My 9/11 Story

Discussion in 'Politics' started by straight_ahead, Sep 10, 2012.

  1. straight_ahead

    straight_ahead Member

    Aug 6, 2012
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    I wrote this on 9/11/02, one year to the day after 9/11. I posted it on my old political board. I posted it on the anniversary of 9/11 every year since. That site is now closed so I am posting it here for the first time. I haven't changed a word of it. Most Americans think that their cities or towns will not be targeted by terrorists so they don't think much about it. Until it's too late. I'm posting it on the political board because this is where the most people are.

    On 9/11/01, I was one of the one million or so commuters that travels into Manhattan on the NYC subway. Unlike most people though, my train goes over the Manhattan Bridge, which connects Manhattan to Brooklyn. There are two other bridges that connect Manhattan and Brooklyn. One is the Williamsburg Bridge, the other the most famous bridge in the world, the Brooklyn Bridge. When you are on the Manhattan Bridge, you can see the Brooklyn Bridge to the south and the Williamsburg Bridge to the north. The Brooklyn Bridge was built before the NYC Subways, so there are no trains running on it. On 9/11, my train was running on the south side of the bridge. We New Yorkers take the view for granted because we see it every day. But on a crystal clear day like 9/11 the view was truly spectacular. You can see the Statue of Liberty, the Verrazano Narrows, Staten Island, Brooklyn, up the East River to Queens, the Brooklyn and Manhattan piers, the boat traffic, the Brooklyn Bridge, as well as the most famous and spectacular skyline the world has ever known.

    At about 8:45AM we were a little more than halfway across the bridge. The Manhattan Bridge is not in very good condition. Car and train traffic across the bridge for the last 75 or so years has taken its toll on the bridge and train delays are more common than not. Add to that the fact that there is only one track going in each direction and you can be stuck there for a long, long time. I usually stand up against the doors on the side of the train where the doors open less often, depending which side of the train each station is on. I was in the first car standing against the first door, which was unusual for me. I also usually look out the window but I wasn't that morning. We had been stuck for a few minutes in the same spot when the motorman's door opened. I thought to myself that we were really going to be late now because the motorman doesn't come out of his cabin unless there is trouble. The motorman looked right at me and pointed up towards lower Manhattan, which was southeast of us. I looked out the window for the first time that morning. There was smoke pouring out of the World Trade Center. The only way I can describe it is that it didn't look real. You could see some fire but mostly smoke. Now, everyone in the subway car was aware what was going on. I was up against the door, which has a large window from waist height up to about 6 feet off the floor so I had the best view. People began trying to push me out of the way to get a better view. Usually if someone pushes me on a train I push them back. But this day was different. I couldn't really blame someone for pushing to see this. It was as real as it was unreal. No one had any idea what happened. Even though were on the north side of the towers, probably about a mile away, there was no hole visible because of the smoke.

    After a few minutes, most people calmed down somewhat. One woman was crying that she had to call her boss. Even though I had my Walkman on for some reason I didn't turn the news on. I don't know why. Everyone was in shock. Then, without warning, ambulances and fire engines began screaming across the bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Traffic was usually heavy on the roadway section but these trucks were flying. Then, the impossible seemed to happen. Someone on a cell phone said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I again looked out the window. It was impossible. The sky was clearer than clear. How could a pilot hit the World Trade Center? Maybe in a fog, but on a day like this? No way. Everyone kept bantering back and forth about how a plane could hit the tower and what kind of plane was it. I had my Walkman on the news now. It was an American Airlines plane? I still didn't believe it. Then, someone yelled, "There's another plane coming!" I turned around in time to see a huge explosion from the towers. At first I thought that there was something in the first tower that exploded and hit the second tower. But in two seconds the south tower erupted in a larger fire than the other one. This wasn't possible. When someone tells you that something like this doesn't look real - that it looks like a movie - believe them, because it's true. I stared at the towers like I stare at my hand in front of my face and it just wasn't happening.

    Obviously we all knew then what was going on. I even said prophetically to someone that I bet someone named Mohammed did it. But we still weren't sure what kind of plane it was. I first thought of a small plane filled with explosives because where was someone going to get a jumbo jet, let alone two jumbo jets? My next thought was much, much worse. Being a New Yorker, I remembered that a few years earlier a terrorist cell was thwarted by the FBI in their attempt to blow up New York's bridges and tunnels in a coordinated terrorist attack. Well, here was a coordinated terrorist attack and where am I? Stuck on one of New York's most famous bridges. I began scanning the skies for more planes. Most of the women on the train were crying by this time and the men were suggesting to the motorman that he move the train whether there was traffic or not. No one was looking forward to being dropped into the East River.

    We were basically trapped in the train. To get to the pedestrian walkway you had to pry open the doors, avoid the third rail and trains going in the other direction while you crossed open tracks with a 200 foot drop staring at you, and climb over an angled 8 foot fence. The other way wasn't much better. You could pry open the doors easily enough, but if a plane did hit the bridge you would be dodging speeding car traffic trying to get off the bridge as soon as possible. It was watch and wait time. Staring at the towers in disbelief and trying to get as much information as possible from the radio we finally got off the bridge. We were probably stuck for only 15 minutes or so but it seemed like forever. I certainly didn't want to continue on to work that day but I wasn't going to turn around and get back on that bridge again.

    I went to my office in Times Square ignoring people that were watching the JumboTrons high above the street. I was just there. I had seen enough. I spent the day in my office, listening to the radio or watching the antenna-less TV in our conference room. Everyone was on the phone, checking on relatives and planning their escape. At lunchtime I didn't really feel like eating, but I had no idea what was in store for us. The radio was full of rumors all day that other hijacked planes were still in the air headed for who knows where. I went to the cafeteria down the hall from us which we generally were not allowed to go to by the building's owners but no one was going to stop us that day. Of all the eerie sights on 9/11 this was the eeriest. The Viacom cafeteria was deserted. Absolutely deserted. All the food was there, but no people. You could take whatever you wanted. Dead silence in a place I had never seen less than 200 chattering MTV wannabees in. But because I am who I am I didn't take any of the food. I went out into Times Square to go to my favorite deli. There was talk in the office of not going outside because what better place for a suicide bomber than Times Square. It was truly paranoia city. I went anyway and bought a few sandwiches just in case. As I was returning to the office I heard the roar of a plane overhead. I had heard on the radio that all planes in the US were grounded so this was not good news. I waited and waited for a crash and boom. But it turned out to be your friendly neighborhood F-15. It was one of ours!

    About 4:00PM that day I headed out to the subway with two other Brooklyn residents from my office. We usually took different trains but today we all took a train that did not go over that bridge. I had a longer walk but naturally it was worth it. It was obviously a day I'll always remember but there were so many that had it much worse than me. I have a friend that was on the 90th floor of the south tower and he lived to tell his story. He was walking down the stairs when the second plane hit about 10 stories above him. His coworkers that waited for the elevator didn't make it.

    In a city this big you rarely know people directly affected by events like this. But on 9/11, everyone knew someone. Most more than one. I just hope we have the guts to make sure that we take care of the people that have the desire to do things like this so there won't be an attack that makes us forget this one.
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