers could be seen from a distance of 45 miles.
They were a vital and ubiquitous part of the NYC-area landscape/scenery.
People taught their children that if they got lost,
to orient themselves based on the Twin Towers.
Everywhere we'd go, the Twin Towers would inevitably pop up
over some horizon and my 7-year-old daughter Megan would say,
"THERE'S YOUR BUILDING DADDY!!!"
The other day, she said,
"Daddy, I hope your new building doesn't get knocked down."
One of my friend's 4-year old boy said, upon hearing the Towers
were on fire, "That's okay Daddy. The firemen will put the fire
out and everything will be okay."
Another friend's 4-year old boy who enjoys playing flight simulator
computer games, upon seeing the second plane hit live on TV with
his mother, said matter-of-factly, "He's not a very good pilot."
Oh to be four again.
Now those were the real heroes...
Everyone I've talked to who was in the building says that while they
were getting out, going down the stairs, the firemen were going IN.
Not just going in.
But climbing 80+ flights of stairs while carrying 50+ pounds of equipment --
in hopes of putting that fire out, rescuing those trapped,
probably never thinking the buildings would come down,
but well aware their lives were endangered (nobody I know
thought the buildings were in any jeopardy of actually coming down.)
Go up 10 flights of stairs and see how winded you get.
And now I look out at the altered skyline...
Downtown Manhattan was my home.
I lived there every day.
It was a part of me.
A big part of me has died.
Every scene you see on TV was my home.
I know those scenes in an intimate way.
I walked those blocks every day.
Some time soon, when they let people in,
I've got to go make the trek to downtown
and see what's left of it. I've got to see.
Kirsten thinks I'm nuts for wanting to do that.
But what's on TV isn't real.
It's like a damn movie.
I've got to see for myself.
Is Big Al's Pizza around the corner still there?
Is J&R music around?
Where's my little bookstore?
My post office?
My coffee shop?
My music store?
To answer most of the questions:
The deli reopened, as did the little bookstore.
(Borders, the big bookstore, never did.)
The music store opened, but closed a couple of years later.
The post office that was located in a landmark historic building
at the corner of Church and Vessey streets reopened, which
surprised me, given its location adjacent to 7 WTC, which
burned and collapsed a few hours after the towers fell on 9/11.
I feel stupid, but I don't remember the coffee shop.
was the best record and electronics store in NYC.
It outlasted Tower Records, Sam Goody, HMV, Virgin,
and all of the other mega mongo ultra stores.
Because it was better.
Because they stocked great music that nobody else did.
Because the people who started it and maintained
it were motivated by a genuine love for music.
They had independent records and imports that couldn't be found elsewhere.
They had obscure progrock music that other retailers never even heard of.
They even had an entire store just for jazz and classical music.
They started as a record store, then took over most of Park Row,
as they expanded into videos, electronics, stereos, cameras,
VCRs, DVDs, computers, i-things, phones, and even a cafe.
Then 9/11 happened.
And Amazon happened.
And hurricane Sandy happened.
And they died a slow, then sudden, death.
Truly the end of an era in downtown NYC.
-Big Al's recovery is addressed in the October 2 entry-
One place I didn't mention in the original essay
was the Kelly photo shop in the shopping mall
that was located in the basement of the WTC.
I used to get my photos developed there.
For every nine rolls of film, the 10th was free.
They never reopened.
I've kept this in my wallet all these years.
Another historical relic from the Twin Towers.
I wonder how many of these there are.
They owe me a free roll of film:
Photo © 2017 Edward Jerlin
Those places didn't belong to me...
but they were "mine".
Big Al's was my "Cheers".
They all knew me in there.
Did those guys get away okay?
Will they ever return?
Will I ever see those guys again?
They're not a big corporation, just a little pizza shop:
A bunch of guys who make the best pizza in Manhattan.
How long can those guys hang around waiting?
Can they afford to pay their people?
If they open up now, who is even there to buy their pizza?
How would they even get supplies to make it?
There are a couple of seagulls flying by.
Do they know that anything is wrong?
Are they aware that anything has happened?
So many thoughts to sift through...
I watched those towers go up, little by little, inch by inch, over 3-4 years.
Took them 90 minutes to bring them down... and yet...
They were built to withstand all kinds of stuff.
They swayed on a windy day, so as not to break.
The planes probably would have passed through
other buildings. The towers swallowed them whole.
Any other building would have collapsed when hit.
Not the twin towers, with their redundant support system.
They swayed, bent, moved, gave the people in them
quite a ride (from what everyone has told me), but didn't fall.
Instead, those towers almost defiantly and heroically stood there
for about an hour, allowing thousands of people to get out.
It was the sheer heat that eventually melted the rest of the supports.
Most buildings would have toppled, taking out the other buildings around them.
Instead, they fell straight DOWN, sparing nearly everything else beside them.
They were designed so that they would not topple onto anything.
2017 Interruption and Perspective:
I realize one can get this info elsewhere, but the numbers tell quite a
story about the extent to which the Twin Towers staying up saved lives.
(Paraphrased, distilled, and summarized from
Wikipedia and other sources):
2,606 people died in the WTC and the surrounding area, plus 147 on the two planes.
As of this writing, 1,640 victims' remains have been identified; 1,113 have not.
Get this: More than 90% of the workers and visitors who died in
or near the towers had been *at or above* the points of impact.
Perhaps you knew this already, but I did not until recently.
In the North Tower, 1,355 people at or above the point of impact were trapped
and died of burns, smoke inhalation, were killed in the building's collapse, or
were among the more than 200 who fell or jumped from the tower to escape the
smoke and flames. The destruction of all three staircases made it impossible for
anyone above the impact zone to escape. 107 people below the impact also died.
In the South Tower, one stairwell was left intact, allowing 14 people on the floors
of impact, and four more from the floors above, to escape. One would think the
number would be higher, but sadly, many NYC 911 operators who received calls
from people inside the tower were not well-informed of the situation, and as a
result, told callers to remain where they were until help could arrive. Also, even
the intact stairwell was filled with smoke and heat to varying degrees, which
caused some to abandon trying it. Also, some tried to ascend to the top, either
to escape the smoke and heat near the impact, or hoping for a helicopter rescue
which was impossible due to the smoke, heat, and equipment on the roof.
In total 630 people died in the South Tower, fewer than half the number killed in the
North Tower, because many decided to evacuate as soon as the North Tower was hit.
A total of 411 emergency workers died trying to rescue people and fight fires:
The NYC Fire Department lost 343 firefighters,
including a chaplain and two paramedics.
The NYC Police Department lost 23 officers.
The Port Authority Police Department lost 37 officers.
Eight emergency medical technicians and paramedics
from private emergency medical services units were killed.
I'm not sure how all these disparate numbers add up exactly,
perhaps some subsets or supersets of numbers are included,
but that's the info I've been able to distill from what I've read.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology estimated
that about 17,400 civilians were in the WTC at the time of the
attacks. Turnstile counts from the Port Authority suggest that
14,154 people were typically in the Twin Towers by 8:45am.
Most people below the impact zone safely evacuated the buildings.
So if the towers had collapsed immediately upon impact, we'd
be talking about 14,000-17,000 casualties, rather than 2,606.
For some reason, I still feel no anger. None. Really.
It's odd, but it's true.
Why don't I feel any anger?
Am I too numb? Dumbfounded?
I do fear for the world right now.
I do fear that those seeking "retribution" will keep
upping the ante, which then "requires" more retribution.
I do want justice...
But I don't want to see one more innocent person die.
I just want it to stop.
I want it to be over.
There has got to be a peaceful way out of this...
I will never be able to enjoy that skyline the same way again...
I'm not asking for any pity.
Just a little understanding and some patience...
Right now, my brain is all messed up... I mean, really messed up.
Messed up brains were always for other people... not me
Lots of thoughts to sift through...
Smoke continued to emanate from the WTC site well into December 2001.
If I recall correctly, it was shortly before Christmas when the smoke
*finally* stopped wafting from the site, but I remember for sure that it
was well into December. I know because I witnessed it first-hand from
the other side of the river in Jersey City every work day.
I recently listened to the local news radio broadcasts from that day.
(I may post the audio here at some point.) For hours after the towers
collapsed, the newscasters, bystanders, and witnesses seemed to
remain amazed that smoke continued to billow hours later.
Little did they know that this would go on for another three *months*.
The view from Jersey City for months:
Photo Source Unknown
Amazingly, there was very little rain from September to December,
and the weather remained unseasonably warm. Many around here in
NYC commented that it was fortunate for the recovery and clean up
crews that this was the case, though I wonder if the smoke could
have been cleared more quickly with a few good rain storms.
Thursday, September 13, 2001
I thought I was out of a job, 15 years of work suddenly deleted...
But I've talked to Gordon and Greg, and got a message from my
company saying we're insured, that we're all still employees, will still
get paid, and are expected to fulfill our roles in helping to rebuild.
Wow... Loyalty is truly a two-way street...
I'm awed and humbled.
And now I understand somewhat why the managers manage.
From what I've been told, amazingly, only 1 person is unaccounted
for from Garban,
a woman I kind of know from saying "hello"
in the hallway. She was in the middle of a meeting at the
"Windows on the World"
restaurant at the top of tower 1.
She has twins, a boy and a girl 3 1/2 years old.
A number of others were supposed to be at that meeting, including
Karen's best friend at Garban, Kim, who was in London at the time.
She had fought the London trip and thought she should be at the
From what I've been told, Kim and Karen nearly always worked
closely together on a myriad of projects. What I find extremely
odd is that although I know Kim well, I hardly know Karen.
I haven't the faintest idea why and that bothers me.
And I don't even know why that bothers me, but it does.
Many other firms were not as fortunate.
Our primary "competitor", Cantor Fitzgerald, who had offices on
the 101-105th floor had some 1000+ employees and I think I
heard that only 200+ were accounted for -- all of which were
either on vacation, worked at another site, were late for work,
called in sick, or in the case of their CEO, taking his kid
to his or her first day of kindergarten.
Nobody working up there got out.
Cantor lost 658 employees, more than any other firm.
Marsh Inc, located immediately below Cantor
on floors 93-100, lost 358 employees.
Garban "competed" against Cantor for years.
I can't tell you how many times my professional life
was turned upside down because of our competition
with Cantor and the need to get new products and
features to the broker before Cantor did.
Keeping one step ahead of Cantor was a way of life.
But, this is not right.
Those people at Cantor are people with families, just like us.
Just people, very talented and dedicated people,
the best at what they do, eking out their little living.
When I started at Garban, there were about a dozen brokerages
that did what we did. It was a competitive business in an
extremely specialized field. Only the fittest survived:
Cantor, Garban, and Liberty, each of which survived only
because they're the best at what they do... or did...
Garban at least has its people.
One thing I've learned from this is that a business is really its people,
rather than a place, or a system.
(This point would continue to be driven home for me time and time
again over the next few weeks in so many different ways.)
Taking a right turn now...
This evening, I go online and after reading some email, I pretty
quickly make a decision to avoid all public forums on the
Internet completely. I've read too many very stupid, petty,
uninformed opinions and I don't have the time or the energy or
even the will to reply. Besides, spending any time arguing
about anything, let alone stupid little things just seems
beyond silly now. And I've had enough of small little egos
on the Internet lately. Besides, I'm not in my right mind,
and I would not ever want to be judged on anything that I wrote
to a public forum while I'm feeling this way. Those noisy forums
are probably a better place without me adding to the noise anyway.
I just can't understand why some of us are eating our own kind at a
time like this. Reading this garbage is not healthy for me right now.
Better to tune it out altogether.
Sadly, this has never really changed, and has only ever
gotten worse with the advent of "social media". sigh...
Time to read my personal email from my "3-dimensional" friends,
which I tend to keep separate from my purely "Internet" friends.
Chain letters... boatloads of them...
the same ones over and over again...
I am admonished to fly my flag and light a candle so many times, I can't count.
I wrote this (or a variation of this, depending on who I was writing to)
to a few of my friends:
'I am as respectfully as possible asking you to take
me off your "chain letter forward to everyone email list"
until/unless I ask you some time in the future to put me back on it.
If you want to talk/write to me, just me, I welcome that.
But if I read one more "everybody email 5 people" thing...
I am not doing too well right now.
I need time.
I know you're trying in your own way,
and that you mean well, but these chain letter
emails are only serving to piss me off --
I'm trying to understand why, and I think that the reason
they're pissing me off is that they're not personal.
This whole ordeal is personal to me.
And I'm one of the LUCKY ones.
I know way too many people who love somebody
who has not been seen since Tuesday.
Somehow, I've been lucky to miss even that, in that
I don't actually know anybody directly who is missing.
I believe everyone near NYC has been affected directly or indirectly.
I see a letter in my inbox from "John" and I look
forward to a letter from "John" and I get something else.
I don't need another admonition to wave my flag right now.
I don't need another "eloquent poem" right now unless you wrote it yourself.
[Lots of stuff already written elsewhere here snipped.]
People keep asking me if there's anything I need, to ask.
Shoot, I don't even know what it is I need.
How the heck do I ask?
What do I ask for?
I'm sorry if this is blunt and maybe hitting someone
in the face. That is not my intention. I'm just venting
and sharing how I feel right now and hopefully, some of
you can attempt to try to understand on some level.
I'm not asking for any pity.
Just a little understanding and some patience...
I'm going to bed now.
My brain is all over the place.'
Now I would just ignore everything and stay off of the facebook.
In fact, in the current increasingly polarized political climate,
that is exactly what I've done.
I cannot imagine what social media would have been like on 9/11. [shudder]
Friday, September 14, 2001
I went to work today for the 1st time.
It was too soon...
It was not soon enough...
(I can only hope that makes some kind of sense...)
I'm hunkered down in the "Garban disaster recovery center",
otherwise known as "Don's house", because he has a recent
copy of most of the software there, thanks to his insisting
on having a complete working environment at his house,
rather than being content with merely logging on to Garban's
computers from home, like nearly everyone else.
He even has software that he was not involved with.
Greg doesn't know whether to give him a raise, or to fire him. ;-)
It's just Don and me.
You're probably wondering why we didn't have a disaster recovery site.
The other tower.
If it wasn't so unfunny, I'd laugh and I wouldn't blame you if
you had to stifle the smallest of chuckles when you read that.
We even supposedly have backup tapes...
in a sealed vault...
in the basement of the other tower...
quite possibly still intact...
but inaccessible... buried deep within the rubble...
Who could have predicted this?
Anyway, I've never been so thrilled to look at my own programs/code before.
I don't expect everyone to understand this, but:
A piece of me has been restored.
Saturday, September 15, 2001
This was probably a complete waste of a day.
I have very little recollection of it.
However, it's time for me to write something positive...
In re-reading what I've written thus far, it has occurred to me
that I've made very little mention of my wife Kirsten in all of this.
Quite possibly, this is because I've been feeling very detached --
not just from Kirsten, but from everyone.
Unable to play music or get any enjoyment from it...
Unable to pray...
But I must say here that Kirsten has been absolutely wonderful
through all of this. And I've been an S.O.B. to live with at times.
She has held me up when I've needed it.
She has reassured me when I've needed it.
She has hugged me when I've needed it.
She has left me alone when I've needed it. (She's done a lot of that.)
She has even kicked me when I've needed it (but not very often).
Everyone should be so fortunate to have a spouse like mine.
All those "yes, dear's" have been well worth it. ;-)
Sunday, September 16, 2001
Church is kind of strange and surreal today.
Our new pastor gave a most excellent sermon
pertaining to Psalm 13, which helped me greatly.
They asked me to play the piano during a "silent prayer" portion
of the service. I felt I was not up to the task (funny I should
say 'task' here, as playing the piano is one of the things I love
most in life and has rarely ever been a 'task'), yet I felt that I
"should" do it for others. So I did. Kirsten, who knows me best,
was the only one who recognized how mechanical and devoid of emotion my
playing was -- or perhaps she was the only one honest enough to say it?
Anyway, what really sticks out for me was the bible study we had
before the service. At one point, our bible study leader Larry
made an observation that it seems to be in times of trouble that
people go to God in prayer and rarely think to do so when
everything is going well. Most everyone seemed to agree.
I just had to speak up.
"Then why am I so backwards?
Honestly, I've lived a charmed life.
I've never wanted for anything.
I've been so completely blessed for so long.
And I've always been appreciative of that. Really!
I thank God every day from the bottom of my
heart for all the blessings I've received.
I truly try to not take any of it for granted
and I do try to share generously what I've been given.
And yet now, for the first time in my life,
I find myself completely unable to pray and
I find myself feeling separated from God's presence.
That's never happened to me before.
What is wrong with me?"
Amazingly, a couple of people spoke up to me and shared similar feelings.
They were in the minority, but the two of them, Dan and Diane, shared
their own similar experiences. They helped me far more than they know.
Related thoughts from the latter part of September
I'm just now getting to the point where I feel "blessed",
but only because there are so many others far worse off than me.
How perverse is that?!
I'm one of the "lucky" ones. I truly am.
I have to keep reminding myself that I have my job, my family, my friends...
They say God doesn't give one more than they can handle.
I've learned something very important since I wrote this.
I'm sharing it simply in case it may help someone else to cope.
I'm not trying to preach to anyone.
In the Bible, 2 Corinthians 8-10, it says this:
"We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced
in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, *far beyond our ability to endure,*
so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death.
*But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God,* who raises the dead.
He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us again.
On Him we have set our hope..."
"They" are wrong:
Sometimes one does indeed get more than one can handle...
...but it's never more than *God* can handle.
It seems it's so that we learn to rely on *Him*, rather than ourselves.
I sure didn't.
I learned this the hard way in 2001.
Actually, I'm still learning it, still flailing through life sometimes...
It's not an easy thought to process...
But learning this helped me to heal...
Maybe this thought will help someone else too...
People are telling me that God protected me.
Although I'd like to think that's true,
then what about all those other people?
That's what I just cannot adequately answer.
I get that God has given mankind free will and that we are reaping that.
I get that.
But if somewhere in this, I'm somehow supposed to have
some sort of "protected" status, while others don't...
sorry, that just does not compute.
What makes me so special?
Yet, a friend of mine wrote this bit to me,
which somehow cut through all the "noise" for me,
after my bristling and scoffing at the first sentence of this:
"You were the fortunate victim of divine intervention -
I would not doubt that for a moment - it's as if you
were somehow meant to observe the tragedy - you were
destined to be a witness -- yet you were granted this
space from which to observe it - I don't mean to wax
poetic, but it is an incredible circumstance - you
weren't home in SI, you weren't on vacation,
you were still THERE.... "
At this point, I'm forced to face up and play "what if"
with myself and ask the $64,000 question:
What would have happened if I had been there?
Time to get brutally honest with myself.
I know myself.
Yes, I would have evacuated the building with everyone else.
But I know myself.
I would have been one of those "idiots" who would have
been hovering around underneath the buildings watching
everything and trying to get a better view of it.
I kind of saw it all... yet I was spared the horror of actually
viewing either plane hitting or either building coming down.
I still have my job.
And I also think about the fact that I don't personally know anyone who died.
And somewhere in all this, I am feeling a vague bubble of protection.
I know, I know, how presumptuous it is of me to even consider this.
Yet, everyone around me keeps saying it.
Biblically speaking, the worst thing that can happen to someone
is to be "separated from the presence of the Lord."
That's where I've been since Tuesday, still unable to pray.
I don't like it.
And I have no idea how to fix it.
My relationship with God has certainly been refined greatly due to this experience.
It was a very bumpy ride for awhile.
I could write a whole other epic story about it.
But it probably ranges far outside the proper scope of this site.
In a nutshell, my faith has eventually been strengthened,
though it took time, and some serious wrestling with God.
I believe that my refusal to believe or acknowledge that *anything* good could
possibly come of this experience hampered my ability to recover for some time.
Thankfully, I have had to acknowledge that some good things came out of it.
Some friendships were made,
people helped each other...
Really, the list is endless...
I confess that part of me still resents this, though.
I would like to think that I'd be better able to weather a storm such as
this if it ever happened again... But honestly, I cannot say that definitively.
Hopefully, I never have to answer that hypothetical.
Wednesday, September 19, 2001
After two more days of "Don's house", I go to our temporary/borrowed
(soon to be permanent as it turns out) offices in Jersey City.
2017 Addendum: I've been remiss all these years for not thanking HSBC and
Bloomberg for kindly loaning us their office space in both Jersey City, and at
Houston Street in Manhattan. Their generous help was instrumental in our recovery.
I could write a vitriolic book nearly as long as this missive on how much I
hate it in Jersey City and why, some of which has to do with my love for the city.
The Garden State?
Where's the !#$% garden?
This area is the armpit of America.
No, it's the "You Can't Get There From Here" state.
Only Jersey closes entire train stations "because
they're being used too much and are over-crowded."
That's like Yogi Berra's talking about his favorite restaurant saying,
"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."
Anyway, I think I need to leave my feelings about Jersey
out of this though, beyond this brief mention of my feelings
regarding where I now work. But my feelings about where I
now work have affected me greatly over the past month.
Every day I work here serves as a reminder...
Every view of the city from the other side of the river...
(Why do some of those buildings look red from over here?
What's with that?)
I've learned over the years to appreciate working in Jersey City,
most especially the shorter, calmer, easier, consistent commute.
I'm thankful for the countless additional hours I've been able
to spend with my family because of the better commute.
But I despised, or more aptly, *resented* it for a long time.
It took a *long* time for me to not miss working in NYC anymore.
Really, working there seems like a long lifetime ago now; it's hard to imagine.
The few times I commute to Jersey City via Manhattan because the car is in
the shop, or I'm going to a concert in the city that evening are such a hassle.
How did I do it all those years? I guess I was much younger then...
Also, a lot of gentrification has happened in Jersey City (much of
it jump-started and spearheaded by Donald Trump of all people).
And the view *of* the city from the "wrong side of the river" is better.
Much as I hate to admit that.
What I can't wrap my brain around is that I've now worked longer
in Jersey City (2001-2017) than I did in Manhattan (1986-2001).
In the words of Robot from the classic 70's TV show "Lost In Space":
THIS DOES NOT COMPUTE.
I see many of my co-workers for the first time since before this all happened.
Most of them have been working here since Monday, some since Friday even.
I believe that human nature, sadly, kind of dictates that any time
you put any 10 people in a room together that somebody is not going
to get along with somebody, and somebody won't like somebody.
Today, everybody loves everybody, even though it's extremely crowded.
It is good to see everyone.
It is good to hug everyone.
It is good to hear the "war stories".
I want to hear them all.
This group of people now shares something in
common besides working in the same place.
There are so many knowing looks and glances between people.
Surely, this has been my best day since September 11, despite Jersey City.
At this point in time, it seems appropriate to share, second-hand,
as best I can recall them, some of the various stories I've heard,
both from people I work with, and from friends of mine who work
or worked in Manhattan.
Some of these are combinations of stories from people whose stories
intersected and were similar; others are unique snippets of moments.
Nothing I write here will do this justice, but I've tried to
get a feel for what it was like from various viewpoints --
where people were,
how they got out,
what happened when,
what they saw/felt, etc.
What might I have experienced had I been working there that day?
(Not that I would have been there, because I no doubt
would have gotten to work late, much like my sister.
I generally get into work around 9:15-9:30.)
Since I worked on the 26th floor of tower 1, the first building to
get hit, most of the recollections here are from that perspective.
First a couple of very close calls from downstairs:
Shirley: "The elevator doors were about to close. I let another
woman go ahead of me. I told the passengers I'd take the next one.
Right after that I heard a loud whoosh, like a strong wind.
I didn't know what was going on. I started running, but before
I got through the revolving door, all the glass fell on me.
I got all cut up. Look here, where my head was slashed.
I'll have these bandages on my wrist for awhile."
Danielle: "One guy I work with, Pat, you remember him? [Yep, I do.]
He was downstairs for a cigarette and waiting for an elevator.
When the doors opened, flames shot out of them and killed the
guy in front of him and the guy beside him almost immediately.
Pat got burns on about 30% of his body, or something like that.
It's amazing he's alive. I guess he's in pretty good spirits
because I heard that he joked with Steve that he's now uglier
than he is. I don't know when or if he'll come back to work."
2017 Update: Pat never came back to work; he retired.
From the perspective of my office:
Many: "When the plane first hit, we heard this loud 'wwwwwwffffffffump.'
Almost immediately after that, the building swayed one way,
then rocked back and swayed in the other direction, then
shook briefly but violently as the building righted itself."
"It felt like the building was going to just tip over on its side.
It seemed to be just at the edge of falling before swaying back
the other way and doing the same thing in the opposite direction.
Then it straightened up and shook. I nearly fell over twice."
"All the stuff on my desk slid over to the other side."
"My chair rolled towards the other cubicle."
for an interesting article about the last person
in the South Tower to get out. It has an eerily similar
description about the Tower swaying when the plane hit.
Burt: "I didn't hear anything because I had my headphones on.
I just felt the rocking and the shaking. I took off my
headphones and yelled, 'what the hell was that?'"
"Somebody said to get out. I didn't need to be told twice."
Many: "We had no idea what happened. Then outside the windows,
there was all this falling papers and flaming debris.
Our first thought was that a bomb had gone off above us."
Tommy: "I went to the stair case, but it was filled with people barely
moving, so I figured I'd stay awhile and wait for the crowd to clear out.
I was the only one answering the phones. One of the calls was my wife.
She told me a plane had hit the building and to get out of there.
I just yelled at her and told her to calm down and not to worry.
I can't believe that the last thing I could have said to my
wife was me yelling at her to calm down and stop worrying."
"I was going through all the offices to make sure everyone was out.
Many of the executives were still hanging around. Everyone was
pretty calm. That's when I saw a body falling past the window.
That's when I decided to just get out. I'll never forget that."
Many: "It took about a half an hour to get down the stairs. It
was quite calm and orderly actually. I don't think anyone really
had any notion that anyone was in any real danger at this point.
As we were all slowly descending the stairs, many firemen were
going up the stairs carrying lots of equipment. At one point,
they kind of herded us out of the stairwell at the 8th floor.
I don't know why. But soon after that, we continued down
"There was some smoke in the stairwell, but not that much.
When we got to the last couple of floors though, there were
a couple of inches of water on the ground, probably from the
building's sprinkler systems. Some women were actually
worried about their shoes!"
"None of us in the stairwell heard the 2nd plane hit.
Nobody had any idea. Those stairwells must be super-insulated
or something for us not to hear that. Really, everyone was
pretty calm and orderly going down the stairs."
"When we got to the lobby, they let us out of the side of the
building on the 2nd floor, the upper-lobby where all the tourists go."
"All the elevator doors were black and burnt out and mangled
at all kinds of odd angles. There were a couple of inches of
water on the floor. They were hoarding us away from the
central courtyard towards West Street."
"The courtyard was littered with debris and bodies.
I only looked briefly. That was more than I wanted to see.
All kinds of flaming debris was floating around like a meteor shower.
I couldn't begin to describe what that looked like."
"There was a guy just outside the door holding everyone at the door,
making them wait. Then some huge piece of glass or something would
hit the ground. Then he'd yell, 'NOW! RUN! RUN!' He was letting
out 3 people at a time to RUN out of there towards West Street.
Then he'd stop everybody again, followed by something else falling.
He was trying to get everyone out without anyone getting hit by anything.
He was putting his own life on the line to get others out.
I really hope he got out."
"You could feel the heat."
"I'll never get over seeing people jump from the building."
Greg M: "I saw all this debris and paper falling past the window
of my office. I figured a bomb must have gone off upstairs, but I was
pretty calm, was on the phone with my wife... until I saw a body fall
right past my window. That shook me to my core. I'll never forget
that. Ever. That's when I hurried out of there. I couldn't get that
image out of my head. I didn't believe what I saw, yet I knew I saw it.
When we got downstairs, they wouldn't let us near the courtyard, kept
directing us away from it west towards West Street, told us not to look,
but I got a brief look at it, and it was strewn with dust and debris and
body parts. I quickly realized why they didn't want us to go that way.
Stuff was falling. It was like a war zone."
[Note: Greg's brother died that day at the WTC.]
Photo Source Unknown
Mike A: "Sorry, but I was one of the first ones to run to the
stairwell, but when I got there, there was smoke and debris in there.
So I ran back to the office, and people were still sitting there working!
I !@#$ yelled at everybody to GET THE @#$%* OUT! IT'S BAD! GET OUT!!
I'll never forget seeing people fall from the buildings and hitting the
ground. [Me: "Wait, you actually saw people hitting the ground?
You saw the impact? Wh... what was that... what was it like?"]
Dude, there was nothing left of them. They disappeared. All that was
left was, I don't know, hard to describe, I think of it as like pink
insulating foam. It wasn't red, more like pink, just pink foam, like
insulation, nothing left. Nothing."
Andres: "Same. What Mike said. He's right."
Tony: "Just after I got outside, I heard a roar, and I looked up
a second before the second plane hit the tower. I was right under it
looking up. I was shaking all over, it was like watching a movie,
except it was real. There was no warning at all. The roar was only a
second or two before it hit the tower. I couldn't believe what I was
seeing. It actually happened right above me."
From the 55th floor of tower 2:
Danielle: "We heard the noise when the first plane hit. Our
building shook and swayed when it happened; we all thought it
was our building that got hit. At that point, we all decided to leave.
We got down to the lobby on the 44th floor and were told to wait there.
Then we were told that it was okay to return to work, that everyone in
this building was safe, that there was some kind of explosion in the
other building. Fortunately, most of us decided to get out of there anyway."
Many: "They made the announcement, 'There is an incident in tower 1.
There is no problem in Tower 2. Tower 2 is secure. Please return
to work. Please stay where you are."
Anyone who worked in the Trade Center has heard the 'there is an
incident in the other building' or 'there is an incident on the xxth floor;
please stay where you are' message a number of times. Although in
nearly all situations, this is supposed to be standard operating procedure,
I would not want to be the guy who made that announcement.
"We were down on the 44th floor when the plane hit our building.
The windows all broke and chairs and equipment, anything near
the windows, got sucked out of the building."
One of the first people I asked my boss about was Rich.
I was extremely worried about Rich because he is the
kind of guy who would have told everyone,
"Don't worry; I'll stay behind and make sure the system is up and running."
Thankfully and amazingly, especially given that they knew I was out on
jury duty (we cover each other), Rich was working from home that day:
"I had no idea about anything until the connection went dead.
The system was up and running right up until the building collapsed."
Larry: "I was on the express bus from Staten Island when it happened.
The bus stopped short of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel because
the traffic had completely stopped. They let us out right there
on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. It was the only thing to do.
I couldn't believe that there were office papers and documents
strewn all over Brooklyn."
Don, who walks with leg braces and a cane and can't feel his legs from
the knees down because of a motorcycle accident years earlier:
"I had just gotten out of the Path train (from New Jersey, which stops
underneath the Trade Center) when the plane hit. They closed the
train station so there was no way to get back that way. I went outside
on to Liberty Street in front of the firehouse. The fireman there
invited a number of us into the firehouse in order to protect us.
We were all in the back of the firehouse. I was sitting there reading
a book when the first building came down. The front door got blown
out. I laid down to the floor next to a refrigerator. Stuff flew right
over me. The fireman in the front has his legs broken when the front
collapsed. The window I was sitting in front of was blown out.
I did the only thing I could do. I climbed out the window.
I had walked down a few blocks east when the second building came
down. I had just turned a corner when a lot of debris and smoke blew
past me. It was very difficult to breathe. It was like being in a cave.
That's the only way I can describe it. I just kept walking north until I
caught a ferry to Hoboken at 34th Street. I've come very close to
death 3 times now -- twice in one day."
The firehouse across the street from 2 WTC:
Photo © 2017 Edward Jerlin
The back of the firehouse where Don climbed out:
Photo © 2017 Edward Jerlin
Some perspecitve about the location:
Screenshot © 2017 Google Maps
Dennis: "I had just gotten off the Ferry when the second plane hit.
I went up West Street to get a better view. At one point, I thought
better of that and started heading back towards Battery Park when
the building came down. The only way to breathe was through my
shirt. You couldn't see your hand in front of your face. Day had
become night. I knew I was in Battery Park. I had traveled this
area so many times, you would think I could find my way around,
but I could not find the ferry. I eventually somehow ended up
going up the east side, so I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge and
ended up hitching a ride over the Verrazano Bridge and I walked
home from there."
Greg S: "We were watching everything from Broadway when our
instincts told us that we should probably get out from under here.
We went over by the stock exchange on Wall Street when the
buildings came down. We had no idea what had happened.
You couldn't breathe. We were afraid to go into any buildings
because we didn't know if any others were under attack. You
could barely see an arm's length. We eventually caught a ferry
across to Jersey and walked from there to Hoboken."
After this experience of not being able to outrun the smoke,
of being out of breath, and feeling out of shape, Greg vowed
that would never happen to him again. He got a treadmill, trained
for months, and has actually been running marathons ever since.
Vito: "It was hard to see, hard to breathe. I was trying to get to
the ferry but the police were directing us up the FDR Drive,
saying that the ferry wasn't running. I was on the Brooklyn Bridge
when someone said that they had opened the ferry, so I decided
to go back. I was making my way back there near South Street
Seaport when a policewoman helped me out. She said the ferry
wasn't running, but she directed me to a dock nearby where a guy
was operating a tugboat between Manhattan and Staten Island.
That was the most unusual boat ride I'd ever been on."
Many: "We stayed inside until the smoke cleared."
"It was dark, like night time, only you knew it wasn't night."
"I walked to the Bronx."
"I walked home to Queens."
Jim W: "This is personal. It's attempted murder. They tried to kill me."
2017 Update: Jimmy Whikehart passed away June 9, 2009 of pancreatic cancer.
Photo © 1999 Vito Macaluso
"What's this?" you may be asking.
At Garban, it's been known as "The Chief".
This wooden Indian has been part of the Garban trading floor
and a companion of Garban's brokers "since the beginning of time."
One of my co-workers Rich absolutely swears that he saw and
recognized this wooden Indian among the wreckage on television.
On September 15, 2011, someone named Leon kindly took the time to write to me:
"Dear Edward Jerlin,
I stumbled upon your site, and found your accounts very moving.
For some strange reason the picture with the Garban "Indian" struck me.
In the same night i also stumbled on a youtube video with the same "Indian" in it.
I feel uncomfortable bringing this up, but figured i should if nobody else has.
it's at the 1:25 to 1:30 mark, in the video
It seems your co-worker rich was right.
If somebody already found this, i'm sorry,
if not hopefully "the Indian" will end up in its rightful place.
I went to the video.
I compared every detail of the picture at 1:25 with the picture Vito had provided.
I was blown away.
I couldn't believe how eagle-eyed Leon was.
I took a screen shot in case the video ever got taken down.
(In fact, the video was taken down, but I found a replacement link cited above.)
Here's the screen shot:
I confess that I've received a lot of email responses to this site over the years.
For some reason (I'm sorry if you've ever written), I just never had the strength
or ability to respond to any of them. The idea of doing so would just drain me.
So I never did.
Until this one.
I had to write Leon back:
To refresh your memory, you came across my 9/11 WTC web site awhile back.
Thank you very much for bringing "The Chief" to my attention.
You must be a detective or something! Unreal...
I had put a personal "moratorium" on replying to any/all WTC-related emails,
but your note here is beyond exceptional and personal to me.
I took a screen shot of the youtube video and sent it to the broker who
is in the picture of "The Chief" for his opinion. He still works here
(we're located in Jersey City now, the "wrong" side of the Hudson River,
but are watching the new WTC being built from here.)
It's his opinion that the picture is indeed "The Chief". One of the VP's
of the company is going to see if we can retrieve it from Staten Island.
He wants to possibly have it encased and put somewhere in the office.
Thanks a mil for this.
If they find it, I'll send another picture along to you.
I've gone back and forth about whether I should ever update my WTC
site. I've gained a lot of perspective since then. Many "stories" left
unfinished in it have resolved in various manners. I thought of doing
it for the "10th anniversary" but wasn't up to it. The site was written
in October-November of 2001 and is kind of a "snapshot in time".
But if they find "The Chief", I'll definitely have to include that update.
Maybe I'll update it anyway, citing the youtube vid.
Let me know if you want credit or not for "finding" it.
Again, many thanks.
I never did hear back from Leon.
The VP says that several people in the company contacted the
NYC Department of Sanitation, in an effort to locate The Chief
so that he could be donated to a museum. However, sadly, the
efforts ended in a dead end, and The Chief was never located.
Alas, his fate apparently is to remain buried in the landfill on Staten Island.
FYI, there's been a new life-sized Chief on the current trading floor
since shortly after we moved into our new location in Jersey City:
Photo © 2017 Edward Jerlin
Thursday-Friday, September 20-21, 2001
Mornings are the hardest part of the day.
They are absolutely overwhelming.
Unlike some, I've had no nightmares. On the contrary...
Night time and dreams are the best part of my days.
In my dreams, everything is back the way things were...
Then I wake up.
Getting to sleep has been incredibly difficult,
not because I can't get to sleep,
but because making the decision to relinquish control
and go to bed simply paralyzes me completely.
I have this need to know everything that is going on.
I cannot shut off the television.
Last week I made the decision to begin video taping the news coverage.
I'm well into my second 6 hour tape...
Saturday, September 22, 2001
After a few incredibly chaotic days at work... Saturday.
This is the first day that I did not have what I call "rot gut",
that ugly feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I'd file this day under "good" -- "good" being a relative term.
Our new pastor and his family came over for some of my homemade Swedish pancakes.
Our very good friends Bob and Doris came over today.
They helped more than they know.
Monday, September 24, 2001
I'm talking with Leslie, who I've worked with for 15 years.
We shared a conversation about an odd thought process we each went through:
"Well, that's gone -- no, wait --
I've got that data on a backup tape...
uh... no, that's gone...
But Tony has that backed up on CDs...
uh... no, that's gone...
Wait a minute, Yelena has this program that converts that file to...
no, that's gone...
But on the other machine...
no, that's gone...
Wait, I'll log in from home and...
...uh, can't do that anymore...
Wait, Rich has a copy of that on...
no, that's gone too..."
Your mind goes through all these machinations,
all these scenarios, all these contingencies...
...only to realize that all of them are buried in the rubble...
It's all so overwhelming.
Thursday, September 27, 2001
There is a memorial service for
the only person Garban lost.
The company closes early so that everyone who wishes to go can do so.
Nearly everyone does, as far as I can tell.
More than one person comments to me how odd a memorial
service is without a body. I hadn't even thought of that.
There is a reception afterwards at some fancy catering hall.
In the middle of this room amid a bunch of tables is a grand piano.
Karen's 3 1/2 year old twins and one of their cousins/friends are
playing underneath the piano with all kinds of nifty little toys,
Lego's, coloring books, papers, stuff -- seemingly somehow
oblivious to the significance of the day.
We all agree that the best place to be is under that piano,
being kids again, oblivious to what has gone down.
Can we all fit under the piano?
Is there room there for us?
Can we play too?
This really stinks...
Karen's place at the 9/11 Memorial North Tower Pool.
This is right near the northwest corner facing south:
Photo © 2017 Edward Jerlin
Saturday-Sunday, September 29-30, 2001
Kirsten and Megan have gone to New Hampshire for the weekend to
visit and help out a friend of Kirsten's who has recently had a baby.
They had planned this trip for some time.
I've heard it said that:
"Babies are God's opinion that the world should go on."
I wouldn't disagree with that sentiment.
So I'm on my own this weekend.
A good thing?
I'm not sure.
At one point in time, I had marked this weekend on my calendar as
prime recording studio time to make some headway on the boatload
of recording projects I've got backlogged. But at this point in
time, I'm unable to get much enjoyment from music. I'm not
too hip to recording anything this weekend for two reasons:
1. The vibe probably wouldn't be much good and
the performance/recording would reflect that.
2. Even if I manage to coax some good performances devoid of any
vibe, would I ever be able to listen to it in the future without being
reminded of the time and circumstances in which it was recorded?
I've been wanting to make the "pilgrimage" to downtown Manhattan,
so this weekend seems to be the time to go. I do plan to go.
But I end up blowing it off. Too overwhelming.
Actually, doing anything is too overwhelming.
I'd say this was a nearly entirely lost weekend...
...except for one positive thing I did which would reap some "dividends"
(poor choice of word, but can't think of a better one right now)
in a few weeks which would help me heal in a major way...
At one point, in the middle of all the wallowing and thinking and
pity party, I found myself thinking/focusing on all the things
at my desk at work, trying to remember/evaluate exactly what it
was I lost -- trying to figure out what was replaceable and what wasn't.
The desk/cubicle itself
The reference books
Most of the other books, if I could find them again
Most of the music CDs
The coffee cup
Office supplies, stamps, envelopes
Some of the pictures that I still had the negatives for...
The hopefully replaceable:
Some out-of-print books that I might be able to scoff on eBay
Lists of stuff I had on hard disc such as addresses and phone #'s...
The irreplaceable that isn't really important:
The backup data tapes (the irony in that)
A bunch of Mets-Yankees Subway Series memorabilia
An "EarthMother" CD that was signed by Jon Anderson, the lead singer of Yes
The irreplaceable that is important, at least to me:
A couple of special one-of-a-kind pictures for which I have no negatives
My ugly one-of-a-kind green chair that I've sat in for nearly 15 years --
the one that had just the right angle/tilt for my unique slouch
2017 Interjection: I actually found a new one that's just right.
Been sitting in it ever since, and have taken it with me to multiple locations.
And oddly, just like the one I had at the WTC, it's green.
A different shade of even uglier green, but green nonetheless.
And just like the WTC one, a couple of times I've had to rescue it
from the trash heap because some well-meaning, but clueless person
tried to throw it out and provide me with a new chair. shrug.
Sometimes in life, it's the little things that matter.
At least this part of the story has a modicum of a happy ending.
My new old green chair:
A "portfolio" filled with loads of curios I've accumulated
over the years -- things like jokes, anecdotes, mementos,
knick-knacks, emails from people I've printed out and long-since
deleted, and other poignant or even inane stuff
A boatload of stuff I had saved on hard disc that existed
only at work consisting of poignant email messages and images
2017 Addition: Don't know how I forgot about this, but a signed picture of
Scott Shannon, Todd Pettingill, & the WPLJ Morning Show crew.
A special letter of encouragement from my wife she sent to me while
we were engaged -- the only personal letter I've ever received at work
A CD of a one-of-a-kind performance from an Internet friend of mine,
a one of a kind I'm really going to miss...
How do I make a long story (too late for that) short?
Last July, a bunch of Yes fans organized a huge gathering/party
in California via the Internet to coincide with the first gig of the
Yessymphonic tour. My friend Jamison was part of the entertainment.
He arranged a number Yes songs and medleys for, get this: a sax quartet.
Now, you'd think that this can't possibly work.
An intricate progressive rock band played by a sax quartet?!
Yet, it worked, and worked beautifully.
The key is in the way that Jamison arranges them,
which is nothing short of pure genius, in my opinion.
He's got a love for Yes' music and it shows in his most perceptive arrangements.
Anyway, he kindly sent me a recording of the performance.
I listened to it for the first time on September 5 at work.
Let me tell you, listening to this performance was the
highlight of my final week working at the World Trade Center.
There was sheer joy in this performance.
How I'd love to get some joy from music again somehow.
Yes' new album "Magnification" came out in Europe on September 11.
I'm so glad I didn't get it because I'd have ended up associating
it with what has gone down. Nothing captures a mood or a moment
for me like a piece of music can. The album will be coming out
in the U.S. in December. I'll get it then.
2017 Interjection: I still can't listen to that lp.
I think I've listened to it twice. Ponderously bad vibes.
Yet, what I would give to hear "Saxlife" playing at the Yes fan party.
That would be a reminder of before all this happened.
Listening to that would bring me back to September 5-7 all over again.
But it's gone...
...wait a minute...
It's not gone.
I can ask Jamison for another one!
What the heck was I thinking?
So I wrote him a letter.
It wasn't an easy letter to write, but writing him a letter
was much more personal and appropriate than sending an email.
I'm not up to going on line anyway. I still have the envelope
he sent the CDs in with his return address...
In trying to put some of the pieces of my life back together,
I've discovered something is missing... "Saxlife plays Yes".
Yep, it seems that a small piece of you is buried in that huge
pile of rubble which used to be the World Trade Center. Kind of
brings it home, eh? Anyway, at least this is something that I
can recover! When you get a chance, could you kindly send me
a replacement copy? I really loved that performance. Listening
to it was a highlight of my last week working in one of my favorite
places in the world. I thought it was gone. It didn't even occur
to me to ask you for another until now. My brain has been so
screwed up by this. But life goes on... I'm truly one of the lucky
ones. Still have my job, although we're now working/rebuilding in
a generic office building in Jersey City (YUCK!) I miss Manhattan
so much. Manhattan was my home, my turf, my element. It'll never
quite be the same... at least I have a view of what's left of it from
across the Hudson River -- the exact opposite view I used to have.
I'm telling you that seeing it in person and seeing it on TV are two
completely different things. TV does not begin to convey it.
Anyway, I know you'll balk at me sending you a check, so I'll at
least suggest that you could donate it to the Red Cross or whatever
other charity you think is worthy, if you want. I expect to see
that it was cashed next month!
Someday, I'll be able to go back to Yessin', I hope. But I'm glad
"Magnification" isn't out here yet, because I think I would have
associated it with all that's happened. Nothing captures a moment
or a mood for me like a piece of music. I'll be happy to get it
when it comes out here in a few months. I wouldn't be able to
listen to it now, anyway.
Getting enjoyment from music has not been easy for me lately, but
it's slowly coming back. For some reason, I'm feeling that hearing
Saxlife will be a healing thing. There was such complete joy in
every moment of that performance.
I'll be telling my "story" on my website soon, still working on it.
It's something that needs to come out, whether anyone else
cares to hear it or not... ;-)
Thanks for being the positive life-giving force that you are.
Tuesday, October 2, 2001
I got the day off to attend a "curriculum conference" with my daughter's
teacher that my wife was originally supposed to attend on September 11.
Since my wife had to work today, I decided to try to get the day off.
After the curriculum conference in the morning, I decided to make the
"pilgrimage" to downtown Manhattan to see what's left of it.
I need to do this.
I need to face this.
I need to see for myself, unfiltered through a TV lens.
I brought my binoculars, but not my camera.
My memories will serve as my camera.
I'm going to slip back into present tense now in order to attempt
to adequately describe what I see and how I feel about it.
If you're familiar with downtown Manhattan, you'll "get" this.
If not, I can only hope that I'm somehow adequately describing it...
. . .
Even though I've been seeing the skyline from the Jersey side every
day at work, for me, "the view" has always been from the harbor.
And it still looks wrong from here.
It always will.
As the ferry sails past the Statue of Liberty, I am choked up.
There is one vantage point, about a minute or two before the boat
docks in Manhattan, where one has a clear unobstructed view right
into ground zero. There are massive cranes, the blown out and crumbling
side of one of the smaller buildings which made up the Trade Center,
and a glimpse of what's left of the facade of my building.
And still lots of smoke. Still.
This shot doesn't really show it.
Photo © 2001 Tanya Kiskanyan
As I get off the Ferry, with more than a little trepidation, I have no idea
what to expect. I'm expecting not to see much of anything of what is now
called "ground zero." I'm sure they've got that sealed off. But I've seen
pictures and images of the devastation of my home, my turf, which
comprised of the surrounding area which is now open east of Broadway.
I get off the Ferry.
Other than everything to the left being blocked off,
and the train station being closed up, everything seems "normal".
I proceed up Whitehall Street, which soon turns into Broadway.
It's way too quiet for a weekday. Way too quiet.
There is someone selling framed pictures of the Trade Center
skyline for $20 and $30. The pictures are beautiful. They really are.
I am overcome with emotion and actually consider springing for
a picture, against my better judgment which tells me clearly that
this guy is profiting off a tragedy. I rationalize with myself that
I don't want to carry these around and if he's still here on the way
back, maybe I'll get one then. That gets me through the moment.
A half block later, there is an elderly oriental woman selling
two types of American flag pins. "Two dollah, three dollah",
she says, as she points to the merchandise. I suspect that "two
dollah, three dollah" is the only English she knows. I suppress
a small grin and appreciate the patriotic sentiment. For now.
A half block later, I get to the point in my old commute where I used
to see the towers from a pedestrian's standpoint for the first time.
It's wrong that they're not there.
Other than that, everything on Broadway seems... normal...
no... not normal...
It's too darn quiet.
Where's the energy?
Where's the aura?
Where's the people?
Where is everybody?
Is anybody home?
Shoot, nobody's home!
My eyes well up.
I go past the bull.
If you don't know what the bull is, don't worry about it.
For those who know what the bull is, rest assured, it's fine.
Yes, there are tourists taking pictures of it and with it.
I've never seen the bull without someone taking a picture of it.
At least something is right.
The Bowling Green subway station is open.
But that's not "my" station.
"My" station is the number 1 train to South Ferry.
That subway will be closed for years, since it travels
under the Trade Center and the tunnel collapsed.
The number 1 subway line south of the WTC was reopened on September 15, 2002.
It took a Herculean effort which is to be commended. A deep bow.
However, the Cortlandt Street station that was located underneath the WTC has still
yet to be reopened nearly 16 years later. The train has been passing the station
without stopping there ever since. Here's what it looked like on September 28, 2001:
Photo © 2001 Courtesy of MTA NYC Transit
A fascinating pictorial archive of the station post-9/11 can be found by
bureaucratic delays, as of this writing, the station
is reportedly due to open in August 2018. However,
are threatening to delay it even further.
Here's what the MTA subway map looked like after 9/11:
Here's what it looks like in 2017 (Cortlandt station greyed-out):
For the current map,
I've gone half a block and there's another elderly oriental woman
selling the same American flag pins for "two dollah, three dollah."
Must be her sister.
Most of the shops so far have been open. That's good.
Having seen the images of Broadway, I'm amazed at how clean
it is. The clean up job that's been done is nothing short of phenomenal.
Not to slight anyone in the least, but I've not heard much at all in
the media about the role of the sanitation department in all this.
That the street seems completely clean is downright heroic.
I look up at buildings that continue to be covered in a fine grey-tan dust.
I take a deep breath because I've heard so much about the smell.
I don't smell anything out of the ordinary.
Perhaps the wind is blowing westward today.
My sense of smell has always been lame anyway.
It looks as though from here I could cross over Broadway and go west
one block to Church Street. I thought nobody could go over there.
I'll do that on the way back if they let me.
I stand in the middle of Broadway.
Because I can.
There's no traffic.
I'll probably never get to do this again.
The view straight up Broadway takes in the Empire State Building,
and uptown, but you can only see it like this from the middle of the street.
As I continue up towards Trinity Church, the left side of Broadway is
now blocked off. There's a point just after 120 Broadway where I used
to work, where one should be able to look across Broadway through
the park across the street right into "ground zero". Won't happen.
They're directing everyone east on Pine Street towards Nassau Street.
This means that Big Al's is definitely closed.
They're on a little side street that connects Broadway to Church Street
across from 120 Broadway. I wonder if I'll ever see those guys again.
I went back to Manhattan in November on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
A police officer told me that the building Big Al's was in was not condemned
(though there was some question about it for awhile), and that they were
open only for deliveries, as the street was still closed to the public.
By mid-December, they had fully opened. Shortly before Christmas,
I paid them a visit and gave them a Christmas card and a small gift,
with a letter thanking them for making the best pizza in downtown
Manhattan, for feeding me well all those years, and for taking that
extra effort to acknowledge and remember my face when I'd walk in.
I added that I'd miss them since I worked in Jersey City now.
I concluded by congratulating them on making it back.
What I never expected is that they would frame the letter
and put it on the wall, which was very touching. Last time
I was there, which was far too long ago now, the letter was
still on the wall. Maybe I'll take a picture of it next time.
It was so great to see them,
and the pizza was as good as ever.
Additional update June 2017:
I continued to visit Big Al's occasionally, sometimes taking a
long lunch on a Friday, but after the PATH train was re-routed
to exit further north, it turned an hour and a half lunch into two
hours or more, so it had been a long time since I'd seen them.
I recently finally ventured back there. The letter is still on the
wall, and one of the brothers who owns the place, Peter, still
remembered me. His brother Dominick had just left so I missed him.
I should make it a priority to go back there soon to see him.
Peter and Dominick both still reside on Staten Island. Their third
brother Richie left the business shortly after 9/11 because he just
couldn't deal with the city after that. He's doing well on Long Island.
I asked Peter to give my regards to his brothers. He said that people
ask about the "guy who wrote the letter" and if he's still around.
He asked to get a picture with me.
I think he might add it to the wall:
From here there is now a lot of pedestrian traffic,
almost all of it tourists, until I get to Nassau.
Ah, here's where the New Yorkers are.
They've kind of "migrated" one block east.
Nassau Street is now what Broadway used to be:
The main thoroughfare.
I soon find out why:
Broadway is almost completely impossible to navigate through because
of tourists taking pictures at every corner for the next 4-5 blocks.
Anyway, I proceed behind 120 Broadway on Nassau to Cedar Street,
which is closed off to all except those that work at 120 Broadway.
National Guardsmen are patrolling all the block-off points.
For quite some time, I used to have my 120 Broadway building pass.
Then, not long ago, in order to make room in my wallet, I took it out
and put it in my desk drawer. It's now buried in the rubble.
Anyway, even from here, there's a reasonably substantial sliver of a
view of "ground zero" through the park. It's not a park anymore,
though. All the trees are gone. I believe they've taken them out
in order to turn it into an equipment area. At any rate, even this
small glimpse blows away every TV shot I've seen. Unless you've
been here and seen it, you have no idea how big this is.
Photo © 2001 Tanya Kiskanyan
Lots of people here are taking pictures.
There are lots of little snippets of conversations.
Many somber people.
There are tears.
There are pictures of missing people on every lamppost.
Some are accompanied by stories that rend your heart.
Some of the buildings adjacent to "ground zero" have red netting
draped over them to keep debris from falling. Ah, so that's why
some of the buildings look red when I look from Jersey.
Nobody could figure out why the buildings looked red from there!
There is an elderly oriental woman selling, you guessed it,
those same two types of American flag pins.
"Two dollah, three dollah."
She can't possibly be following me around.
It can't be the same lady.
I get a good look at her just to make sure.
My New Yorker sense tells me that I will see "her" on every corner.
My New Yorker sense is not let down.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry...
I have to ask...
I go up to one of the National Guardsmen.
"Excuse me sir; If I used to work in the Trade Center,
how close can I get to ground zero?"
"I'm afraid you're as close as you're going to be, sir. I'm sorry.
If you have any deceased relatives, they'll escort you in.
You have to go to the command center and sign in."
"Okay, thank you very much. You hang in there."
"Thank you, sir. You too."
I shake his hand. Good man. I admire him.
From here, I can go back towards Broadway on the north side of Cedar.
It's slow-going, as I make my way through the crowd.
My deli is open.
I like that.
I get to Broadway again and I look up at the huge
black building that is One Liberty Plaza.
It is completely dark on the inside. Eerie.
The building is covered in grey-tan soot. Beyond eerie.
The soot shows up sharply on this black steel building.
Photo © 2001 Tanya Kiskanyan
As I continue up Broadway, many of the shops are still closed.
But I'm not prepared for what comes next.
No, I'm not talking about another elderly oriental woman
selling American flag pins for "two dollah, three dollah",
although I do pass by one.
On the corner of John Street and Broadway is a closed jewelry store.
Inside, the store is covered with grey-tan soot and debris.
Inside the store.
The jewelry has been cleared out, but the rest of the store has been left
exactly "as is". It looks as if some accountant-general-ledger type
person had been working at a desk and just left everything there.
Looking through the soot-covered window into this
sooty-debris-covered store is like looking at a snapshot in time.
I almost think that this should be preserved exactly like this as a
museum, but there's a sign that says they'll be open in November.
This is a clothing store, not the jewelry store. Same scene, though.
Photo © 2001 Tanya Kiskanyan
2017 Update and Perspective:
I've been wanting to add this for years...
It's interesting what I said about preserving the *jewelry* store exactly as it was,
(and my memory of what it looked like is still etched in my brain to this day),
while showing the *clothing* store, which was best picture available to me...
...because that's *exactly* what was done with the Chelsea Jeans clothing store.
In fact, the very corner of the store that's in the picture above is the
part of the store that was preserved exactly as it was. The owner, David
Cohen, put a glass enclosure around it. Sadly, the store had to close in
October 2002, because of the economic slump in the area following 9/11.
Fortunately, the entire display was preserved and moved to the
New York Historical Society.
A nice brief article about that can be found by
Eventually, the display was moved to the
9/11 Memorial Museum.
(Scroll down a bit to find it.)
One can also
google "Chelsea Jeans Memorial"
excellent pictures of the exhibit as it looked in the original store.
Here is one of the best photo collections
taken by David Cohen, the owner of the store.
At this point, it occurs to me to take another deep breath.
There it is.
The metal-smoldering stench.
That dead smell.
It's faint, but it's there.
That's what everyone's been talking about.
It's not bad, but then again, I'm sure the wind is blowing west today.
At each corner there is another glimpse into "ground zero",
which I just can't begin to describe.
Photo © 2001 Tanya Kiskanyan
And at each corner there is another elderly oriental woman
selling American flag pins for "two dollah, three dollah."
Now what was once a mildly amusing curiosity has become
for me a major exploiting profiteering annoyance.
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself."
"Two dollah, three dollah."
She thinks I'm interested in the pins. Sick.
Ah, I leave her alone.
That's as angry as I'm capable of getting right now.
My comic book-baseball card store is open.
At the next corner is another glimpse into "ground zero".
What I see amazes me.
Borders Book Store, right at the foot of the Trade Center,
is still there, still intact.
If you look right at the bottom on the middle, there's the Borders Bookstore sign.
Photo © 2001 Tanya Kiskanyan
I know the back of the building it's housed in is blown out/collapsed
from the other angle I saw earlier from the south, but the front,
and the retail store itself appears to be completely intact.
As a matter of fact, the Burger King across the street a couple
of blocks back on Liberty Street seemed to be intact also.
Come to think of it, I've got a view from Jersey every day
of the World Financial Center just west of the Trade Center.
This is nothing short of amazing.
I think about how much worse it could have been.
Those buildings came straight down.
I pass by a clothing store.
The door is open and everyone can see in,
but it's not open for business.
None of the merchandise has been moved.
It's all covered in grey-tan soot.
Many of the windows along Broadway are covered with soot.
There are patriotic and poignant messages scrawled into them,
much as one might draw on their fogged-up bathroom mirror after a shower.
I look forward to going to J&R music...
I was not expecting that.
But there is another elderly oriental woman selling
American flag pins for "two dollah, three dollah."
There is a famous photo of people running away from the Trade Center
just as one of the buildings is collapsing. The smoke is billowing
behind the people as they head north-east along Park Row.
I've seen this particular picture in almost every publication.
This picture is taken from in front of J&R, two blocks north-east
of the Trade Center. (Look at the row of stores to the left.)
I can see City Hall from here.
There's a big flag draped on it.
Time to head back.
I head back down Broadway through the crowd again.
At one corner, a crowd is gathering.
I decide to stop and look, but instead of battling the crowd forward,
I step backward up one step onto the entrance of a perfume
cosmetics store that is closed, both to stay out of the way of
pedestrians and to admittedly get a clearer view.
A faux-policeman-wanna-be-security-guard who apparently
works for the building starts screaming at me out of nowhere.
"GET OFF THE BUILDING YOU'RE NOT ALLOWED THERE."
"Hey, chill, calm down, I'm just standing here."
"YOU CAN'T BLOCK THE PEDESTRIANS."
I'm not blocking any pedestrians. I'm out of the way here.
"YOU CAN'T STAND HERE. YOU'RE BLOCKING PEDESTRIANS."
"I'm not blocking anyone.
But if I go where you tell me to go, I will be blocking them."
"EVERYONE MOVE. I SAID MOVE."
This guy is beyond obnoxious, and everyone knows it.
It would not take much effort for him to courteously keep
people moving, like every real policeman and National
Guardsman has done on every other corner.
A few people kind of go through the motions of jostling,
but they basically ignore the guy. This makes him incensed.
"I SAID MOVE PEOPLE. GET OFF THE CORNER."
I can't take it.
This guy is getting rude to people who are crying and mourning.
"Hey, relax, man, many of us used to work in the Trade Center, okay?"
"USED TO. KEY WORDS: USED TO.
YOU PEOPLE DON'T WORK THERE ANYMORE."
This is beyond all reason and all sense of compassion or decency.
At this point everybody turns around and glares at the
Nobody says a word.
Nobody has to.
Nobody wants to.
They're too shocked for words.
He mutters and grumbles and thankfully shuts up.
As I continue on Broadway and then back west on Cedar,
I run into my boss Greg. He and another co-worker Tanya
were coming from a meeting with one of customers at...
the 20th floor of 120 Broadway where we used to work. The irony.
The view from there of the Trade Center used to be...
"Hey, did you see ground zero?"
Tanya got a whole bunch of pictures.
She's given me permission to use them.
You can find them here.
Greg and I head back down Nassau so he can get a ferry back to
New Jersey, while I head back down towards the Staten Island ferry.
We have a really good talk.
I don't remember most of it, but I remember it was good.
We reflected on the 15 years of work.
When I joined Garban, the computer department was Gordon and Greg.
He told me that if I need time, not to be afraid to ask for it.
He knows I've been taking this hard.
I deeply appreciate that.
As we head down Nassau, it amazes me that even the buildings
facing east, away from the Trade Center, are covered in soot.
I shouldn't be surprised because I saw the smoke myself,
but still, it just seems amazing.
"Look at that."
There's one spot where a stairway goes down and leads to a basement door.
The stairway is covered in grey-tan soot.
They missed this spot.
This must be what the whole city looked like a few weeks ago.
I stifle a small tear as my eyes well up again.
After we pass by the Stock Exchange, Greg and I part ways.
I head back towards Broadway, south of where the tourists are.
It's now almost 5:00.
I wonder what rush hour will be like?
On Broadway, I see the street that looks like it's open towards the west.
Sure enough, it is open.
And from Church Street, there is that same clear view of
"ground zero" I saw from the ferry, except I'm a lot closer.
The tourists don't seem to know about this spot.
I'm standing in front of the entrance to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.
Only buses and emergency vehicles are allowed on it.
It seems quite odd to see it hardly in use.
I head south and as I get to Battery Park,
what I see cheers me up considerably.
It looks... normal!
It's a normal rush hour scene!
Buses, and cabs, traffic, and lots of people waiting for the bus.
Thinking about it, this is the point where "open" meets "closed".
I stand on the corner taking this scene in.
There aren't even any elderly oriental women selling
American flag pins here for "two dollah, three dollah."
I savor this little slice of pretend-normalcy.
The rest of the trip home is uneventful.
But as I contemplate what I've seen, the thought that pervades:
There's only half a city there.
Photo © 2001 Tanya Kiskanyan
Saturday-Monday, October 6-8, 2001
Two of my best friends, John and Barb come to visit from
Syracuse for the three day weekend with their two children.
We have not seen each other for some time.
There have always been reasons not to, other things going on.
As John Lennon once said,
"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
We share many tears, and many laughs.
The kids are great.
I took John to see downtown Manhattan.
This time, the front of 120 Broadway was open.
Now, he knows.
Though the time, the distance, and the circumstances have sometimes
recently served to separate us, I know that there is nothing I wouldn't
do for John and Barb, and nothing they wouldn't do for Kirsten and me.
It's heartening and greatly encouraging to know
that some good things really don't change.
This weekend is my first glimpse of life and hope again.
I was actually without rot gut for extended periods.
Tuesday-Friday, October 9-12, 2001
A largely uneventful and very stressful week.
Most of it is spent looking forward to the weekend...
Saturday-Sunday, October 13-14, 2001
Our good friends Bob and Doris take my daughter Megan
and me upstate for a couple of hiking trips. Kirsten has
been sick, so she decides to stay home and rest up.
As much as I love New York City, it is truly good to
get away and see the "fall foliage" of upstate New York.
The colors of the mountains this time of year are breathtaking,
as always. The hiking is therapeutic and relaxing.
Megan holds up quite well!
I can't thank Bob and Doris enough for doing this.
They made all the arrangements and took care of everything.
I didn't have to think. Just enjoy.
And yet, this is a temporary salve on a very deep wound...
Monday-Tuesday, October 15-16, 2001
I thought the weekend would help.
If anything, returning to work in Jersey after the contrast of
being upstate only makes Jersey worse, not to mention
that there is no escaping anthrax all over the news.
And with that, my thoughts turn darker.
I hesitate to write this, but it occurs to me that there
is absolutely nothing to stop a bunch of terrorists from
each going over a bridge at the same time with an SUV and
a truck bomb. Everybody takes a bridge at, say, oh, 5:30pm.
One takes The Verrazano; one takes The George Washington;
one takes The Brooklyn Bridge; The Manhattan Bridge;
The Williamsburg; The Tri-boro; The Throgsneck; The Whitestone;
The Goethals; The Outerbridge Crossing (which is named after a
guy whose name was Outerbridge, by the way. They couldn't call
it the Outerbridge Bridge, so they called it the Outerbridge
Crossing. Just thought you might like to know that little
piece of trivia. We need some levity after all this heavy stuff.)
Anyway, I can't seem to shake this thought.
Is terrorism winning?
Today, it is with me.
What can I do about it? Nothing.
So I shouldn't worry about it.
I know that.
But I can't help it.
I am edgy.
I cannot relax.
My back is in knots.
Rot gut is in full force and is my constant companion.
What is coming next?
I keep thinking that it's not over.
At work, we're all still sitting at one big desk with laptops.
Everyone is talking all the time.
I can't work or concentrate like this.
On Monday night, as I'm going over the Bayonne Bridge,
I see a plane to the west turning towards me.
My brain tells me everything is fine, but I speed up anyway.
On Tuesday night, as I'm going over the Bayonne Bridge,
a van directly in front of me puts his flashers on and decides
to stop for no apparent reason. There's only one lane here
during rush hour because of construction. Typical Jersey.
I freak out. Obviously, it's probably nothing; the van starts
up shortly thereafter. But I don't remember ever reacting
that way before. I can't deny my fear.
Last month, Don had given me and everyone else at work an article
on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or whatever it's called.
I gave the article a once-over at the time. I've rarely been one
for psycho-babble, however, I have had someone close to me
go through clinical depression and I've seen them get help that
worked. Some time later, I gave the article another look, more
out of interest and understanding.
Tonight, I took the test again.
I am now beginning to answer "yes" to far too many of these questions.
I include them in here in case there's someone out there
who could possibly be helped by answering these:
Have you experienced or witnessed a life-threatening event
that caused intense fear, helplessness, or horror?
Do you re-experience the event in at least one of the following ways:
A. Repeated distressing memories and/or dreams?
Yes and Yes (previously no).
B. Acting or feeling as if the event were happening
again (flashbacks or a sense of reliving it)?
Sometimes, but I *DO* know the difference between reality and memory.
C. Intense physical and/or emotional distress when you are
exposed to things that remind you of the event?
Yes. (Previously, no.)
Do you avoid reminders of the event and feel numb, compared to the
way you felt before, in three or more of the following ways:
A. Avoiding thoughts, feelings, or conversation about it?
B. Avoiding activities, places, or people who remind you of it?
C. Being unable to remember important parts of it?
D. Losing interest in significant activities in your life?
E. Feeling detached from other people?
F. Feeling that your range of emotions is restricted?
G. Feeling as if your future has shrunk (for example, you don't
expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span?)
Are you troubled by two or more of the following?
A. Problems sleeping?
No, but deciding to go to sleep still paralyzes me.
B. Irritability or outbursts of anger?
C. Problems concentrating?
D. Feeling "on guard"?
E. An exaggerated startle response?
Yes, Yes. I hate phones.
Do your symptoms interfere with your daily life?
They do now.
Have your symptoms lasted at least one month?
Have you experienced changes in sleeping or eating habits?
More days than not, do you feel:
A. Sad or depressed?
B. Uninterested in life?
Sometimes, probably not "more days than not".
C. Worthless or guilty?
I answer no to all the drug and alcohol questions.
I'm looking at all the "Yes" answers that were previously no's.
This is not good.
This evening, rather than shutting her out again,
I spend the whole night talking and venting with Kirsten.
I know that it hurts her to see me like this.
But I know that I need to be honest and I need her help.
I can't hide inside my shell anymore.
I need to start connecting again to the people I love
and those who love me back. If I let this pattern of
fear go on, it could get pretty difficult to break.
I've got to stop watching television.
I've got to start getting some sleep.
I've been my own worst enemy.
There's this part of me that "needs" to hold on
to this "bad" feeling. I don't ever want to forget.
But I need to stop harboring the negative thoughts
and get on with my life somehow.
One day at a time, I guess.
Kirsten gives me some excellent advice:
"You have to find a new 'normal' for yourself."
I mark this day as my personal nadir.
I can't live like this anymore.
Talking with Kirsten has helped.
Time to get a good night's sleep.
Wednesday, October 17, 2001
Today is a good day.
The black cloud I've been harboring and nurturing has lifted.
I don't know why, I really don't, but I'm grateful.
Maybe I need to talk with Kirsten more.
Maybe I just haven't been getting enough sleep.
Nothing else is special about today.
Just that it is way better than the last two days.
I'll just accept that and move on to tomorrow.
Thursday, October 18, 2001
Today is an even better day.
There is some healing today.
It may even be the best day I've had since all this happened.
Where to begin?
After a pretty "decent" day, I go to the weekly Thursday rehearsal
for the worship/music team at my church. I go there planning to
take a break from this for awhile. I do not feel worthy to be
leading worship at a time when I'm having so many problems doing
that myself. To my way of thinking, the ability to play the piano
does not automatically make one qualified to be leading worship.
I plan on continuing to come to rehearsals on Thursday, but with
the intent to bow out of "performing" (bad word, can't think of the
right one, but worship is not a performance) on Sunday mornings.
But something happens. As I walk in, they're playing a new worship
song we hadn't done before. Almost immediately, without even thinking,
I sit down at the piano and begin riffing over and around it.
I'm having fun.
I'm enjoying myself, despite myself.
I don't realize it at the time, but it occurs to me later that
it's the first time I've had fun making music in some time.
Since I was upstate last week, Espen, our worship leader
asks me if I'll be at church on Sunday. "Yes, I'll be there..."
I'm letting the "but" go unspoken.
I want to explain why I'm taking a break for awhile,
but I can't find the right words.
I never do find the right time or the right words to tell
everyone I'm taking a break. And the rehearsal goes well.
Three of us, Russell, Jonathan, and I have been attempting
to restart a church coffeehouse band. After being derailed by
a myriad of circumstances, including medical problems and
September 11, we're trying to finally get this off the ground.
We've finally settled on rehearsing every Thursday after
worship team rehearsal.
For whatever reason, God has decided to place Russell,
Jonathan, and me together at this time, in this way.
That is the only explanation for the way we are relating
to each other, both personally, and musically.
We are three very different people.
Yet, we are serving to each help each other through
a very rough time. I cannot begin to describe all that
goes on between us -- all the conversations, the phone
calls, the checking up on each other, the mutual
encouraging of each other, and the sharing and venting
and allowing of each other to express themselves.
We each bring something to this "group".
As a trio, musically, it's difficult to decide who plays
what on which songs sometimes. I play keyboards and drums.
Russell plays guitar, bass, and keyboards. Jonathan plays
drums, bass, and guitar. We switch around depending on
whatever the song requires. And somehow, it's all
sounding pretty darn good. But more important, it's fun.
So I go home around 11:30, after driving Jonathan home
and having another of those extended "life talk" conversations
that I've come to cherish, and I come home in a pretty good mood.
I sit down and check my mail.
There's a package from my good Yesfriend Jamison.
I am smiling.
I can't wait to hear this again.
Another small piece of my life has been restored.
I am hoping, but not really expecting that Jamison would write
me some kind of a letter. His moving letter touches me deeply.
I put on "Saxlife", and I fall asleep with a smile on my face.
November 2001 - January 2002
Shortly after I first published this site, my sister Susan emailed me
a picture of her on the spiral staircase that connected the 25th and
26th floors of 1 WTC, the North Tower that we both worked in.
The picture was taken by a kind friend and co-worker, Silvia.
Sue wrote (paraphrasing), "Thought you'd enjoy this. Don't think
there are many pictures of this around. Not for your website."
In January 2002, Susan passed away of a heart attack at the age of 34.
9/11 affected her extremely deeply. My family and I have long believed
that the post-9/11 stress was at least a contributing factor to her death.
For over fifteen years, I have resisted adding this, not only because she was
a private person, but also because I was hyper-sensitive about exploiting
her passing in any way. There was certainly already enough pathos here...
not to mention her admonition "Not for your website" reverberating in my ears...
But I've always wanted to *acknowledge* her passing in some tangible way;
it has always gnawed at me, and I've never had a real peace about not doing so.
Anyway, for reasons I can't adequately express, it now feels okay to share this.
And I can only hope that Susan can forgive me.
I think she understands.
She understood me better than anybody.
I love you, Sue.
December 21, 2000 was to be the only time when the
office Christmas party was held in the WTC. Our friend
Silvia took a couple of pictures of Susan, me, my wife
Kirsten, and our 7-year old daughter Megan at my desk.
It was a festive occasion, and very family-oriented.
As you can see, Megan had a face-painting done,
and there's a poinsettia plant on top of the desk.
Susan is holding her WTC building pass, of all things.
And being the trend-setter that I am, I'm wearing
an ugly Christmas sweater, long before wearing
ugly Christmas sweaters was even a thing.
Shortly afterward, Silvia gave a copy of one of pictures to Susan,
and the other to me. I had it framed at my desk in the WTC.
Its fate was to become part of the rubble.
I mourned the picture. Seriously, I really did.
Because it was the only picture I had of me in the WTC.
It was also the only time Megan was ever in there.
Silvia offered to print another for me, but just couldn't
find the negatives after a lot of searching and frustration.
She kept apologizing, but it wasn't her fault.
But I continued to mourn the dang picture.
Then for Christmas 2001, Susan gave me this picture as a present.
I shed a tear. "Wow... I... have to thank Silvia... It's not the same one
that was at my desk, but... wow... just as I remember it... Thank you!"
Susan replied, "Actually, Silvia never did find the negatives.
This one's mine. I know what it means to you. You take it. Really."
A month later, Susan was gone.
In a way, this picture represents to me everything I lost,
and two reasons -- my girls -- for continuing to carry on.
Well, I could continue to share my "daily journal", with my little
"ups" and "downs", "good" days and "bad" days, "triumphs" and "setbacks",
but at this point, it's just a personal thing that is probably of
no real interest to anyone. In re-reading this, I realize that this
is what this has become for the past few entries since October 6-8.
My paychecks that come in the mail still have a return address of
TWO WORLD TRADE CENTER
NEW YORK, NY 10048
Paychecks from the crypt...
Yet a big part of me hopes that never changes.
The pay stubs continued to have the WTC return address for at least a
couple of *years*. I should check to see approximately when it ended.
Probably when they stopped being mailed, and everything moved to being on-line.
2017 Update to the observation:
While I don't have every pay stub, it lasted through at least most of 2002.
It was definitely done by January 2003.
Still, that's kind of crazy.
I wonder what they're doing with all that mail that was
supposed to be delivered to the World Trade Center?
I'd like to say that this little story has a "happy" ending.
But I can't.
This story is still being lived by me as I go.
It has not been easy.
It has been downright painful at times.
I really thought that after Thursday, October 18 that I was "okay".
I was wrong.
But I do see in my life how God is reaching out to me and
bringing me back into the fold in many ways. He has placed
me among family and friends and believers whose faith is strong.
At this point, I've had some time to think, read, learn,
and come to some thoughts and conclusions about what
I think about this whole thing. If you've made it this far,
I beg your indulgence for just a little longer. I promise
that the payoff at the end is a good one.
My first thoughts continue to be with those firefighters.
I don't know how those guys do what they do.
I don't know how they cope.
Those guys have something I don't have.
I don't know what it is, but they have it and I (most of us) don't.
I'm not envious; it's just an observation.
I saw a television show which had nothing but the firefighters
trying to make sense of everything in their own words.
Three comments stick out for me (paraphrasing):
1. One guy has this vacant look on his face as he tries to come
to terms with the idea that he's somehow still here while others
are not. He begins to name all his brothers in the department
who are no longer with us. I can't imagine what he's going
through, but I can relate to his thoughts regarding, "Why me?"
2. "We'll go on, because we don't want to bring dishonor to
the men we lost." What an amazing perspective. He refuses
to bring dishonor. Wow. There's an inner strength in this
man that is just incredible.
But this one gets me the most:
3. "We went to a fire the other day and we looked at it and said,
'we can handle this'. It was nice to get back to normal."
"Normal" for these guys is going into a burning building.
Think about that!
On to more philosophical thoughts...
As a Christian man, I don't need vengeance or retribution or justice.
I really don't.
Because I know in my heart that God will carry out His justice
in His own time in His own way. Throughout this ordeal, even
when I've felt separated from God, I've known this to be true.
If the U.S. does not ever catch the people who are involved
in this, I'm completely okay with that. God will handle it.
I don't need vengeance. Besides, the men who did this are already dead.
However, preventing this type of thing from ever happening
again is another matter altogether. I truly believe that the
United States needs to do whatever it feels is necessary to
insure that this kind of thing never happens again.
Prevention, not retribution, should be our prevailing motivation.
The role of any government should be to protect its citizens.
Again, the role of any government should be to protect its citizens.
Think about that.
On that note...
I've been asked if I see Hiroshima and Nagasaki in a different light now.
I had to give this some very serious consideration, but I have to say
that I still believe that it was a preventive measure.
In the big picture, ultimately, more lives overall were saved.
The war was ended. But it hurts more than ever that the circumstance
that made Hiroshima and Nagasaki necessary were ever there at all.
When you see the propaganda on television where innocent
targets are hit by the U.S. overseas, keep this in mind:
If the Taliban is supposedly Afghanistan's "government",
then it is their job to care for and protect its citizens.
Think about that.
The Taliban was warned what would happen and what they needed to do.
It is they who are choosing to hide themselves among their
own innocent civilians. It is they who are using their own
innocent civilians as pseudo-bomb-shelters. The blame for
innocent civilians getting hit rests with them. They know
what they need to do to end the bombing. They've chosen
to harbor terrorists and to terrorize their own citizens.
That's the path they've chosen.
We need to defend our citizens and prevent this from happening again.
The war ends when ALL governments EVERYWHERE begin to respect
others' women and children and civilians, AND, more importantly:
The war ends when ALL governments EVERYWHERE begin to
care about their OWN women and children and civilians.
Think about that.
It's really that simple.
Don't for a minute lose your resolve to defend and protect
ourselves and to prevent this from happening again.
Now, I noted earlier that anger was one thing I was not feeling.
That's still true... almost.
I'm not angry at those who did this.
I can't adequately explain why -- only that it's almost as
if they're not worthy of me feeling anything towards them.
But there is one thing that is capable of getting me angry:
This sick perverse idea that we somehow deserved or caused this
with our foreign policy or whatever else we've supposedly done.
To anyone out there who thinks that anyone in the Trade Center
deserved what happened to them no matter what our foreign
policy is, you are one incredibly sick !#$%. You have no !#$%
clue. Whether you're a right-wing dude who thinks that American
values have eroded to the point where it's our fault and were
deserving of this, or whether you're a left-wing-self-loathing-
apologist for the U.S., you bring dishonor to all Americans by
even thinking this, and you should get the !#$% out of the country.
Nobody deserves to have their building blown up like that.
This sick perverse thinking makes my blood boil.
You people who think this ought to be ashamed of yourselves.
If you think that we should not defend ourselves and not do
everything necessary to prevent this from happening again,
then get the !#$% out of my country. I don't want you here.
I got that off my chest.
On to my final point...
Someone commented to me that my generation is really
the first to never experience war. That got me thinking...
I was too young to really remember Vietnam.
My first memory of it was it being over.
I remember asking my Mom what Vietnam was -- when it was over.
The Gulf War was over in a week.
Other wars have always been overseas and remote.
Yes, until now, I've never known war in my life.
I see The Twin Towers as a big peace sign that spanned the peace time.
Remember in the late 60's and early 70's what the peace sign was?
It was someone holding up two fingers.
Like The Twin Towers.
The lifespan of The Twin Towers spanned the time from
the end of Vietnam through the beginning of whatever
you would call this new war against terrorism.
Think about that.
The Twin Towers reigned over and during America's peace.
They represented peace.
The Twin Towers: A big peace sign.
This photo of the antenna made me cry.
Who can forget the images of seeing it fall
inward and down when the last tower fell?
Who can forget the men hanging a flag on what was left of it?
Photo © 1981 Vito Macaluso
"The World Trade Center is a living symbol of man's dedication
to world peace... a representation of man's belief in humanity,
his individual dignity, his beliefs in the cooperation of men,
and, through cooperation, his ability to find greatness."
-Minoru Yamasaki, chief architect, during construction of The Twin Towers