Friday, September 11, 2009
Remembering September 11th
The morning of 9-11 began as any other workday on the 8:45 ferry into Manhattan, with a newspaper and a bottle of water in hand, I took my usual seat enjoying a beautiful late summer morning. It didn’t take long into the usually very quiet journey across the bay to begin noticing that something wasn’t right.
A number of people had left their seats and were peering out the window towards the city. It wasn’t long before I joined them and saw what everyone was looking at and talking about, a huge fire was in the North World Trade Tower.
As unreal as it all seemed, you could feel the collective confusion, anxiety and fear hanging in the air. Some were listening to the radio and necks were craned to hear about what had occurred. The radio announcer began explaining about a plane hitting the tower. People started spreading the word that it was possibly terrorism.
Around nine, those of us whose heads were in the ferry windows saw a low flying plane coming towards us. We asked, why is it flying so low? We watched as it passed our ferry heading straight towards the Towers. I looked at the person next to me and said, oh no, it can’t be. Within moments we watched in horror as the plane exploded into the South Tower.
The radio announcers were now describing it as terrorism, a nation under attack. We couldn’t imagine it being anything else.
A silence fell upon the boat larger than usual with the exception of the tears and wailing unbridled by the events of the morning. The ferry Captain came on the loudspeaker to say that the boat was being turned around to bring us back to Staten Island. Things were serious and out of control.
Once back on Staten Island, I found my way down Bay Street to the Staten Island AIDS Task Force Offices that overlook the harbor from Bay Street. We watched in shock and dazed by what we were witnessing as the Towers burned and eventually fell. We watched as more and more people got off the ferry and were walking down the street covered in a white dust from head to toe. We watched and watched, not knowing what to say or how to react and knew everyone else felt the same.
I left there and began talking to a couple of guys from New Jersey who thought they could get home more easily from Staten Island. I took them to DeJoy’s Taxi’s where we quickly learned that nothing was available. I brought them to my home, ordered a pizza. believe it or not, and watched the events unfolding on TV. After a time we decided to try and get them home. I drove them onto the SI Expressway and onto the West Shore Expressway. Eventually you could see that the West Shore was a parking lot and somehow I had to get off to try and reach the Outer Bridge Crossing. I put the car in reverse and backed up until I got to the past exit and high tailed it onto the local roads. I was able to reach the Bridge only to discover it was closed coming back into Staten Island.
I got out and asked an officer if he would take the two guys across the bridge. Amazingly, he said he would and off they went.
Later that evening I learned that my best friend’s brother, Carlton, was in the Tower on a floor, we eventually found out, that was hit directly by a plane.
As we all know now, none of our lives have ever been quite the same in a post Towers world. At the time I was working for the Mayor’s Office and in the days following I was afforded access to lower Manhattan around the fallen Towers that others were not. The stench across lower Manhattan and the sheer magnitude of the disaster was hard to comprehend. I wandered around for a week or so bewildered more each time I approached the site. I had to stop.
On this day of reflection and remembrance my friend Gary, his beloved brother Carlton and his family are on my mind. For those of you who have any connections to those who were lost, my heart is with you as well.
Director of Community Development