90 Seconds of Remembering 9/11

I was walking to the subway along University Place. Two people were looking at the sky and pointing in such an animated way, I had to look. I saw the first plane hit the World Trade Center. I picked up my cell and called my former co-worker and friend Linda’s husband but it kept getting disconnected. I don’t know why I called, or what I was possibly going to say. At the time, I thought it was a small plane that hit, but that was enough to be worried for her. I took the 4 train to Wall Street, and went to work at 40 Wall. As I walked the 2 blocks from the subway to my building, I kept my eyes barely open. They burned, from all the debris and smoke. As I walked into the office, I realized this was no small plane. Co-workers were crying on the phone. People were packing up and leaving. I called my parents, then I left too. I do believe the subway I got on back to Union Square was one of the last to run, if not the last. People stood paralyzed, stone-faced, some covered in soot, not sure what to say, how to react. When I reached home, I learned the first tower had fallen. The day was a blur. I walked back downtown after sitting at home, not able to make a call, or help in any way. And I felt I had to go see.

I had worked at 2 World Trade Center on the 64th floor from 1997-2000. It was an important, life-changing job in that I met some of my best friends, and I learned a lot there. A few months earlier, I had left for a new job and ended up a few blocks away at American Express, but my heart was always in those two tall buildings. I took pictures with Japanese tourists, marveled at how the towers were so tall they had their own zip code, and even ate at Windows on the World once. The towers swayed in the wind, part of their design, a fact evident when I’d sit in a window office for a meeting. They had a mall downstairs, and so many subway lines, you could get anything or anywhere easily.

It was the TV coverage that really struck me later that day, and the days to follow. 3,000 families didn’t know where their loved ones were. They went to hospitals fully expecting to find them, but the hospitals were empty. They seemingly vanished, that was the most heartbreaking thing. Hour after hour, I’d watch local reporters stand by hospital buildings where walls of hand-made signs hung with pictures of loved ones on them, begging for information. It seemed like the most important and humbling job in the world to help reunite these people, however, it didn’t happen. It wasn’t long after that I switched my career to TV journalism. I started at the bottom, and worked my way up. It was a day that changed so many people’s lives, including mine. I know there are many more impactful stories than mine. I feel like living that experience and seeing the hard work and sympathy those reporters exuded helped cement in my head why we do this. We do it because we care.

Never forget.

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