September 11

It’s taken some time to recover from our vacation and get back in the swing of things. Next week my blog starts back up for regular posts. In the meantime, I want to remember this day by remembering my day 7 years ago. It has always been a bit odd for mkm and me in that our wedding anniversary is September 10th. This year marks our 13th anniversary. We were married 6 years in 2001, and Avi was 21 months old.

In 2001 I was working for a direct marketing firm in midtown Manhattan, Madison Avenue and 26th street to be precise. I always got to work early and I was at my desk by 8:00 am or so. I remember just before 9 am someone saying something about a plane hitting the world trade center. The initial assumption was that it was a small private plane. This had happened to the Empire State Building in the past and, although tragic, it meant nothing. But getting to CNN.com was next to impossible. Some co-workers and I went out of our building and walked one block to Broadway. The view down Broadway was something I will never forget my entire life. We saw black smoke coming from the top of one of the towers. At this point, it was still unclear as to what was actually happening. A few moments later, we watched the second plane fly into the second tower.

We went back upstairs will full knowledge of what was happening. We could not make any phone calls as the phone system was overloaded. Our employer was saying that we should just stay inside. Given that we could not get onto any website and everything was overloaded and no work was happening, a bunch of us went outside again. This time we watched in horror at about 10 am as the first of the two towers collapsed.

My mind was made up, and no matter what anyone else said, I was getting out of New York City. A few people who also lived in NJ left with me, but as we got closer to Penn Station, we learned that the station was closed and no trains were going in or out. The same was true of the PATH trains, so although thousands of people were outside the stations, no one was going in.

We continued to walk uptown, turning around to see the collapse of the 2nd building as people screamed. We turned to the west and walked toward the Hudson River, thinking that maybe the ferries were operating. As we got to West Street we saw lines that would make Disneyworld shudder. These were the lines for the ferry boats which apparently were ferrying people across to New Jersey for free.

We waited for a few minutes, when I overheard someone say something about the Circle Line. For those not in NYC, Circle Line is a boat cruise that takes you around the island of Manhattan. So we got out of line and took a chance and walked the 10 blocks or so to where Circle Line docked. Sure enough they were also ferrying people to NJ and there was a VERY short line. In fact we got on the next boat to leave. The boat took us across the river to Weehawken NJ (infamous site of the Alexander Hamilton/Aaron Burr Duel in 1804). All the time across we watched the smoke rise from the site.

As soon as I got across the river I was able to get a cell signal and called the doctor’s office where mkm had taken Avi for a checkup. I don’t know if she had her own cell at the time, so I think that is why I called the doctor’s office. I asked them to just tell her I was ok and in NJ and would see her later.

Not being from north New Jersey, I had no idea what to do. There were busses bringing people to the Meadowlands (home of Giants Stadium) but I would not know what to do from there either. I knew that Hoboken was just to the south of Weehawken, so I started walking. I walked all the way through to the train station in Hoboken. Here you can see where I walked and much of the time I could see the trade center site.

So I got to Hoboken and at that time there was one train a day that went from Hoboken down the Northeast Corridor line (what I need to get home) and luckily it just started boarding, so I got a seat on the train. Today that train does not run. When the train got to Newark NJ, the first PATH trains had started coming into the station. So the train filled to standing room only and no tickets were collected.

I don’t recall the time I got home, but I know that I stayed home from work on Wednesday. I went in on Thursday, despite most business staying closed, but nothing really went back to regular business until Monday.

That day will remain in my memory forever, but I must say that what will remain even more burned into my memory is the site of the walls at Penn Station of photos of missing friends and relatives that people posted there. The station was partially under construction and the temporary walls became a posting spot for these photos.

So now I overlook the site and try to take some time here and there to reflect, but it is hard given the day to day grind of work. Today, however, we all take this time to remember.

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