On September 11, 2001, I was working at JPMorgan Chase Metrotech Center in downtown Brooklyn, literally across the Brooklyn Bridge. I worked with a team of Audio/Video technicians who were busy setting up equipment for a very important and large conference. I heard of the first plane crashing when my wife called. When the second plane hit, it dawned on us that this was no accident and that America was under attack.
I remember feeling very upset and felt the visceral panic that had settled among my coworkers. Despite the chaos happening in NYC that morning, my manager wanted us to keep working. I remember thinking that he was nuts and all I wanted to do was leave. Eventually he regained some measure of intelligence and had us break down equipment, packing it up for the day. For the rest of the day I felt as if I was in a daze. Everything was so surreal. I worried over the people in the towers and the pentagon. Not knowing what was going was a real frustration.
Information was very hard to come by as we didn’t have live TV coverage readily available in the center. We didn’t have the luxury of social networks like Twitter and Facebook that we now take for granted. People were extremely worried and looking for more detailed information, not really knowing what to do. I remember coming up with the idea of patching a live TV signal from the control room and through our small auditorium, projecting it onto the massive screen. Leaving the control room, I joined the large crowd that had gathered. Everyone gasped collectively as the first tower collapsed. I remember the tension, despair, fear and silence in that room.
Next thing I knew my manager adamantly told me to turn it off. What? Turn it off? He told me that he didn’t want people to panic and ordered me to cut the feed off. I was already upset over the attacks today, so his actions took me over the top. He must’ve come to his senses because later he re-established the feed.
Eventually we were told to go home in the afternoon. I remembered worrying over how that was going to happen as all the trains were shut down. Getting home back to Yonkers was going to be a massive ordeal. As it turned out, several trains in downtown Brooklyn were still in service. I remembered the mood in the subway. People were worried but yet very helpful to one another. Being outside the workplace, I saw firsthand how everyone came together. For that moment in time (and days, weeks and months later), we were all one. This horrible moment in history had united us.
Five days after that attack, I remember walking the streets near where the World Trade Center used to be. The fires were still burning and the air had a heavy, acrid smell to it. I will never forget that smell. I used to work at 4 WTC just months before and that building was simply gone. My former coworkers were all ok however. At One Liberty Plaza, another building I used to work in right across from the WTC, I was allowed access by friends in security. Going to an empty floor, I surveyed the damage from high above. I was left speechless.
Ten years later, I will never forget the incredibly courageous people that had died on that day. I often think of a former co-worker who perished in one of the towers. I think not only of his family but also of all the families who suffered a loss.
The terrorists had failed. We were not defeated. We survived and a multitude of heroes emerged, both during those trying times and posthumously. Be it ten, twenty or a hundred years, we will never forget those who lost their lives on 9/11.