How A Sleepy Tuesday Morning Became Deadly History on 9/11

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Shadow of the Twin Towers over NYC (By Cait Hurley from London, UK - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1102684)

Shadow of the Twin Towers over NYC (By Cait Hurley from London, UK – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1102684)

How it’s New York: I am a New Yorker, and this leg of the 9/11 terrorism happened in New York City.
How it’s Irish: I am Irish, and many of those killed were Irish, too.

We were a quiet, bleary-eyed lot: the usual passengers on the morning “N” train, commuting from our homes in Brooklyn to our jobs in Manhattan. When the train pulled to a stop in Nassau Street, some very animated people poured on – very unusual in both numbers and noise level. Most of us barely noticed, however: the noise was lively but unimportant.

Emailing my sister in Texas to tell our mother on Long Island that I was OK because the phones in NY were jammed with millions of calls.

When I got to the office across from Grand Central – my day job at a law firm – everyone was glued to the partner’s huge-screen TV: one of the Twin Towers had been hit by an errant jet plane! We were astonished that a flight pattern could go so awry, but a news update showed the second Tower hit. Our senses were assaulted with the unthinkable: the “mistake” was deliberate, and we were under a terrorist attack. When the first Tower imploded, this unflappable reporter ran out into the hallway and yelled that the Tower had fallen. The partner left his office open for us, the subways shut down until 4pm, and we all sat glued to TVs until we could go home.

Some ancillary thoughts and memories about that day and the following ones still float around in my head. Emailing my sister in Texas to tell our mother on Long Island that I was OK because the phones in NY were jammed with millions of calls. Hearing that the Chinese restaurants in downtown Manhattan stayed open to offer rest and wet towels to dust-covered refugees trudging home from the World Trade Center rubble. Staying home on Wednesday like almost everyone else and staring at the TV while the anchors tried to make sense of what happened and I tried to wrap my head around the facts – as much as anyone knew them. Going to my job on Thursday with my (professional) camera kit to take pictures at Ground Zero after work, only to be asked to stay until 11:30pm because the younger staff had gone home frightened by a bomb threat in Grand Central Station across the street from work. (A blessing: so many who were at Ground Zero developed lung problems.) Seeing the US jet fighters flying low over the midtown skies on Thursday and applauding with the others on the street.

I had worked in the World Financial Center for two or so years from 1998. And, during the turn of the 21st Century (Remember Y2K?), I worked in Building 7 of the World Trade Center. It was the same building that housed the Mayor’s Task Force: we had bomb threats all day on December 31st, and I remember counting the hours until my work day was over. I have never been so grateful to have a project ended in my life, but I had no idea that having to look for and securing another position would literally be a lifesaver.

There are more dramatic – and sadder – stories than mine. I was never more humbled or felt as blessed that mine was not.

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