Then September 11 happened. To this day, I'm not sure why but I was running late for work that day. I got off the A Train at Broadway-Nassau St. in the Financial District and saw huge crowd of people congregating on Maiden Lane right near my office. At first I had no idea what they were looking at. As I got closer to the street, I looked up and saw that one of the World Trade Center towers was on fire. Before I could ask someone what had happened I saw a plane fly right into the south tower. BOOM! Words cannot describe what it sounded like.
I wasn't quite sure what to do. Do I run for it and go home? Do I go into my office which is built like a fortress and could be considered one of the safest in New York City? I knew my brother worked on a low floor (I don't remember exactly which one but it was in the 20s) in one of the towers so I called him to make sure he was OK. The explosions knocked out the cell service because the call did not go through. I decided to go to my office and try to send an e-mail to his 2-way pager (remember those). Thankfully he made it out safely and he was going to his girlfriend's (now wife) apartment in the Village. I told him I would be in touch and that I might need a place to stay that night. I remember talking to Mrs. Ansky on the phone at the exact moment the towers collapsed. My office is 2 blocks from the World Trade Center and I remember the windows shaking and rattling when the towers collapsed. I was on the phone talking to Mrs. Ansky when the towers collapsed. I didn't know what was happening at the time so I told I would call her back (which I did). My mother was teaching a class in NJ and the person answering the phones refused to interrupt the class to let her speak with me. I don't remember how I replied but I'm pretty sure it went something like this "in case you don't know, both World Center Towers were struck by airplanes. One of her sons works 2 blocks from where it happened and her other son works IN the towers. Now interrupt her [expletive] class and let me talk with her!" My dad was even harder to get in touch with. At the time, he was teaching in a huge NYC Public School. No one in the school knew where he was and his cell phone wasn't working. Finally, he got in touch with Mrs. Ansky who told him that we were both alive and accounted for.
The next few hours were spent watching TV and learning more about what happened. Security had locked down the building and did not allow anyone to leave until 3:00 p.m. When we got the all clear from security that it OK to leave, I wasn't quite sure what to do. I wasn't a runner then so one option was to walk all the way to the George Washington Bridge and then hitch a ride home from there. The other option was to spend the night with my brother and his girlfriend and figure out what to do the next morning. I stayed with my brother that night, and thanks to my brother's colleague who also spent the night I got home to NJ Wednesday morning.
For a few weeks after the attacks on the WTC, my office was closed and we were working out of our office in NJ. When the main office did re-open, it opened the cafeteria to anyone involved in the recovery effort. There were firefighters, police, and military eating breakfast and lunch in our building. The bone-tired looks on their faces stay with me even 10 years later. I remember struggling with what, if anything, to say to them. Did they want to be talked to or did they want to be left alone? I decided "Thank You" was a simple and appropriate thing to say.
Fast forward 10 years.......in the weeks leading up to the 10th anniversary, I was thinking about how I wanted to mark the occasion. Since I had a 2:45 long run on the calendar, I decided that I would run from the NJ side of the George Washington Bridge to Lower Manhattan. I thought it would be a good way to infuse my long run with some meaning. Sunday was cool day, humidity was low, and there was plenty of cloud cover.
I was feeling some pulling in the back of my leg so I kept the effort nice and relaxed. Despite a uncorroborated terror threat, I was happy to see runners and cyclists out getting their miles in. As I was getting closer to Ground Zero I started to get chills. A lot of memories started to come back. I thought about seeing the 2nd plane hit the World Trade Center. I thought about my brother who worked in one of the towers and how thankful I am that he made it out safely. I thought about the looks on the faces of everyone involved in recovery effort when they came through my office's cafeteria in the days, weeks, and months afterward.
When I got to what is now called the New Wold Trade Center site, I stopped for a few minutes, as did many other runners and cyclists, for a few minutes of reflection and a prayer. I turned around and the 2nd hour of the run felt great.
I pass by Ground Zero/New World Center Site every day on my way to work. In the years since the attacks, I'll freely admit that I have become somewhat desensitized to the significance of what happened there. Not that I have ever forgotten what happened, but when you're rushing to get to work it's very easy to develop tunnel vision and ignore the huge construction project right next to you. I am very lucky that I live close enough to Lower Manhattan to be able to do what I did yesterday. It helped put things back into perspective.
|Ground Zero - September 11, 2001 (not my photo)|
|New World Trade Center - September 11, 2011 (my photo)|