The Ghosts of 9/11

Photo by Olga Subach on Unsplash

When will they rest?

Saturday marks a somber anniversary for many Americans, myself included. It will be the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack on New York City.

I don’t want to do a minute-by-minute timeline of when the first plane hit to when the towers fell, there’s so much of that out there. Instead, I want to share my story.

That day started like any ordinary day for me. I was working in Newark, NJ in the Gateway Center complex. I was on the 18th floor of Gateway Center 2 and we had a beautiful view of the New York skyline.

I would listen to classical music as I worked, mostly to keep myself calm, and that sunny day was no exception.

Just shortly after the first plane hit the radio announcer made a special announcement about a plane hitting the tower. There was no mention of what type of plane or the extent of casualties just that a plane hit a Tower.

The weather was beautiful that day so I couldn’t understand why a plane would fly into the World Trade Center. My thought was that it was a small aircraft on a sightseeing trip that got too close to the Towers and crashed.

At 9:59 AM I watched as Tower 2 collapsed.

I stood up from my cubicle to see a few of my coworkers looking out the window. A huge plume of smoke was climbing high from Tower 1.

I walked over and asked what was going on, no one knew but we all speculated. In a company filled with civil engineers we tried to analyze what was happening and the extent of the structural damage.

Then a coworker said, “Hey here comes another plane!” Someone else joked that it was going to hit the other tower.

The entire floor went silent when the second plane hit.

Tears are welling up in my eyes just thinking about what happened next.

I grabbed my things and got the hell out of there.

Someone had a small portable television in their office and turned it on. My next-door cubicle mate tried calling his fiancé frantically, she was in Tower 1.

At 9:59 AM I watched as Tower 2 collapsed.

Then news reports came out that the pentagon was hit and then another hijacked airplane was en route to DC.

America was under attack.

I went down to my town’s park and ride and saw 6 cars that were there overnight. 6 people that never came home.

Chaos reigned. The phone lines were jammed. No one knew what was going on and panic started to set in.

My cubicle mate got through to his fiancé and just screamed, “I love you.” She had just gotten out right before the first tower collapsed.

Another coworker of mine was traveling to the WTC for a doctor’s appointment, we didn’t know if he was alive or dead.

Then the second tower came down. We were all stunned.

I can still hear my colleagues crying. Adult men and women, crying, knowing that some loved one of theirs was in those towers.

I grabbed my things and got the hell out of there.

The next day everything was shut down. I went down to my town’s park and ride and saw six cars that stayed there overnight. Six people that never came home.

My neighbor was on the phone with his Cantor Fitzgerald counterpart when the first plane hit. He said he’d call him back, but that was the last time he ever heard from him.

My future partner just arrived in New York City for a work meeting and was trapped for hours until she managed to get back home to New Jersey.

Another friend who worked in IT was wondering why there was massive backup traffic happening in his data center. He saw data being replicated as the last gasps of computer systems died.

For months afterward I had bad dreams. I got angry. I was confused. I was depressed. Then I remembered we had tickets to a moe. show in Boston. We bought the tickets before the terrorist attack and the show wasn’t canceled. We decided to go, just to get some normalcy back into our lives.

I can never forget that day, the screams, the cries, the panic, and the chaos.

The show was great but there was tension in the air. We all needed to jam out to music if only to forget for a few hours. Reality hit when they played their encore.

For their encore, they played their song “New York.” A beautiful upbeat song about the energy of New York City but that evening it took on a somber feeling.

“It’s the rhythm of the rain that falls
It’s a cab ride at 5:00 A.M
Manhattan goddess with her Levis and curls
New York City — I’m coming home again” — New York, moe.

Before they began an auditorium of peaceful hippies chanted “Fuck Bin Laden.”

There was anger and there was a focus. We needed payback and for the first time in my entire life, the entire country was waiting to unleash the full might of America on the perpetrators.

It was frightening. I wondered what were we becoming as a country, as a people, as a community.

We all knew what came later, Homeland Security and the erosion of our liberties, a quagmire in Afghanistan, and an illegal war in Iraq.

I will never forget.

I can never forget.

I can never forget that day, the screams, the cries, the panic, and the chaos.

I can never forget because the ghosts of 9/11 haunt me still.

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