On that lovely September morning, I was off from work, as Tuesdays and Wednesdays were my days off at the time. I was shopping at a nearby supermarket around 8:30 or 9:00am. I overheard some people talking about towers, fire, crashes, planes, but I assumed that it was somewhere in the mid east, as there were always problems, fighting and terror acts over there, I remember thinking.
Pushing my groceries to the car, in the parking lot on my way home, I saw my best friend’s mother, Pat, with her friend doing their weekly shopping as I often did. Pat said to me, “Don’t worry, Ronni’s okay. She called me already.” I thought, “why wouldn’t she be okay?”, but they were in a hurry and so was I, as I usually was, working full time, raising two kids, working on my bachelor’s degree in medical technology, and taking care of a house, six cats, and a husband. There was never a minute to spare. I got home and brought my packages inside.
Just then a neighbor came to my door, asking to use my phone. She didn’t have a connection on her land line or cell phone and was trying to reach her brother in New York City. She briefly filled me in and I immediately turned on the television. It was then that I witnessed one of the worst days in history. My neighbor was still unable to reach her brother. She was crying at this point. We sat and watched the unexplainable terror and the second plane, on live television, just 50 miles away from our Long Island homes, crash, intentionally ,into the second standing World Trade Center tower. It tumbled down like Lego blocks with smoke, soot and debris everywhere. The newscasters were reporting all aspects of the story and soon we knew much of what was happening including the attack in Washington, DC and the brave passengers who went down in Pennsylvania. It was the beginning of an unbelievable day. The images on the television seemed to mimic a blockbuster Hollywood film, but it was really happening.
My then husband called from his cellular telephone to say how the planes crashed into the Trade Center. He was a driver for a Long Island based metal and glass company and the business often took him to New York City to deliver their jobs. He said at first, he thought the sound he heard, a metal on metal very loud screech, was a subway car, possibly derailing, below the street. Then he looked up and saw smoke and it came to be understood that a plane crashed into the World Trade Center. He said he was okay and was told it would be best for him to just get home as there was so much chaos, it would be better to just have people leave downtown, if they could. He was home a few hours later, and shortly after he left, the roads were all closed into and out of New York City.
My teenage daughter called home from the high school trying to reach her father or any word from him after seeing the news on television at the school. I told her I’d just heard from him and he was okay and on his way home.
My best friend Ronni is an insurance underwriter was working at the World Trade Center at the time. She lives in midtown and had taken the subway downtown as she did every day. On September 11, 2001, she saw things she never thought she’d see and did things she never thought she was capable of. Ronni was always level headed and strong in emergency situations and it certainly helped that day. She was in her office, she told me, and the window faced the first tower when she and some colleagues witnessed the first plane crash. Disbelief and horror overtook them all, and without too much ado, they realized, they better get out of there and let the others in their office know they should just get out. They left and Ronni helped panicking co-workers get down the stairs and out of the building. She told everyone to just leave, get out and go home! As if that first sighting of the plane crashing into the tower weren’t enough, she witnessed the second plane homing in on the other tower several minutes later. Then, what she told me bothered her more than anything else that frightful day, was the sight of people jumping out of the windows of the World Trade Center to avoid the fires. They were just jumping out of sheer fear and desperation. It was a scary, unforgettable sight that led to some nightmares in the future. However, she left that job for another in midtown eventually, as many did who had worked there. It was just too difficult to see that area again. She also said from a psychological point of view, that talking about it too much, as the media tends to do lately, was actually not good. People don’t get a chance to move on with their grief and horror if the story is constantly told over and over and over again. The repetitiveness of the stories in the media can often, to the victims and witnesses, can undermine the ordeal rather than help through it. So, she dealt with her feelings, was glad to reunite with her husband on that day and moved on. She and her husband had always had an emergency place they planned on meeting should anything happen, but she completely forgot about it. They did find each other though, and he found that his daughter, who was attending New York University at the time of the tragedy, was also okay, but terribly upset. Ronni rarely mentions the WTC attacks, her presence in the buildings, her assistance of others and the horrible sights she witnessed there. But she is okay.
I am thankful for my loved ones’ safe escape that awful day.