I was a few months out of college and working my first job at The New Yorker in the Conde Nast building in midtown, right off Times Square. Every year on 9-11, I am taken back to those moments of fear, terror, grief, anger and confusion. An inescapable funk will be with me throughout this day, and probably every September 11 for the rest of my life, and I accept it. I turn the TV on at my desk at home, hoping to stumble upon some moving tribute or video of a memorial, and I’m dismayed to find nothing but Trump’s face and NFL recaps. All the leading news websites seem to ignore it, as well. Annoyed I press the mute button and opt for music instead.
I was probably logging into Lotus Notes when I received a phone call from my boss just before 9 a.m. She’d just witnessed a plane crash into the north tower of World Trade Center, but she didn’t know at the time what it meant. She ordered me, screaming in a panic, into the conference room where I scrambled to turn on the TV to see what was going on. Minutes later I was joined by other staffers. Our publisher even walked in. Our eyes were glued to the television. At first glance, it looked like a small plane and a lone rogue pilot just had a really bad morning. Then we heard grumblings of “terrorist attack” and we were all stunned. A few of us ran to the art department, as its windows were south-facing, and there we saw the plumes of smoke as high as Everest. This doesn’t happen here. Not in the greatest city on Earth. Not in the greatest country on Earth. But it just did and we’d never be the same.
I don’t want to relive the day, but I don’t want to forget it either. So I dug up the email I sent to worried friends and loved ones, two days after the attacks, after my parents forced me to go back to work, kicking and screaming like a 3-year-old.
From my desk on the 22nd floor of 4 Times Square on September 13, 2001:
So I’m sitting here at work and I really really really don’t want to be here. The markets are closed until Monday so why am I here sitting on my ass in the sales department of The New Yorker? If my bosses try to sell ad space today I think I’ll probably vomit.
First of all, many thanks for thinking of me up here in the Big Apple. In wake of such a catastrophic event, everyone needs some “feel good time” and hearing from all of you certainly made me feel good about my many friends from all over.
My head’s still in a fog right now, even though my offices are in midtown and my experience of the crashes was slightly distanced from those who were sipping Starbucks across the street from World Trade. Nonetheless, my boss called me from her car, as she was moaning about being stuck in traffic, and then she started screaming as she saw the planes hit, one right after the other. I quickly got off the phone with her and turned the television on in our conference room where we all sat, jaws dropped to the floor, speechless and wanting to get the fuck out of our building (I later heard that our building is one of the tallest in the city and the law firm upstairs evacuated about an hour before we did).
The trains stopped, traffic was stopped, people were walking everywhere. I just wanted to escape to my home in Connecticut, but the trains weren’t leaving the station, and honestly Grand Central Station was the last place I wanted to be. I felt like I was in Independence Day – and that’s so cliched but it’s true. People in droves were just headed as far north away from the turmoil as they could get. Me and some co-workers went to a friend’s apartment (we hiked from 42nd Street all the way north to 91st Street, stopping along the way to watch the TV networks and listening to parked cars that had doors opened and radios blasting with latest developments).
I was trying to call everyone I knew and nobody’s cellphones were working — don’t we live in 2001? It was unbelievable. And here I am afraid of flying in general and United and American are the only two airlines I’ve ever flown on – now I’ll be flying Southwest.
Anyway, I finally made it home as Metro North started operating limited service to Connecticut.
I know I’ve talked to most of you and this probably isn’t news, but to those of you who I received emails from this morning, I wanted to let you know what happened and that I’m alright as I can be. All UVA friends of mine are alive and well, but people from the town I grew up in are not. A guy from my high school, Brad Fetchet, has been missing and a friend’s dad, Mr. Coppo, is also missing. Ninety-five percent of the parents in my town commute to the city and I’m sure there are more… As I got off the train Tuesday the thought of some of the cars in the parking lot never being returned to made me sick to my stomach.
Thanks again to everyone for thinking of me and I hope you’re alright in your respective corners of the country. Wherever we are everyone seems to know someone who knows someone who died. Keep these people in your prayers. I haven’t been very religious in the past four years of school, but going to church last night (and on a weekday! it’s been hard enough for my mom to get me to go on Sundays) felt really good.
I love you guys and I’ll be here most of the day. I need to be around people I love, I need to be hearing from friends. It’s what’s getting me and the rest of the nation through this.
Tell your family and friends you love them today. Do something nice for a stranger. Be kind. Remember, life is fleeting. Anyone and anything can take it away from us at any time. This is what September 11 reminds us and why we can never forget.
As I consume news today, I’ll add 9-11 links here from around the web:
The Worst Day of My Life Is Now New York’s Hottest Tourist Attraction, By Steve Kandell
The Resilient City, by John Avlon
The Heartbreaking Stories That Filled My Notebook After 9-11, by David Grann
Kids born on 9-11 want us all to do a good deed today, by Michael Addady #911day