I don't have much of a Sept 11 story, but I wanted to put it down, and today is a good day for it.
On the morning of 9/11, I woke up a little late. I had been at the hospital the day before and through the night because my step-dad was rushed there in the morning after passing out (he's ok now). I was living in Hoboken at the time.
Hoboken, New Jersey is a small city directly across the Hudson River from NYC. It boasts the births of Sinatra and Baseball on its welcome signs, but the real attraction is its spectacular views of the NY skyline, which was topped off with an unobstructed view of the WTC. That day, I arrived at the PATH station probably about 5-10 minutes after the first plane hit the North tower. The first thing I noticed was that there was a huge crowd outside the station, and I figured that there was some kind of shutdown of the PATH. I was walking with my girlfriend and I said something to that effect. She told me to look up at the WTC.
The top of the North Tower was on fire. It was a huge raging fireball, and the smoke hadn't really started up yet, so the entire tower was completely clear. My girlfriend worked on the 80th floor of the North Tower, but it was pretty easy to see that this was a little above that (because of the horizontal dark stripes of the towers--she knew where she was in relation to them). We hoped everything was ok with her co-workers, but obviously, she shouldn't go to work.
The PATH ran directly into the WTC, so that explained why it was closed (and the crowd). I worked along the 6th avenue line, and that was still running. I decided to go to work. At this point, we believed the fire to be an accident. We overheard someone say something about a plane crash. I didn't believe that, because it seemed far-fetched. Terrorism was not on my mind. It seemed just like a building on fire, albeit a huge building and a very dangerous fire.
When I got out of the PATH in NY, there were huge crowds in the street. You could see the WTC from almost anywhere in Manhattan because it was so tall. NYC guide books tell you to use it to orient yourself (the WTC is south). In the streets, I heard someone say that both towers were hit by airplanes. In Hoboken, I had seen that only the North Tower was on fire, so the other hit had happened while I was in transit. I thought for sure that this was just a rumor so I crossed 6th Avenue to get a better look. Sure enough, both towers were on fire. This was no accident.
A couple of minutes later I got to work and asked if anyone knew what was going on. No one had even heard anything yet. I told them that apparently both towers of the the WTC were hit by planes. That this was probably a terrorist attack. The internet was very slow, but we finally got to Yahoo! and read the news report. Other coworkers trickled in. We decided to close the office. I called family members in Queens (Mom and Sis) to let them know that my girlfriend was ok (they knew where she worked), and that I was headed home. I found out that my sister's best friend also worked there and she couldn't reach her cell phone (she was ok, we found out later). News reports said the MTA and the tunnels and bridges were being shut down. I decided to see if the PATH was still running.
I was lucky enough to get on the last PATH out of NYC, but it wasn't going to Hoboken--I got on anyway. I ended up at Journal Square in Jersey City along with a huge crowd. I tried to get a taxi, but that was impossible. I looked for the bus to Hoboken.
One thing about Journal Square that sticks out at a time like this is that there are a lot of religious Muslims and Muslim owned businesses. I started to worry that there would be a riot of bigoted idiots that would take it out on them. The news was showing Arabs in the middle east dancing in the streets. They looked just like the people walking the streets and running stores here. Luckily, nothing of this sort happened that day in Jersey City.
After about an hour, the bus to Hoboken came. It took over an hour to make a 10 minute trip because of the traffic and road blocks. The whole time we could see the billowing cloud of smoke where the WTC used to be, by this time they had both collapsed. Rumors on the bus were rampant. Some cell phones started working and people got news. The Pentagon was hit, there are unaccounted for planes in the air. A truck bomb has blown up outside the State Department. That last one was so wrong that I have no idea where it came from.
I got home, sat and watched the news with my girlfriend, and was lucky enough to see one of her coworkers get interviewed as she escaped. She said everyone from her company was accounted for (whew). We watched and watched, probably too much. We couldn't make calls to NYC. My girlfriend had reached her parents and sister already--they were relieved. Apparently her father was on the NJ Turnpike at the time and heard the news on the radio. He had to pull over because he thought for sure she was in the building--he was too shaken up to drive.
Work was closed for the next few days and I had a planned trip to the Poconos that Friday. We decided to leave on Thursday. Nothing like a half empty "lover's only" resort in the Poconos to help you get your head together.