This morning (September 10, 2014) as the Staten Island Ferry arrived in Manhattan and we all disembarked, I noticed the rich blue September morning sky that is crisp and beautiful and at the same time horrific. The reason: It brings back the sadness of a very similar day 13 years ago. Another September 11 anniversary is upon us. Today, I recalled also that a week after the 2001 attack, I had written out my viewpoint perspective of the events as all my family back home on the west coast was wondering. I found the document again tonight.
Below is what I had written in 2001, a week after the attacks...
The morning of September 11 began like so many others. A beautifully, crisp sunny day it was and the Staten Island Ferry crossed the waters over to Manhattan. It was days like this that the commuters from Staten Island enjoyed our unique view as the ferry brings us to work. At 8:25 we unloaded and all walked our various ways. Some to Wall Street, some to the World Trade Center and its two enormous towers. I walked to the subway station at Bowling Green and got on the subway.
At 8:40am, my subway passed by the World Trade Center on my way to work . The number 4 subway train passes a couple of blocks away from the Towers of the World Trade Center -- If had I for whatever reason stopped at that point in my trip, walked up to street level, and looked up at 8:46am my eyes would have seen firsthand what so many New Yorkers saw to their horror that morning. At that time, American Airlines Flight 11 Crashed into the North Tower. However, as close as I was, I was completely oblivious to the events taking place in the skies right above me. I didn't know that as I traveled northward on the subway, more or less directly overhead a hijacked Boeing 767 jet was passing us by, heading southward seconds away from it's deadly target.
As I arrived at work (which is on 46th Street about 3 miles away from the epicenter of terror), the first confused discussion was taking place as we took the elevator up about a "plane hitting the World Trade Center". We could NEVER have imagined how that was just the beginning of a long and very frightening day for New Yorkers and the world.
At my desk, a flurry of activity was to mark a most terrifying couple of hours. Listening to the radio, calling home ("I'm safe") emailing family out West ("I'm safe") were the first couple of minutes.
9:03am "Another plane has hit the world trade center". If you were listening to the live reports as things unfolded, you know the feeling that hit us at that moment! Our hearts had dropped at the realization of it all: "THIS IS NOT AN ACCIDENT" Our office building is too short to see downtown directly, so watching the television, we saw the next events unfold. Unbelievable! The United Nations building is half a block away from us. Not knowing who was to be hit next, they evacuated. We soon found out that terror was to strike elsewhere that day. We heard of the Pentagon and another crash in Pennsylvania. Most of us stayed put in the office, not knowing where safety could be found. Later that hour, we were shocked to the depths of our beings at what we heard next.
The south tower had fallen!
Everyone stopped dead in their tracks. Unfathomable!
The loss of life at those seconds in history! A numbness fell upon us all. It can't get any worse! It did. Half an hour later the north tower also fell. More lives lost! How can men be acting this way to their fellow? HOW? The rest of the morning and into the afternoon, we watched and pondered at the horror found just blocks from us. As I discovered later, many of my friends were close enough to watch with their very eyes (and not through a television as the rest of the world did). Can you imagine that? Many friends were watching in disbelief at people left with no other hope but to jump from the top floors of the tower. Many watched the first building in flames only to have their eyes in the awful position to see the second airliner crash into the south tower.
New York had effectively been shut down when all of us just wanted to be home safely in the embrace of our families. Bridges? closed. Tunnels? closed. Ferry service, subways, buses? closed. closed. closed. How do we get home? By 4pm some of the subway service had been restored. As I well knew, there was still a problem for me as normal subway route goes right into the heart of the attack. "I'm not getting home that way tonight." I studied the subway map for another plan. I needed to get home to my family. What about Brooklyn? I have friends there. That's a start. I made it into Brooklyn Heights around 6:00pm. The smoke had been flowing that way all afternoon. What a smell! But the symbolism of what the smell represented was even more hideous. Papers were still floating throughout the air and tumbling to the earth at that time. They had been blown by the wind completely across the East River and were falling over here in Brooklyn!
I met up with my friends and we went up to an upper floor in the building were a better view might be had. All lower Manhattan was engulfed in smoke. The towers! where are they? Wasn't this a dream? No chance. As a couple of hours went by, reports were heard that the final obstacle of my journey home was now re-opened. The Verrazano Bridge from Brooklyn to Staten Island (my home) was reopen now for traffic. My good friends let me use their car to make the final portion of my trek home. Many people had walked over the Brooklyn Bridge earlier that day in a huge exodus to get out of Manhattan. There were many other Staten Islanders wanting desperately to get home to their families also. I linked up with a few other of my friends and I drove a full car of us all to our homes and families on Staten Island. Finally, thirteen long hours after the first attack, at 10pm, I too was HOME. Finally, home with my family!
Count the things truly important in this life. Give your loved ones a hug. When you're through-- give them another one! I'm glad for my faith in these terrible times to bring counterpoint to the pain. I know God is NOT responsible for these things. The wickedness is of MAN and the ruination of his actions are painfully apparent at times like this. How much better things will soon be when the time limit has elapsed and God no longer permits wickedness and he acts as he has promised us he will do in scriptures such as at Revelation 21:3,4: “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”
We Staten Island commuters have a unique and spectacular view of Manhattan as we trek back and forth over the water each day. I took the photo on the bottom on Sept. 17, 2001 the day we all went back to work again. The shocking emptiness in our hearts was not for the concrete and steel lost but for the lives extinguished in the now eerily vacant space where the towers stood.
Update 9/11/14 - This morning's commute I happened to be on a later boat into Manhattan than usual. It happened to be the one coming in at the 9:03am timing - the same time the second plane hit. Take a 60 second ride with me this morning. The weather unlike 13 years ago was not a bright sunny day today. You can see the Freedom Tower now standing at its full height.