Tuesday, November 8, 2011

SEPTEMBER 11 2001



Tuesday morning the 11 of September 2001 was a beautiful sunny day in New York City -- perfect with low humidity .I lost my father the same month a year ago and this September morning brought back memories of that day .We were waiting for a customer to arrive for a fitting at 9:30 am ,when she called and said she was stuck on the New Jersey  side of the tunnel .A  small plane flew into the World Trade Center and they would not let the traffic enter the tunnel  into Manhattan. I put on the radio and a few seconds later they said that a second plane hit.......!


 
 

 
 

I kept it to myself as we had some workers who had family and friends working in the WTC. It did not help much- soon the cell phones started ringing- and the word was out. Raymond call me from his car in South Africa as he heard it on the radio and wanted to know of we are OK. 30 minutes later the phones lines were overloaded and we could not receive or make calls anymore. The radio said that they did not know how many planes were in the air and there were rumors that NY will be hit again -- as well as Washington DC. It was so frightening as every news station that one listened to had another story to tell .People who were trapped in the World Trade Center,  were calling radio station telling stories of the horrors they were experiencing.Chrysoula's studio was located three blocks from Time Square -and I was sure that the Square and the Empire State building were going to be the  next to be attacked.We were working on the 7th floor so that was not too high up if we had to evacuate the building..






Luisa fitting Renee Fleming- the opera diva.

Luisa - out supervisor in the work room was a dear Italian lady who's daughter- in -law worked in the WTC . Every morning she would travel by train with Luisa and her little boy of 3  to NYC from Chester upstate in New York .They had a day care center at the WTC and the boy will stay there until it was time to go catch the train home with his mom and grandmother.Luisa was fit to be tied as she could not get her son, daughter- in -law or husband on the phone -- and we expected the worse.






Grounded planes at Halifax Airport Nova Scotia- awaiting orders.

By this time they stopped all trains, buses and planes .The tunnels and bridges were closed and the whole city was in lock down. I could walk home but did not want to leave before we knew what happened to Luisa's family. Some people starting walking home and it took some 5 hours to walk all the way home to Queens and Brooklyn. They left devastation behind.........They would allow people to walk over the bridges out of the city but not to come back into Manhattan.





After about 5 hours of suspense, Luisa's son called and told her he was trying to get hold of his wife but she just called him from home and she and the boy were safe. What happened was that her grandson was not feeling well .When his mother left to go upstairs into the tower -the teacher called her back and told her he was crying and she should calm him down before leaving. By the time he was calm the first plane hit the building and she decided to wait downstairs and to see what happens .Just then the second plane hit the second tower and they immediately knew this was no accident. An  elderly couple asked her where she lived and as they were also from upstate they told her to come with them .They got into their car and drove out of NYC as fast as they could.
We were all so thankful for Luisa sake .Her son asked her to meet him down in the Village where he was with a friend .At least the two of them could work out a way to get home or else stay with his friends. As I live in the Village the two of us started walking the 50 blocks south -closer to the World Trade Center. I live on 12th street but at 14th street the cops stopped us. You had to have a reason to go further south .As I had my ID with me they allowed us to walk further. By this time both Towers had collapsed and they estimated that 30,000 people were killed.




We passed St Vincent's hospital on 12th street in the Village where they were ready and waiting for the injured. They never came...... They all died when the buildings collapsed. They waited there through the quite night .Never was a night so quite in NYC. All the traffic stopped and even the sirens stopped. All we heard were the fighter jets in the air -and they never stopped their patrolling the airspace over the city for weeks.....















Overhead dozens of USA fighter jets were thundering over the city very low and one realized very soon that this was a war zone. As we were walking down people came  towards us from the WTC covered in white dust. It looked like a horror movie .The sky was dark with the smoke and the closer we got the stronger the smell became as well.



 

One felt dead inside. The horror of  up to 30,000 estimated people dead in all that rubble about a mile from us -was unthinkable. You thought about people that had loved ones, friends and family that worked there. Firemen and Police ...How many were dead? 









Cell phones were not working .When the towers fell it also knocked out the communication systems that were on the roofs of those buildings. It took days for people to realize that their loved one would not be coming home. All around the St Vincent hospital  people posted photos of their  missing loved ones- just in case they were still alive in the  hospital without any identification.

When I got to my apartment the thin layer of white dust was all over the furniture and in the cupboards . It settled on every surface and we were told to turn on our air conditioners when we went to bed. My neighbor Barbara heard the planes as they flew over our house on the way to the WTC.T he house was situated right on the flight path .
One could not stay indoors. Below 14 street -where I live- no cars were allowed, so the streets were deserted of traffic. It was very ,very quite even with hundreds of people walking around aimlessly .You did not want to be alone in your apartment and most people were outside - sitting on the steps of their homes- or walking around. As night fell over the city, it was if even nature was in mourning. America grew up this night and one knew this was the end of innocence for the American people .



Union Square.



I walked to Union Square and there were hundreds of people -many young students from NYU  - holding a candle vigil .On my way back on 14th street a  truck load of bottled water arrived from Canada at the Salvation Army's headquarters. Within minutes passersby unloaded the truck. Everyone wanted to do anything to help- but we all felt so helpless.





The Salvation Army headquarters in NYC.


The next day came after a restless night. We all tried to pick up the pieces and get back to normal. New York City's , Mayor Rudy Giuliani asked the people of New York to keep going, and  to keep the city's economy up .He asked people to keep supporting Broadway theaters and restaurants. The subway was back in about two days and he urged people to get back to work. We were all back at work the next day. Every day we learned more and fortunately the number of missing became less and less and at the end the number were around  2977- way down from the 30,000 they expected .
 
 
 
 
We lost all 9 members of the Fire Station in the West Village. It took months to re-open.
Two cops who use to have lunch at our diner on 12th street and 6th avenue  - also died.
We also lost 8 members at Marble Collegiate Church.


 

 
 



The morning of the 12 of September as I was walking to work  I  met  Louis-- one of the owners of the Greek diner "Joe Junior". He was looking down 6th Avenue towards toe WTC and the tears were streaming down his face. He said to me:-
 "When I came to America I saw those buildings going up- never, ever did I think I would see them go down......Yesterday I stood here and watch them fall !"

 



Soon after the funerals started - for months on end...... .One felt it would never stop. They would discover parts of bodies that were identified by DNA testing and then given to the families for burial-sometimes only  a piece as small as a finger -or even less.
 
 
 
 
Four days later the smoke was still rising from Ground Zero

 
A smell started coming from ground zero as well that lasted for months. It was a sweet /sour smell that I could not identify.One could only imagine what it was. It turned cool soon after that so that helped a bit. We slept with out air conditioners on for months.
 
 
 
This is where they use to stand. Looking south down the Avenue of the Americas  from 12th street.
It has been already 14 years later- but those horrors are still in every New Yorker's mind that was here on that day.
 
  
 
2014 Replacement of the twin towers.


2 comments:

  1. Henry - this is still shocking and sad to read even after so much time has passed. we shall never forget...

    Nadine

    ReplyDelete
  2. still remember the shock I was in when I saw this in the news.

    ReplyDelete