I remember sitting at my desk when Meg called (the first time). She prefaced it by saying, “Your not going to believe this.” Jordyn’s 9 week birthday was today, and I was expecting Meg to tell me about something new that she was doing. Um, guess not. She proceeded to tell me that a plane had crashed into the North tower. We were all naive to the fact that this was no accident.
14 minutes later Meg calls again. This time to tell me of the South tower crash. Immediately there was no doubt in my mind that this was the cowardly act of terrorism. Meg pleaded with me to come home. I assured her that I was fine and that I was going to stay in the office on W. 32nd St. At the time, I wasn’t thinking of the fact that I was only three blocks from what is again the tallest building in NYC; the Empire State Building.
The third call came in following the crash into the Pentagon. Staying in the office was no longer a question. I scooped up my stuff, stopped by my boss’s office, announced my departure, and headed done to street level. By some luck of God, a NY Waterway ferry bus pulled up just as I crossed 34th and 7th. People on the bus were confused, scared, angry, a stew of emotions on four wheels. I remember some folks from Liberty Helicopter Tours riding back because they had been grounded.
The rumors about what else may have happened started to float about. I was even told that the Sears Tower had been hit. After a tumultuous ride, the bus stopped for some time at 34th and 11th. This was the first time I had an opportunity to actually see the North tower in full effect. It was a site that was repeated over and over again in the media, but to see it with my own eyes was eerie. Once the bus occupants regained their composure, the started to yell at the bus driver to continue on to the ferry terminal, quickly.
The ferry terminal was quickly filling up with people fleeing the city. At this point, all bridges and tunnels were closed to vehicular traffic, so the only way off the island was either the ferry, the train at 125th St., or shoe-leather express. Luckily I’d been riding the ferry every day for over a year, so I knew a shortcut to avoid the crowd and get right on the boat. I got on the last boat that had been taking tickets. As the boat pulled away, I could see the people arriving at the terminal in waves, like garbage on the Jersey shore.
Everyone on the ferry was looking at one thing, the remaining North tower. The South tower, tower 2, had already collapsed. We watched as the build pealed away like an onion, leaving nothing but thick black smoke. People were crying, or were dead silent. I ran as fast as I could off the boat. Maritza had told me that Meg had come to the terminal to pick me up. Despite the ferry staff telling me not to run, I couldn’t move fast enough. I found Meg at the top of the ramp, gave her a quick hug, picked up another complex resident, and motored home.
Once home, I quickly turned on the TV ( that stayed on for the next 4 days straight ), and jumped on AIM/ICQ to let everyone I knew that I was alright. Wireless and wire line communication had become compromised due to traffic and the massive loss of switch facilities in Lower Manhattan. I decided to stay at home, despite Meg’s plea to flee to her folk’s country house in CT. I wanted to stay where is was familiar, and I had ample telecommunications.
The next few days were a blur. I didn’t return to the city until Friday. When it was time to go home, I arrived at the ferry expecting to go home. This was the first day the George W. came to survey the damage, and the Coast Guard had the whole waterfront shutdown. As it turned out, GW was visiting with relief worked stationed the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. In addition to the Coast Guard vessels in the river, where a pair of F-14 Tomcats flying in a circle overhead. This was the first real sign, for me, that we were at war.
I finally made it home after waiting 3 hours at the terminal. I would wind up watching the smoke from the smoldering fire for several weeks to come. Everything after that week faded like most other days. Well, I’m about have another experience I’ll probably remember for a while; my sister should be going into labor any minute now.
The cycle of life continues. 🙂