Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later… A Very Special Guest Post

Today we have a very special post.  We have approached the ten-year anniversary of September 11.  No one can forget where they were when they heard the news.  My own story is nothing special—I was not directly affected by the day—I personally knew no one who was killed, nor was I near New York City that day.  I do remember first hearing about it on the radio as I was going about my morning, heading out to the bakery to pick up a few “goodies” for my dad and a colleague of his.  I also remember first hearing the phrase “terror attack” while in the bakery.  I rushed home to tell my father what was happening, and together we watched the events unfold on television, just looking at each other with nothing to say but reading everything in the other’s eyes.  My mother was teaching that day, and for anyone in a school, they were on lock-down—no one in, no one out.  Teachers did not know what was happening, as they were not allowed to watch the news because it might have been too upsetting for the young students, not knowing whose loved ones were involved.  Living on Long Island, many of the volunteer firefighters and emergency personnel drove to New York City to help in the rescue efforts.  The highways here were shut down to allow quick and easy access for the volunteers.  Some never made it home.  It was a scary, scary day.

But my fear and sadness cannot be compared with what people saw with their own eyes, what they felt and experienced as they watched the events unfold in person on that day.

Our own SNARLing was one of those people.  Here, as part of the Philofaxy All Stars Blogging Tour, she recalls what she saw that day:


On the BQE (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway)
it's getting close to that time of year again - sept. 11. this time it's been 10 years. TEN freaking years. man, that 10 years has gone by quick. 10 years ago, i was living in flatbush in brooklyn. i was working for a furniture manufacturing company in greenpoint so i was lucky i could drive to work and every once in awhile, i could even bring my dog with me. one of my best friends was still living in williamsburg so i got to hang out with her almost every day. life was cool, except of course that the relationship i was in at the time was falling apart. i was falling apart. big time. i'm not sure what it was about that particular relationship - maybe because it was the one i was in when i turned 30 - and he was older and 'seemingly' more put together. of course, he was also an alcoholic and had fallen off the wagon shortly before we got together. great backdrop for romance, wouldn't you think? but of course i was in love, and you know how stupid people can be sometimes when they are in love.

we had broken up that summer. he was on his annual vacay in sweden and since he's such an ass, he'd call me long distance for me to check up on his house and stuff - like nothing ever happened. asshole. and since i was so stupid, i'd hang onto every little shred of maybe-we'll-get-back-together. man, i was a mess. i was that girl who'd walk down greenpoint ave. during lunch break screaming and crying on the cell. if he had any pets, i'm sure i would boil them up for him ala fatal attraction. the best thing about it all was (of course) that i lost a TON of weight and was looking real nice. and then, one beautiful, beautiful sunny not a cloud in the sky day, this happened: 



i was driving to work really worried about whatever silly little things i'd worry about on a daily basis at the time. mowgli, mostly. today i was leaving him with my friend laura in williamsburgh while i worked. she and her boyfriend had a fabrication business and she was gonna be working in their studio that day. i didn't even notice this on my way to work - that's how horribly internal i was at the time. i came into work and my boss said, "the world trade center's on fire". i thought he was joking. then he handed me the camera and said, "can you go outside and take some pictures?" wow. i saw the one tower on fire, took a bunch of pics (unfortunately, i don't have those) went inside and got my own camera, took a bunch and saw that now both towers were on fire (i missed the 2nd plane hitting THANK GOD i don't think i'd be able to handle having seen that in real life).

in case you're unfamiliar with brooklyn, greenpoint is the northern most part of it before you hit queens. it is along the river and almost directly east from 14th street in the city. williamsburgh was the up and coming hip place at the time (of course it was a complete dump still when i lived there). the williamsburgh bridge goes into lower manhattan into the old jewish ghettos - a little bit northeast from ground zero.


Click here to zoom in and out of the area.

far left marker is the world trade center; top is where i used to work, southern most point is where i used to live. ny is pretty dense, so to give you an idea, my work was only about 6.5 miles from my apartment; the wtc is only 3.5 miles away from my work. so these pics are facing southwest:


i went inside for a bit feeling guilty for not working since i was already late. none of us really knew the gravity of the whole thing - we didn't know it was because of planes crashing into them or anything really. we all just kept going in and out; in and out. i went in for a second and came back out and then there was just one tower standing. holy shit. went back in, came back out and then the 2nd tower was gone. thankfully i missed the most devastatingly horrible images of the buildings collapsing. we got sent home soon after since the phones weren't working and there really wasn't anything we could do work-wise. i was lucky since i drove to work, i wasn't stranded anywhere nor did i have to walk 3 hours to get home. i went to my friend laura's and we just listened to the radio. it was horrible. all of williamsburg was stunned. shaking their heads in disbelief. sitting around talking quietly or not talking at all, just sitting around together. people who were stranded in the towers were calling into the radio stations giving accounts of things from their perspective. i remember this one guy in particular - he was so calm about it too. i mean, new york is such an accepting what-can-you-do-sort-of-place but man,  maybe this was sort of a more-desperate-this-is-it-for-real-situation. i hoped against all hope that this guy would be saved. laura wanted us to drive upstate to get away from the city but for some reason, i didn't want to go. i knew there'd be traffic up the butt, plus there was something eerily comforting to me about it all -  the only words i could think of to describe the whole day were 'weird'  and 'surreal'. in my head, i was already a basketcase, so these horrific  things happening around me somehow didn't seem so 'off' - something  that i was so ashamed of later. since i was in that so low, completely screwed up state of mind at the time, being surrounded by a whole borough, a whole city, a whole nation grieving totally comforted me. my loss was NOTHING compared to everyone else's (luckily anyone i knew who worked in or near there was safe) so it made me get over my own shit pretty damn quick. a couple of hours later, we were able to get reception from a tv station and then we saw it. we saw the planes. i couldn't believe it. trailer for a spielberg movie, right?




BQE sept 22, 2001; 12.51p. still cloudy over there. you could still smell it. for MONTHS after even.
wow. just writing this little bit brings back all the heaviness of the time. that relationship is just a passing thought these days (thank god!) when i think back to it all, i first remember the beauty of that morning - it was such a beautiful, beautiful morning the perfect temperature, no clouds, no humidity - simply beautiful - so hard to forget with all the devastation afterwards, the heaviness of the city - man, the power of emotions - especially unified ones - mind boggling,,, the smell... can't ever forget that smell. but then all of a sudden, everyone started to have a new sense of nationalism - american flags were everywhere and and the strength and perseverance people pulled out of this whole experience --- rebuild. moving forward. we are still standing. we are united. let's roll. let's fight for years about what goes there. let's make it right. let's make it right. let's make it right.

the following year, i worked for distributed art publishers who put this book out:



i still haven't really looked at it since. the whole thing humbles me so much that even writing my experience about it all just seems so trivial. The National Geographic channel is going to run their REMEMBERING 9/11 specials from 12noonp-10p on sunday, sept, 11, and have been airing specials on it all week. I think the most important one is about the 9/11 memorial:


the strength and perseverance of humanity not to mention the complexities of the love and the hate that can exist amongst it all is in a word - overwhelming.

A huge thank you to SNARLing for sharing her experiences on this very dark day.

5 comments:

  1. Oh man, I went to my pc to read this post, the cute little iPod was impossible to use for this.
    Thank you Snarling for this incredible post! You succeed in translating the atmosphere of that day very well.
    As for me, on the other side of the ocean, I remember that even our little super-matter-of-fact country (Holland) was stunned by what was happening. The footage of the plains crashing into the towers, then the towers collapsing where repeated over and over and over again. I remember walking by the TV, with a dish towel and a plate in hand, then sitting down with my jaw dropped down. I took my baby girl (our oldest was 8 months old at the time), held on to her for the dear life of it and crying. It was as though the hole world had come to a standstill...
    During the night I got up several times because I couldn't sleep. I'd check the TV news for reassurance that there were no more attacks, that the earth was still turning, then on my way back to bed I'd stop by our daughters crib and stroke her. And I remember thinking "In what kind of world have you been born into, what will the future be like for you?".

    Eery, weird and definitely surreal.

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  2. Yes it was one of those days that I know I will not forget in a hurry. I was due to go to carry out some radio measurements at Heathrow Airport on the 12th September, so I was busy putting equipment in to our vehicle.

    I went up to the office to get my notebook to tick off things on the list and a group of engineers where stood around on their tea break watching the news after the first plane had gone in to the WTC.

    I thought oh it was a accident and carried on going through my notebook when the second plane hit... this wasn't an accident at all.

    I then thought about a friend of mine who was the girl friend of one of my engineers he was in the office and I went to see him and asked 'Where is A....' "In New York... she flies back tomorrow..why?" A.... worked for Virgin Atlantic at the time. He looked very shocked when I told him the news.

    By the end of the day my trip to Heathrow was naturally cancelled and my engineer eventually got news that his girl friend was safe and ok in New York, although it was a week before she got home on a flight.

    With the decline in air travel after that the airlines were asking for redundancies and A... decided to leave the industry, that week left a mark on her life I'm sure.

    I did eventually get to do the measurements at Heathrow but about 3 weeks later once things had started to get back to normal.

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  3. Ok I commented on this post (or tried to) while on holiday and it got eaten! :-(
    Anwyays a much shorter comment this time to than Snarling for such a personal indepth account of that very tragic day. I was catching up on some recorded shows which included a 9/11 account of the day from the people who were involved including Laura Bush, Dick Cheney etc and 10 years later video footage remains horrific. My view of the world definitely changed after that. My sympathies to the families of all those who lost their lives on that day and in the events that followed on from that.

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  4. Thanks, everyone, for sharing your experience as well.

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  5. Thank you for sharing your story. I had goosebumps whilst reading it. It is one of those days that everyone remembers what they were doing at the time. The whole world stood still and watched the
    Horror unfold.
    I know I had just got back from college and was visiting my mum. I arrived to see her watching the news and the first plane had just crashed. Sad times.
    Thank you again
    :)

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