Remembering 9/11: A Witness Reflects
This is a guest post by Richard Nix of AgingCare.com.
There are nights I wake up and ask myself: “Did two jetliners really hit the Twin Towers? Was I really there?”
As far as I was concerned, there was no better place to work than downtown Manhattan. Born and raised in Staten Island, I took great pride riding the Staten Island Ferry to and from work each day. Riding the boat allowed me to read my paper, catch up with some friends not to mention getting a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline each and every day.
At the time, I managed a computer company on Fulton Street. A daily task of mine was to walk to the bank on the corner of Broadway and Fulton Streets, just a short walk from the Trade Center. On more than one occasion, when looking up at those towers I’d think; if those towers ever fell over, they would surely hit my office.
On Tuesday, September 11th, 2001, while enjoying my second cup of coffee, I heard a loud boom and felt my building shake. I looked out my window and saw a small crowd looking towards the Trade Center. I went downstairs and stood on the corner and looked up. The North Tower was in flames and papers were floating as they would in a ticker tape parade. I remember picking up a paper and seeing a report with Cantor Fitzgerald on it. The top of the page was charred.
I ran back inside and put on the TV in our waiting room. I could now see the gaping hole in the north tower. I thought, how could a plane hit this building? I never suspected terrorism. That was until I saw on TV and felt the second plane hit the south tower. I started to page my technicians in the area and had no luck reaching them. I remember my wife calling and saying, “You have to come home!” I said I was in charge of the office and we had technicians out in the field. Meanwhile, I had a 4-year-old daughter and a 6-month-old son at home. I never felt fear as I had heard the F-16’s over head by then and did not think our 16 story building was a target. After seeing the Pentagon on fire, I knew things were really getting crazy.
I remember receiving a call from a friend whose sister worked for me. I assured him that I would get his sister home. Little did I know what would happen next. Our building rattled, the lights blinked and I saw the tower starting to collapse on the television. I heard screams from Fulton Street; I looked out my 4th floor window and saw hundreds of people running down towards the South Street Seaport looking back as if Godzilla was chasing them. Day turned to night as outside turned pitch black. I remember telling a co-worker to shut off our air conditioner. Several employees said we needed to leave our building, but I assured them that we were safer inside. “Where could we go anyway? The subways, buses and ferries were not running.” The city was in lockdown and we were trapped there.
By then, my current fear was more about the other tower. What happens if it falls towards us? The thoughts that went through my head was that of being unprepared. I remember thinking that I never increased my life insurance policy after the birth of my second child. How crazy was this!
The other tower imploded and all our technicians had managed to make it back to the office. When we heard subways and ferries were running again that afternoon, I went outside with a co-worker and my friend’s sisters. I remember seeing abandoned buses and ashes that looked like moon dust. There was an eerie quiet to our once bustling area. I felt as if we slept through a nuclear war. Our walk to the Staten Island Ferry was anything but usual. As we boarded the boat, I remember seeing people wearing life preservers. As the ferry pulled away from Manhattan, the familiar skyline I enjoyed every day was changed.
Ten years later and I am working for a great company, AgingCare.com. We help families who are caring for their elderly parents. Now from that same Staten Island Ferry, I see a new skyline rise up from the ashes. Proof that life goes on.
For more coverage on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, click here.
Image Credit: Paul Stein via Flickr.