September 11, 2001 was, and continues to be, the most tragic day of my life. Could it have been worse? Of course. But every year on this day there’s a dark cloud that settles over the city and seems to follow people. It’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room. You can’t help but talk about it, but not sure if you should because you don’t know if someone that you’re with lost someone.
I know people that never came out of the buildings that day. My friends lost parents. Others lost brothers, sisters, aunts or uncles. My father was in the World Trade Center Tower 2 when the planes hit.
Thankfully he made it out alive, and is still kicking today. Here is my story of what happened on September 11, 2001:
When I heard the news about the planes, I froze and couldn’t move. There’s no way two planes could have crashed into the WTC. To this day I still get that feeling of frozen dread through my body.
I ran to a phone and called my mother, who thankfully had just heard from my father minutes before. He was on the 82nd floor of 2 WTC when the plane hit 1 WTC. The flames from the first building engulfed his, and he immediately headed for the elevators to get out. My father was also there for the bombing in 1993 (close call 1), and knew how dangerous things could be. He wasn’t taking any chances.
The elevators in the WTC did not go from the ground all the way to the top floor; the cables just wouldn’t be long enough. Instead you had to take an express elevator to the middle of the building, and then a local elevator to your floor. My father had taken an elevator down to the middle of the building when they made an announcement that a plane had hit the other tower, but their building was okay. They advised everyone to go back to their desks.
My father, being the extremely smart man that he is, decided he wasn’t taking any chances and was getting out of the building (close call 2). When he was waiting for an elevator to the ground floor, the second plane hit his building. If my father had been in that elevator, the cable would have been severed by the plane and would have crashed to the ground (close call 3).
My father worked on the 82nd floor of 2 WTC, and the plane cut right through his floor. If he hadn’t taken the elevator down, my life would have changed dramatically in that instant (close call 4).
My father and everyone else in the building at that point had to walk down the stairs to get out of the building. When he reached the ground floor, 50-something stories later, they were moving everyone through the mall that was under the WTC and to an exit about two blocks away.
There were no trains or subways running, and all bridges were closed to cars. In order to leave the city and get home, my father would have to walk across one of the bridges (my parents live on Long Island). As he was headed that way, he heard unbelievable noises behind him and was being covered by debris. There were people yelling, “They’re shooting! They’re shooting!” (They’re was no one shooting, but at the time people didn’t know that the buildings were collapsing.) My father ran into the a pizzeria and just watched as debris and dirt rolled past, covering the front windows. (close call 5)
Once I had heard that the buildings collapsed, I began to panic all over again. What if my father didn’t get out? What if he was right outside the building and it collapsed on him? I had been calling my mother at work because that was where my father was calling her. All cellphones and pagers at that time weren’t working. My father called my mom from that pizzeria and let her know that he was okay, and was going to try and cross a bridge ASAP.
I went to my parents house to wait for my father. My mother stayed at work to hear from my father to know where to pick him up once he was outside the city. My parents house phone was ringing off the hook with everyone wanting to know if my dad was alright.
Around 3 o’clock that afternoon, my father had walked across one of the bridges out of the city and to Jamaica, Queens where there were trains running to Long Island. He caught a train and my mom picked him up at the train station. When I saw my mothers car pull into the driveway, I ran out of the house and jumped on my father. I couldn’t stop crying knowing that he was alright.
My parents house is 17 miles outside of the city, and you could see smoke from the collapsing towers for days afterwards. The city was shut down for days. My father was working from home and had to call people from his company to see who made it out alive. It wasn’t until about 2 months later that his company found office space in Jersey City to continue business as usual again.
Every year on 9/11 I can’t help but think about what happened on that day eleven years ago. All of my feelings of dread and the “What If?” thoughts are constantly going through my head. There is a constant knot in my stomach all day. I was an elevator ride away from losing my father. Even if I hear a low flying plane over head that dread fills my body. It’s a reaction that I can’t help, and will probably always be there for the rest of my life.
I am so thankful that my father made it out of the city that day, and is still around for me to annoy today : )
To anyone who lost someone on September 11, 2001, you have my deepest sympathies for your loss.