Sunday, September 11, 2011


Since everyone is telling their 9/11 stories today, I guess I'll share mine. Having experienced the terrorist attacks on 9/11 up close, this day always bring back terrible memories.

My wife and I were both working in the Financial District, and my wife's office was very, very close to the Twin Towers. I had walked over to my wife's office to drop something off that she had forgotten at home, and I was standing in her office waiting for her to finish a call when we heard the first plane hit the North Tower. Most people on her floor went outside to see what was going on / get a better look, because none of us had any idea what had happened. We were standing outside when the second plane hit the South Tower, although I didn't actually see the impact; it was, however, the loudest noise I've heard in my life. I thought there had been a massive explosion in the North Tower at first. Even at that point, we weren't really sure it was an attack, because we still didn't know for sure what had happened to the North Tower. People had been speculating that a plane had hit the North Tower, but no one we talked to had actually seen the plane go into the tower. All you could see was a giant hole in the side of the building with smoke pouring out.

After the second plane hit, people naturally started to panic. My wife always kept a near-lifetime-supply of bottled water in her office, so we went back inside to get them to hand out to people who were coming down the street from the WTC. Handing out bottled water seemed like a very good idea at the time; we hadn't yet realized how dangerous it was to be so close to the WTC. Partly that's because, despite what everyone says in hindsight, a lot of people still weren't sure that we were under attack even after the second plane hit, and so were just standing around staring at the towers rather than fleeing. I wasn't 100% convinced myself, because some people were still claiming that the explosion in the North Tower had been a massive pipe explosion. Anyway, after we handed out the bottled waters and made a few calls on our cell phones to check on friends who worked in the WTC, police officers started telling everyone to clear the entire area immediately. So we started moving down Liberty Street (toward the bridge).

We had only been walking away for about 60 seconds when the South Tower collapsed. I had my back turned initially, but I remember turning around when the rumbling started and seeing the massive cloud of dust and debris rushing toward us. Everyone turned and ran, and I was shocked at how quickly the cloud of dust/debris was on top of us. We barely made it half a block before the cloud effectively engulfed us. (It was very hot.) Once the dust/debris started to clear, it was just pure chaos. There's no other way to describe it. We moved as fast as we could toward the bridge, but everyone seemed to be running in different directions. (No one really knew where we were supposed to run to; "away from here" was the only real consensus.) Eventually we made it to the bridge, where, like everyone else, we remained for basically the rest of the day.

It was, obviously, the most harrowing experience of my life.


Lucy said...

Like most people, I only watched the terrible event on TV. I can't imagine what effect that would have on people like you who experienced this tragic so up close! It's just horrible... I don't know what else to say...

iteres said...

I too only watched on television so to read a more or less first hand account is appreciated. BTW the writing style whether high finance or 9/11 remains compellingly droll. Thanks

Ben Paine said...

So, having been in NY on the day the tragic event happened and seen it all unfold, do you think the West reacted with due thought? In my opinion we over reacted and our reaction was wrong (see link to blog). What are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you and your wife had to experience that. I worked at the recovery on Staten Island, never saw so much debris in my life. Ten years later, still that uncertainty of another possible attack looms, nobody knows where, perhaps not for years to come. Best to you and yours.

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I was in Nashville when the tragedy happened but too young to fully comprehend the event. I quickly build my own opinion though as an American living in France.
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