September 11th Attacks, A New Yorker’s Recollection

Like many New Yorkers on Sept 11, 2001, I jumped out of bed not knowing what laid before me on that fateful day. The weather forecast was good. It was a sunny day and the sky was the deepest shade of blue that I had seen in a long time. I got in my car and drove to work and a few hours later the world changed around me.

I was working at Stamford Harbor Park in Stamford, Connecticut, when I first heard the news. I walked into the lobby of the office building and a crowd of people were standing frozen as they watched the coverage of the tragedy on the big screen TV over our heads.

The Burning Towers

I asked people what happened and the reports were all different. One man told me a plane had crashed into one of the towers. I of course couldn’t believe it. So like everyone else I stood in that lobby frozen with fear watching the horrible images on the screen, and right before my eyes a second plane crashed into the other tower. Black smoke poured from the giant holes in the side of both buildings.

My heart raced and my thoughts immediately turned to my wife Hana and Son William because they were supposed to go to the World Trade Center area that morning. I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and tried to dial her, but I kept getting a message telling me all lines were busy. My heart filled with fear and throbbed in my chest, as I wondered if my family was ok, then my phone rang, it was my wife asking me if I saw the news. I had never felt such relief in my life.

People were still standing in the lobby of the office building when I walked back in with my cell pressed to my ear watching the coverage on the news; it was now being called a terrorist attack. “Why would anyone attack us,” I wondered as I stood there feeling helpless like everyone else. The sadness I felt for the people that had died was overwhelming.

I had to go home and be with my family, so I just walked off the job and went home. It didn’t feel real until I drove home to Buchanan NY. I had been born and raised in the tri-state area and never before had I seen so many police and military vehicles stationed everywhere, they were next to dams and nuclear power plants. When I got home I hugged my wife and son and sat down on my couch and continued to watch the coverage on my TV. Grief stricken people, one after another pleaded with the camera to help them find their loved ones.

Tears streamed down my face as I wished I could help them somehow. Later in the day, I watched in disbelief as the towers came crumbling down to the ground in an ashy inferno of twisted metal. How could they be gone? Images of the towers flashed through my mind. I had been to them so many times over the course of my life. When I was a teenager the fun thing to do was to climb up on the railing and press your head against the glass in the lobby to ‘Windows on the World’ and look down to the ground.

It didn’t seem real, it couldn’t be. My wife and I drove up to Graymoor Monastery in Garrison, NY because on a clear day you could see NYC from the mountain top. We went to an area nicknamed the ‘God rock” because it is giant rock that resembled a head staring up at the sky. We climbed on top of it and looked to the horizon and saw black smoke pouring out of the horizon. It looked like the sky was bleeding, and it was, for all of the innocent people that had died that day.

The next day we decided to go to the city and see for ourselves. When we got to Manhattan the reality set in right away. We noticed everything was coated in gray ash, and papers from the towers were strewn across the streets everywhere. I hailed a cab, and instructed him to take us to Battery Park. We exited the cab and saw a makeshift memorial already in place, behind it, down the street; we saw the twisted and smoldering remains of the World Trade Center towers. The reality hit us like a fist to the gut, as the black acrid smoke filled out nostrils.

As I looked around, the world began to spin. I watched the frighten faces of crowd around me and felt an immediate connection with them, we were all family now. Then I began to notice other people, tourists standing in front of the burning ruins with looks of excitement, as they posed for pictures in front of the twisted debris. I remember wanting to smash their cameras because this wasn’t a tourist attraction, it was a giant grave. People began to yell at them, ‘shame on you!’

My life changed forever and I moved away from the area I had spent my entire life in and moved upstate. To this day I cannot watch the coverage on the news because it takes me back to that horrible day. I hope we can once again live in a world filled with peace, in the words of John Lennon, “Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.”

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Russell W. Dickson, lives in upstate NY, and is a Freelance journalist. He has written for both print and online news/opinion pages.Russell holds a B.A. in English, minor Journalism from The University at Albany, Albany, NY. His writing experience spans more than a decade and his work has graced the pages of newspapers, magazines, online news orgs, and political websites in both the U.S. and abroad.