10 years ago today – my experience. #September11

September 10th, 2011 had been a big day. The company I was working for, Return Path, announced it was merging with Veripost, and that night I met the woman who became my girlfriend for the next two years.

I woke up late on the 11th, tired but feeling good. Here is what I wrote down a few days later about what happened, with edits for readability:

I left my apartment around 10:30. I’m thinking going to vote can be one of my excuses for being late to work. I’m so late as it is, I decide to go over and do it. When I walk out onto the street, I immediately sense something is wrong, even though nothing is apparent. Just from the way people are standing or walking on the street, I have a sense of foreboding. There is a buzz of voices that is indistinct. I walk across the street to the apartment complex where the polling station is. As I enter the complex, I pass a young man sitting on the sidewalk. Did he have a radio? He tells a couple that is passing by something about the towers. I am concerned and strain to hear, but I figure I’ll find out more at the polling station. I can’t imagine it’s that bad.

 

I walk into the polling station, and it is a lot more empty than I would ever expect for a voting day. I try to look for where to check in and walk up to a table. There is a woman there and one inside the polling booth, although she is not voting. The first woman tells me I can’t vote. “You’re kidding. Why not?” She turns to the other woman and tells her that I want to vote. The other woman is irritated and says that I can’t. They’re officially closed as of 10:45. How can that be? I look down at a pamphlet that says the hours are 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. A very agitated man comes up while I’m trying to get an answer. They clearly assume I know what is going on, but I don’t. I have to explicitly ask and explain that I don’t know what has happened.

 

Both towers of the WTC have collapsed and the Pentagon has been hit. These events are so unspeakable and just from the excited behavior of the man, I can’t really believe him. But there is no point pursuing it with him. I step out of the building and walk back to my apartment where I turn on the T.V.

 

It’s just as was described. I watch the footage on channel 2, which is the only channel I can receive. I learn later that the other channels had transmission towers on the WTC. All the crashes have been reported. There is mention that up to 8 planes have been hijacked or are unaccounted for.

 

I try to call my father at work because I figure he could be there at this early hour. The phone won’t connect. I try using my cell phone with a similar lack of success.

 

I’m thinking about my appointment with Will at 12:30 at Return Path. I know it’s very unlikely for that to happen. I realize it would be totally fine for me to not show at all, but I don’t know what else to do. I figure I may as well go in to work and see what I can do from there. 

 

I walk over to Cooper Square, walk up 4th Ave to Union Square, and continue through the park and up Broadway. It was an eerie experience unlike any I’ve ever had. The streets were empty of cars. People were walking in the middle of the streets. There were groups clumped here and there gathered around hand held radios. People around stopped cars with the radios on loud. I walk up the middle of Broadway, stopping now and then to listen.

 

I reach our offices on 22nd and go straight to my desk, trying to avoiding people. Only a few are there. Spielman, Patty, Alexis, Sinclair, Bonnie, Vince and Kim. There is a work voicemail from Terry asking if I had heard the news. I check my cellphone messages and there is one from my dad.

 

I call dad, relaying the events that have transpired. We end the call with a brief discussion of the merger. Mom had called him. I call mom’s pager and then reach her in her office. I call Nathanson’s cell phone and reach him at home. I leave messages for Mendy and Leslie. I tried calling Christine but could not get through to even leave a message. I send her an email. Gebala had called and I reach him at work. He tells me Kryss is okay. I send an email out to Nathanson, Scott, Cotarelo, Mary Jo, Justin and Sulian. Ming was trying to call, and Dawn leaves me a message as well. I talk to Terry. He witnessed the 2nd tower collapse from the roof of his building. 


My record of the day ended there. I haven’t read this in years, and there are details I forgot and people mentioned I no longer am in touch with. They closed our office shortly thereafter, and I walked down 5th Avenue to get a better look and see if I could help. Along the way I bought a disposable camera from a bodega. The photos have become damaged over the years.

 

I walked down through Washington Square Park, which looked fairly normal, and continued down 6th Avenue. The billowing smoke only hinted at the carnage that was there.

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A police line had been established south of Canal, and a lot of people stopped there and watched.

 

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I crossed the line and continued South East toward the court houses. A blood donation center had been established and people held signs for less common blood types, but, sadly, there were more donors than survivors that could use it.

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Down here, the ground was covered in ash, and it was an inch thick in places. I can only describe it as eerie and surreal.

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When I went back to the East Village, the streets were filled with people. There was a palpable sense of coming together, and no one wanted to be alone. The next few days were in a haze.

 

9/11 marked a change in my life. By the end of the year, I had a new girlfriend living with me, and I left my job and started the company I run today. I was one of the fortunate ones.

 

My heart goes out to all those that died that day, and I am awed now as I was then by all those that helped and the sacrifices they made.

 

 

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1 Response to 10 years ago today – my experience. #September11

  1. Kryss says:

    Wow, reading this is like dejavu. I had late meetings scheduled in midtown, so I woke up late as well and didn’t know what was going on until much later either. And even then I was trying to figure out whether Metro North was running and whether I should still go in. It was so hard to comprehend something so big. Thanks for posting.

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