Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Remembering Sept 11, 2001
Back in January 2001 I started working for E&Y as “Office Mgr” in their downtown office on Broad Street. That office was roughly 6 to 7 blocks southeast of the South Tower [WTC]. Our office on Broad Street was only a stone’s throw away from NY Stock Exchange. Yeah ... we were close to "ground zero". From our 25th floor windows we could only see the South Tower and the North Tower was hidden behind it. Below are my recollections of that day, which I posted on my “Duchess Journal” for the 1st anniversary since that horrible day.

That day started out just like any other for me. I had to be at the office by 8:15am to let in the caterer. As there was an all-day meeting being held in our large conference room ... the breakfast buffet needed to be ready by 8:30am. People started arriving for the meeting between 8:30am and 8:55am. A few made comments that they'd heard talk of a "bomb" going off at WTC. At the time we thought nothing of it. Don't think we're heartless, because we're not, I guess New Yorkers are immune to some things, but not all.

Sometime around 9am we heard a huge explosion and then our building shook. I kid you not! Felt like an earthquake. We all jumped up from what we'd been doing and raced to the windows. Looking out the northern end of our floor and upward we couldn't believe our eyes. A huge, gaping hole in the south tower with smoke, debris and fire coming out of it. Debris was flying everywhere ... even around our building. Bits of papers, fax sheets, reports, etc. Unbelieveable!! I went back to my desk and called my Mom right away. Once I got her on the phone I said I was okay, but to turn on the telly to find out what’s going on. She related to me that it was two commercial airlines and not a bomb. We talked for abit and I said I'd call her later for an update. Then everyone went back to work. Yep, you heard me, back to work and the meeting. I made other phone calls, especially to my friend and ex co-worker Anni; her office is across the street from South Tower. At 9:15am her office was evacuating and I prayed she'd get away from the scene okay.

My boss, Ron G, showed up at office five minutes before South Tower collapsed. Said the action out on the streets was insane and out of a movie. Unreal, but not, yah know? Before Ron showed up, four of my co-workers made it back. Amen! They'd been in south tower at a meeting on 80th floor when plane hit north tower. They'd gotten down the stairs to 30th floor when second plane hit their tower. I was so happy to see them back at office. Gave them bottles of water and the first aid kit. When the south tower collapsed it sounded like another explosion and our building shook again! We ran to the north side windows and couldn't believe what we saw. We were all freaking out at that point. Even though our windows were closed, we could still hear the screams of people on the street below as they ran in terror. The clouds of grey, black and brown smoke/ash were moving with force over buildings and down streets. Next thing we knew our whole building is covered in the stuff. It got dark and you couldn't see out at all. My poor nerves were really jumping at this point. Then building management came over the PA system and told everyone to go down to the lowest level for shelter. Which we did ... after making a few quick calls ... one of which was to Mom. I went down the elevator with Ron and two other co-workers [Joe & Igor]. We stayed downstairs in a kind of fallout shelter until 11:45am. Some people were able to get their laptops running and access to the Internet. Slowly we were getting bits of info on what the hell was going on that morning and it wasn't a pretty picture. I mostly hung out with Ron, Joe and Igor or checked out news on people’s laptops. We were finally allowed back up to our offices, but management told us that if we left the building, they wouldn't let us back in. Yeah, like we want to stick around here. NOT!

Ron told the three of us to collect our things, make a few phone calls and then we'd hoof it out at 12 noon. I called Mom to tell her I was okay and about to head home. She sounded very upset over the phone and I couldn't blame her. She said the news and film footage on the telly was horrible. Mom had to take half a valium just to calm her nerves. Before we left the office, which was deserted except for us four, we grabbed bottles of water and small damp towels. We headed out the back of the building where we were met by paramedics handing out surgical masks. Amen! What a sight to meet our eyes out on those streets. It was like being in a city after a war. Everything was covered in that nasty soot, debris everywhere, abandoned cars & stores, as well as people like us walking east. Away from the disaster and horror. Unfortunately I was wearing clogs that day on my feet and boy did my feet/legs suffer. To this day I still suffer occasionally from shin splints. Ron and Joe walked ahead of Igor and me. Sometimes we talked, but mostly we looked around in disbelief. It was like a mass exodus! By the time we got to the Brooklyn Bridge it was closed off to pedestrians. So we walked past and further north to next one, which was Manhattan Bridge. By the time we reached that bridge the air was clear and we took off the surgical masks. As we crossed the bridge we looked back south ... it seemed so surreal ... like it was a Spielberg film and the credits would roll any minute now. But it wasn't a film; it was all too real and frightening. One thing I was thankful for ... it was a nice, sunny day. I didn't give a damn if I got sunburnt or not. When we reached Brooklyn our first priority was bathrooms and then subways. At the subways [only in Brooklyn, Queens & Bronx were running not in Manhattan] I said goodbye to my co-workers and we all wished each other a safe journey to our respective homes. Ron, Igor and I live in Brooklyn, but poor Joe had to get back to the New Jersey shore. He stayed at Ron's place that night and got transport the next day. As for me ... it took two subways for me to get back to Greenpoint.

Arrived into my neighborhood at 3pm and walked to my friend Larry's place. Wasn't sure if my phone or telly would be working, but somehow knew Larry’s would be. I called Mom from Larry's place while watching the events of the day unfolding on the telly. Couldn't believe what I was seeing, so upsetting and I kept on saying "OH MY GOD". On top of all that I was exhausted emotionally and physically. Once I got to my apartment I found that I could use my computer, phone and only got Channel 2 on the telly. I returned phone calls to family and friends who were concerned. Plus returned emails to many wonderful e-pals who were also concerned about me. I thank you all for your kindness and thoughtfulness. Made me feel soooo good and blessed. Didn't know work was closed the next day, but I still trekked into our midtown office. While there I made phone calls and found out that Anni was alright but had suffered a bad asthma attack. From there I went to get a manicure and then had lunch with a friend in Brooklyn. Yep, the subways were running once again in Manhattan. On Thursday I went back to E&Ys midtown office to help out, sort of like doing temp work. Then my Administrative Manager gave me Friday off as "excused leave" and the following week I enjoyed my vacation time down in Cape May, NJ. By the time I came back to work the downtown area was open [relatively speaking] and it was business as usual at E&Y.

Overall I thought I was fine, but for several months following 9/11, I suffered from strange dreams and nightmares, plus bouts of depression. One heard many different stories from friends and co-workers. On the day of the one-year anniversary I took a vacation day from work, as did many staff in our downtown office. Since May 2002 my telly died, so I listened to the ceremonies on the radio [1010 WINS]. And like last year, I went and got a manicure. I think the professionals would call it ... getting on with life. It’s not easy, but with every day we do better and better. Though the war with terrorism isn't over yet and probably never will be.

NOTE: Since writing that piece back in Sept 2002, I’ve developed “lung issues” and all due to 9/11. Since 2003 my lung situation “appeared” and was finally diagnosed in 2005 with Asthma, Bronchiectasis and MAI. I’ve occasionally been on meds, and inhalers, to keep the lungs working and stabilized, so that the two diseases do not progress further. I was very ill in January 2006 with Bronchitis, hospitalized briefly in August 2008 with Hemoptysis, plus walking Pneumonia, and then again in January 2011 with double Pneumonia. Today I am doing well and stable, plus visit my doctors on a regular basis. Thoughts and prayers go out to the families who’ve lost loved ones back in 2001, and to those whose health issues have been greatly affected by 9/11/01. Every day I strive for peace, non violent communication/action, answers to questions and working with others as an activist. All this stems from what happened on 9/11/01 and since then. Be well and be peace………………….

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