11 years later, It still feels like yesterday…

I woke up this morning to hear the discussions over the local ham radio repeaters about 9/11 and it got me thinking about it again. It’s been eleven years now, and it’s hard to even get my head around the fact it has been this long. It feels like just a blink, even now.

The picture to the right is of my old job site on that day. It’s circled in green. I was exceptionally lucky to have a business meeting in mid-town at 1 Penn Plaza that morning, so I wasn’t actually downtown.

The first plane hit while I was still on a commuter ferry, crossing under the Verrazano bridge. I was knocked out asleep and one of the crew woke me up to point it out as we were approaching the Statue Of Liberty in the harbor. Oddly, it was a crystal clear, blue skies fall day…the same weather still brings back the memories.

I remember thinking, “How on a perfectly clear day like this, could anyone possibly hit a building by accident?” I still had no idea it was a jet liner and had been thinking it was a private prop plane. At the distance it just wasn’t clear how bad the damage was. The other thought that crossed my mind was how glad I was that I wasn’t a fireman having to climb all the way up into that high-rise fire. As a volunteer I never liked dealing with simple house fires and I’m sure that I would never be able to go into a high-rise. Those guys have big brass balls.

I put on the FM Walkman I had with me to see if anyone had any word on what was going on. Oddly, my source of news for that day would be the Howard Stern Show. I can still hear that broadcast in parts if I sit and think back on it. It was pretty much the only live stream, particularly on FM, with any sort of real, on the scene, information. People were almost instantly calling in and reporting from the streets and adjoining office buildings.

The ferry dropped us at the 34th St. East-side dock and I started to walk west towards 1 Penn Plaza for the meeting. As I was walking, the report came over about the second plane and at that point I think everybody just froze a bit. It was now evident this wasn’t any sort of accident.

I wound up sitting in a business meeting on the 46th floor. The room had nearly floor to ceiling glass windows looking directly, unobstructed, downtown. The towers were framed pretty much in the center of my view. The manager was sitting with his back to the glass trying to press on with the meeting, while a site manager and I were just shell shocked watching the towers burn. It was surreal.

We weren’t exactly focused on the meeting, as a matter of fact the meeting pretty well went down the toilet and our manager wasn’t very pleased with us either. It’s funny how different people deal with stress and he was just in complete denial of what was going on directly over his shoulders.

I sat and watched as the first tower fell right before my eyes. It felt like I was watching a movie quite frankly. It was slow motion and left my mind just blank, zapped. Too much to process.

I stood up, the site manager and I looked at each other and I said “Hey, good luck getting home, be safe, I’m out of here.”

I’m extremely lucky to have been where I was that day and to have managed the first boat to slip through the quarantine blockade the government was struggling to put in place to keep people from getting home. They kept ordering all the ferries to pull away from the docks, but eventually the captain refused and made a pick up.

The next boats to finally get home were many hours later after the government realized they couldn’t try and contain the information getting out and that people would take extended measures to get home to their families.

That left a really bad taste in my mouth.

There are a ton more details, I could fill many pages with all the small things that filled out that day and what it was like working downtown in the days and years following, but this is the core that lingers. I’m the lucky guy, I’m here, many others aren’t and in their memories I will never forget.

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11 September 2012