On that fateful morning, I was on my way to work at Sears in my 1991 Chevy Cavalier. I was quite cross at myself because I was running late. I was not listening to the radio because I wanted peace and quiet. There wasn’t much traffic on the road, and I thought was a bit odd. When I arrived, I clocked in and went to the sales floor. Everyone was standing around one of the floor display radios listening to the news. None of the display televisions were connected to cable. Something about a plane that had crashed into a building. I immediately formed a picture in my mind of a single engine Cessna flying into a skyscraper due to pilot error. But that was clearly not the case when I heard the report of a second plane that crashed into the second tower, and another plane that had struck the Pentagon.
I was feeling numb and frustrated because I could not see what was going on. Why did a plane fly into the WTC? I was able to leave early since nothing was going on. There were no customers in the store, no traffic outside. Everything was so quiet. Usually, Main Street would be bustling with traffic and pedestrians. On that day, it resembles a scene from a post apocalyptic world. While I was driving to the parts store, I was listening to the radio, and the song “Put Your Lights On” by Santana was playing. There was not much traffic. I was still feeling numb, and frustrated at the same time. So I finally reach the parts store, and people were gathered around the TV. I finally saw what happened. My heart was so broken. Both Twin Towers were gone. Just smoke and dust. It took a few hours for me to process it. One thing I did remember was how kind everyone was in the store. We just came together in grief, like one huge extended family.
For the next few days, there was non stop coverage. I was surprised how well I was handling it, considering two of my favourite Lower Manhattan hangouts were gone. Probably because I didn’t know what to feel. All the bridges and tunnels were closed to traffic. Only emergency vehicles were permitted. There were no trains or buses, so people walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. What a sobering sight that was. Most of them were covered in concrete dust. I kept thinking that could have been me when I was working as a messenger in the city, and the WTC was my favourite place to rest, and enjoy the view of the harbour. I was worried about my friend Naomi, who worked in the Verizon building near State Street. She made it to safety. She saw the collapse of the towers from her office window.
One image that will stay in my mind forever is the close up of when one of the planes flew directly into the building, like it was made out of cheese. That just sickens me. When that plane hit, everyone that was above the impact point had only minutes to live. I saw images of people that were free falling. What a choice to have to make: either jump, or die when the building eventually collapses. Human life is so fragile.
I really hate that I have not been back to my former haunt to pay my respects because money is always a problem, and, I’m scared to go. Ok, I admitted it. What am I afraid of? The crowds on the train, the throngs of people in NYC, feeling like a stranger because I have not been there in over 20 years. But at some point, I am going to go. The subway has changed to much in the past 20+ years. New stations, new rolling stock, a much higher fare, and dealing with much more people. That scares me the most. I hate to admit it. But I can overcome it with some old tricks that I still remember.
As I sit here recalling all these memories, tears want to flow down my cheeks. I am the WTC. I spend enough time there. It was like a city. An out of towner could easily get lost in the crowds and all the passageways. But me, being the seasoned New Yorker, could navigate it like a sailor with a sextant. Enjoying the ambiance, even if it was very noisy. There was one time when I went through 2 WTC on my way to the E train subway station after a long day at work. I was walking briskly alongside the train to the front carriage when the conductor stepped out as I was passing. I tripped and fell forward. My beat up gym bag landed under my chin, and my right shoulder was inches away from one of the stanchions. Fortunately, I was not hurt, and resumed my brisk walk to the front.
I easily could have been in NYC when the planes hit since I used to work at Citipost delivering mail. The route I had took me from the warehouse at 29th Street and 11th Avenue to the Wall Street area, all on foot. I lost so much weight from all the walking that I was able to have lunch at Blimpie’s every day. But I had quit that job after getting hired by Sears months before 9/11. So, in a way, Sears saved my life. Yeah I know, it sounds tacky. At that time of the morning, I would have been in the warehouse preparing my deliveries for the day.
One final memory to share. I loved riding the express elevator in either 1 or 2 WTC. I forgot which. There was a day when I had a delivery to a company on the upper floors, and I needed to take the express elevator to the sky lobby. They ascended so fast that my ears would pop from the difference in air pressure. Fortunately, I can stretch my ear drums. From the sky lobby, I took another elevator to the desired floor. Going down could be scary if one was not ready for it. The elevator went down so fast it felt like I was free falling. To this day, I have not seen another building with a sky lobby. Maybe the Freedom Tower has one. I do not know since I have not seen the inside of it. But I will.
Comments are always welcome. Thanks for reading my post. Namaste.