September 11, 2001 was primary day in NYC.
I was at my desk on the top floor of a 6 story building in the East Village with the news on, watching very confused reporting about a fire at the World Trade Center. My partner-husband was out to vote early as our PR office was gearing up for a media announcement we were to release later in the morning. The lack of facts and anchor yacking was irritating. So I just went up on the roof to see for myself, since it was a remarkably clear day and we are less than 2 miles from WTC with unobstructed view.
More of my story below the fold. Everyone, New Yorkers and all Americans, has a loss, or story, or lesson, or photo to share from that day. Please share yours in the comments.
I watched the fire at the WTC alone on the roof. The towers appeared so close, gleaming against that blue, blue sky. I stood in shock as I saw a large commercial jet bank steeply around and appear to speed up, slamming into the second tower.
It's funny what you think to do in moments like that. My impulse was to run down to my desk and call Hillary Clinton's Senatorial office. Someone needed to know!
"We're under attack," I blurted to the staffer, who answered immediately.
"We know, we're watching it on TV too," she said.
"No" I yelled, "I just saw a SECOND plane fly into the OTHER tower -- from my roof."
I actually don't remember her reply.
My husband/partner learned from a newsstand guy whose brother in lower manhattan had just called as he passed--he needed to tell someone too, to share the news with another. My husband's impulse was that he'd better hurry up and vote. No one at the Theatre for the New City polling place yet understood what was happening.
Our son arrived at work, having walked across the bridge from LIC Queens and 45+ blocks south to our building. He had see the fireball from the first attack out the subway window, just before that last elevated stop. His impulse was to get off and walk in, afraid he could be stuck in the tunnels if the subways were halted.
We watched the first tower collapse from our E.Vill roof, grabbed our keys and ran several blocks to Beth Israel (at 16th and First) to give blood -- the first 3 to arrive there. The blood bank staff of 2 was just beginning to understand what was coming, not really prepared. When we came out hundreds of New Yorkers lined the staircase down and around the block, hoping to donate blood. All the hospitals were mobbed with donors.
We exited the hospital to see thousands of people, dazed, somber, in all manner of dress from suits and heels to overalls, and even barefoot, covered eerily in white dust and debris as with flour, walking silently up First Avenue. They were completely silent. It was a post-apocalyptic vision that we will never forget.
We brought gallons of juice and boxes of doughnuts back to the swamped blood center and returned to our office, where we watched the news unfold with all the world, grateful that our son's girlfriend arrived and that we were together.
The most common reaction, that I will remember forever, was the impulse of so many, New Yorkers of all colors, backgrounds, religions and ages: "how can I help." People were desperate to HELP another person, to find a way to contribute, to donate blood, anything. Our reaction as human beings was truly inspiring. My mom said of the response by New Yorkers on the day, "you people are made of steel."
The scars from that day are still with us, deep, emotional and very personal. Lives were upended in the wake, including ours. Some post-event reactions were not so great. Fears and rumors took hold. But we cannot let the understandable fear and anger change who we are, erode the rights and freedoms that make this country great.
We must not trade our liberty for "security" or our tolerance for suspicion. We can't let the terrorists win.