(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
I was working for a bar owner at 44th St. & 9th Ave. He had the news on both TVs. And people started streaming in as large buildings were closed all over town. One guy I knew perished. Another, made it out of the twin towers alive, and walked uptown. Another woman was late for work: she got to the ground zero area in time to see the second plane fly into the second tower, turned around, and caught what was probably the last subway uptown out of that area.
Here’s what I remember about that day:
Shortly before 9 a.m. EDT, I went into the hardware store to buy some paper towels for the sister bar. The store owner, who knew me from similar errands in the past, said, “Did you hear? A plane just flew into the World Trade Center.”
I gaped at him; said something like, “You’re kidding.” It didn’t register, at first: I mean, small planes do fly into big buildings on occasion but…
He said, “No, it’s on the radio,” and turned up the volume.
At that moment, just minutes after it happened, nobody realized that it was a jetliner: we were all thinking, another small plane made a mistake. At least, I was, and I think, if I remember correctly, that the radio announcer thought the same thing, at first.
So I grabbed the paper towels, and the receipt, hurried back to the sister bar, and yelled to the bartender to put the news on TV, a plane just flew into the World Trade Center. Which he did. We watched together, stunned, as the news came that no, this was not another small, private plane, but a big jet. I’m hazy on this, but I think it was during this half hour that I watched the second plane slam into the south tower.
Eventually, you have to go back to work. So I did; I returned to the boss and said, “Did you hear…?” and he said, “Yes,” gesturing toward the TV sets at the main bar. And, “Have a shot,” he said.
That bar was packed by 10 a.m. because office buildings all over town were evacuating. One friend of mine who worked in one of the towers (and arrived much later than 10) told me he had walked down something like 50 or more flights, and walked the whole way uptown to 44th St.
Another friend was running late for work at a building in that area; she kept saying she needed to call in–Ruby had emerged from the subway and when she saw the second plane hit the south tower, she realized immediately that the subway would be shut down, turned around, and got back on the first uptown train. Ruby was freaking out but determined to call her job. But she was shaking so badly…I just kept telling her to have a shot–never let it be said that alcohol is worthless!–and then, together, we watched the towers fall. (lol…sob…when the first tower fell, Ruby said, “yeah, I probably don’t have to call work….”) This would have been around 10:00 a.m. IIRC. I know I have the timing a little mixed up because there was at least half an hour between the first one crumbling and the second…but you will forgive me for having been sufficiently freaked out to not remember every detail.
We were all freaked. For days. I know I jumped every time I heard the siren from an emergency vehicle.
But I’m GLAD I was there. I’m GLAD I lived through it. It made me strong…it made me unafraid of terrorism.
What’s the worst that can happen? They kill you. That’s all. It’s not the end of the world, and if you live your life worrying about it…well…then you have no life.
Although Rudy Giuliani put on a good performance that day, and during the immediate aftermath, he was wrong. Noun, verb, 9/11 is not the way to govern a city. He even threatened to postpone the mayoral election because the city needed him! Well, FU, Rudy, no we did not. Bloomberg, on the other hand…well, Bloomie was a breath of fresh air in so many ways, even for those of us who didn’t entirely agree with him.
Bloomberg said: go about your daily life and do not concern yourself with the terrorists. To live otherwise means that they win. And he was right.
To protect us, the city put up concrete barriers around major targets: I lived near the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and those barriers were still there last time I visited: and rightly so. And then…life went on. (Although it’s creepy when there are military types with REALLY BIG GUNS stationed at the corner…but that didn’t last forever; soon it was just the normal cops…and people did go about their regular business, alert and aware, as New Yorkers are, but not fearful and cringing under blankets.
But aside from keeping the downtown areas (below Canal Street) blocked for far too long–especially for those of us who like to shop in Chinatown, lol!–it was business as usual in a few months. Just: be aware. Not be afraid…very afraid…no: just…watch out. Security was tightened everywhere in the city. But life went on, and frankly, one’s chances of being electrocuted by a KBR-installed shower in Iraq are far higher than one’s chances of being in a terrorist attack in the U.S.
And I swear to you that those of us who lived through that awful day are less terrified by the Bushie rhetoric than the people who live in East Bumfuk. (Or should that be, West Podunk?) We saw it: we endured. We grew stronger. What is wrong with our government that they keep trying to fan the flames of terror?
What I’ve never understood is why the people in East Podunk and West Bumfuk don’t get this.
This government has disrupted our lives and destroyed our souls. And I will not tolerate that. I am much more afraid of Darth Cheney and The Chimp-in-Chief.
Remember how Kerry was ridiculed when he said defeating terrorists would require good police work…well, the FBI and CIA would also be involved: but that it came down to general crime-fighting, not war. Kerry was right; Bush was wrong; and yet we’re still stuck with Chimpy and his losing strategery.
I’m GLAD I was there…it made me less afraid of terrorism…It reinforced a sense of stoicism that people in other countries have, but which is extremely rare here: you go about your life, and you do not capitulate to the terrorists. The moment you run screaming…they win, you lose.
Especially if you live someplace the terrorists aren’t going to target anyway…like Lancaster, Pa. The only terrorists in Lancaster, Pa., are the cops. And this is true across the entire nation: be afraid, be very afraid: of what the GOP has wrought. They are listening to your phone calls:
They are phishing on the Web:
They hate the Constitution and want unbridled power:
They are torturing innocents in the name of “freedom.” They are locking up suspected illegal immigrants–and rounding up U.S. nationals and deporting them, too:
“If they can’t prove they’re citizens” has become the standard. You are no longer innocent until proven guilty: you are guilty until you can prove your innocence.
Orwell was right: he was just 24 years too early.
Really good essay, Youffraita!
this is beeeeeeeeeeeautiful……
& OMG! i have chills running up & down….
a pony party tomorrow night.
I invited some friends. Is that ok?
But I can, nonetheless, be possessed of a rather loud voice! 😉
Your accounting of your experience on 9/11 is, well, like being there — you depicted the reality of that horrific day! But not only did you depict it in all it’s reality, you gave your assessment and thoughts about “how to deal with the future” from there.
I think that once a person goes through a horrific experience, he/she becomes almost fearless of anything else. (I say that, because I, too, suffered a horrific experience.) There is a terrific “aftermath” to deal with, but, yes, in the long run, it does make you stronger — more able to cope with just about anything. On the other side of the coin, it’s all too sad to have to go through such a horror to reach such an understanding. There is NO justice in this life!
Thank you, Youffraita — well done!
Crashed out early last night & missed it. Thanks again!
this day in 1973, thirty-five years ago, when the Chilean Army, with the connivance of Henry Kissinger, the CIA, and ITT corporation, overthrew the democratically-elected regime of Salvador Allende in Chile and replaced it with the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, which killed at least as many people as died in the attacks of 9/11/01, and tortured thousands more.