Tuesday, September 10, 2013

9/11


September 11, 2001

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was walking to work from the PATH (subway) station on 9th St and 6th Ave. I remember that it was a beautiful day, 70 and sunny, not something you would ordinarily get in early September in New York-usually it would either be super hot or start getting chilly.  I remember looking up at the clouds and being really happy, and having the song “Say a little prayer for you” by Dionne Warwick in my head. 

At the time, I was working as the West Coast sales manager for a magazine.  I was just transferred from the East Coast territory, and was looking forward to moving to San Francisco.  I had gone out a couple nights before with my friend Margaret Echtermann, who was also just promoted at her job and was moving from NYC to Boston.  We had a great night saying goodbye, her telling me of her training for the marathon and her new boyfriend, and my huge aspirations on the West coast.

My work was on 7th St and Broadway, about 10 blocks north (?) of the World Trade Centers.  I was running late for work and as I got to my building, my coworkers were spilling out and saying, “someone just flew into the World Trade Building!”  We all ran to the corner of the block where we had a clear view of the building, and saw the smoke.  We were all talking about how we imagined it must be some drunk pilot who couldn’t see straight and smashed into the building, not even considering that people might be dead.  Then someone from the crowd said that they heard a second plane hit the other tower, and someone said it must be terrorists.  I remember thinking at the time, “No.  Not here in America, no way.”

After a bit we went inside the building where I tried to call my mother to let her know I was okay, to no avail- all cell phones and telephone service was cut off in NYC, apparently to keep lines clear for emergency personnel.  My coworker was able to reach her father, who was a Battalion chief for a firehouse up in the Bronx, and she would keep us posted on events as they happened.

My publishing company had two floors in the building, and on one floor there was a conference room with a TV, where we all gathered.  Pretty much everyone was crying, as many people had someone they knew or some were married to individuals in the Towers. 

I honestly didn’t know if New York City would be bombed that day, or if I would live through the day.  Luckily I figured out that I could send an email, so I sent a message to my mother that I was still alive- who was waiting to hear from me in Upstate New York and was convinced I was dead. 

The day was spent trying to figure out how to get out of NYC, as all bridges, tunnels and subways were closed.  By a miracle I found out that I could get a ferry into Hoboken, which was where I was living at the time.

When we left our office building, there were hundreds of people on the street and walking uptown, to get away from the Towers.  My friend Allie and I were going back and forth about going towards the Towers to see about helping out, as her boyfriend was in one of the Towers (luckily he got out and even saved a woman by picking her up and away from harms way when she fell).  We figured out pretty quickly that it was bigger then both of us, as there were fire trucks and emergency vehicles in mass driving downtown and hundreds of people walking or running away from downtown.

If anyone has seen the movie Armaggeden, that was what it was like.  Like I was on a movie set, with jets overhead, masses of people walking, emergency vehicles with sirens wailing.  I was amazed by how calm and KIND everyone was- this was the first time I would talk to a random person on a street, because in NYC everyone is in such a rush and you just look down and mind your own business.  People with stores were passing out bottles of water.  People would gather around a car radio to hear what the news was saying and stop strangers to see if they heard anything further. 

I finally got a hold of my mother on my cell phone, who was a mess and so thankful to hear from me.  I also knew right then that I didn’t want to do sales any longer, that my plans of “someday” becoming an art teacher had to happen “now” since you honestly never know when you are going to die, could be just as sudden as this day.

When I got to the ferry back to Hoboken after walking for four miles, I was pleasantly surprised- very happily surprised- that people couldn’t be kinder and courteous to each other.  Everyone waited in line patiently and no one tried to budge and everyone was telling each other their stories.  Seriously, it showed the best of humanity.  I thought for sure before getting there that people would be panicked and running all over but it was just the opposite. 

On the ferry there were armed guards all about, and when we got into Hoboken, they had a huge hose to spray the bomb residue off the people that had run to the ferry from the World Trade Center. 

I spent the rest of that day and night calling all my friends and family to find out if they were still alive, and tell them that I was alive.  BELIEVE ME, that is something I never, never want to do again.  Unfortunately I got a call back from Margaret’s sister, the girl who I had just gone out with, telling me she was missing, and unfortunately was never found.

In addition to losing my dear friend Margaret, I also lost my old high school friend Mike Canty as well as numerous acquaintances.  My coworker’s father, who was the Battalion Chief and kept us informed on what was going on, also died.  In Hoboken where the majority of people commuted to downtown, there were as many as nine people dead in one city block.  I quit my job a couple weeks later to go back to graduate school to become a teacher.  

2 comments:

  1. Kelly, what a moving account. Thank you for sharing. You are an impressive lady. One day I would like to meet you! - Robin

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  2. Words cannot express how I feel right now. As I read your story I felt I was right there with you. I always knew you were so special and had that special light in your eyes. Life's experiences can certainly change our perspective. Thank you for becoming a teacher. You are one of the best I have worked with. Your students are blessed to have you as their mentor and teacher. ((Hugs))

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