enough to take the time to read all this.
Photo © 2001 Vito Macaluso
My name is Edward Jerlin.
I am trying to make some kind of sense of September 11, 2001.
You see, I used to work in the World Trade Center.
I am trying to deal with a sense of loss & emptiness that is overwhelming me.
I am trying to organize my thoughts & experiences & put them down on paper,
well, on a hard disc, really. ;-)
This needs to come out. Therapy...
This is my "story".
It most certainly pales in comparison to many others I've heard,
but it's mine, nevertheless, which makes it... well... mine.
Nothing more; nothing less; nothing special, I guess.
Certainly, I'm one of the lucky ones.
Note: I've left off people's last names to protect their privacy.
This is largely the story of one New Yorker's "relationship" to a
couple of very tall buildings (if indeed one can have a "relationship"
to a building), & to a city he has always loved...
Thanks to Tanya Kiskanyan, a co-worker, & to Charlie Siedenburg,
a family friend, who were both gracious enough to share their pictures with me.
A very special thanks to Vito Macaluso, a co-worker, fellow Staten Islander,
and dear friend who not only took many of the pictures on this site
but is someone who shares the same love for New York City that I do.
The reason his pictures mean the world to me is that they were taken
from the perspective of a person who truly loves New York.
I grew up on Staten Island, New York City & have lived there all my life.
When I was a kid, every evening, my Mom would drive my two sisters & me to
the Staten Island Ferry terminal to pick up my Dad, who worked in downtown
Manhattan for the New York City Finance Department.
We watched the "Twin Towers" slowly go up from the other side of NY harbor,
inch by inch,
little by little,
day by day,
wondering just how tall they'd eventually get.
They eventually got pretty tall.
Dad said they were the tallest buildings in the world at that time.
Two of them...
one was not enough for NYC...
though only one of them had a cool 30-story antenna sticking out of the top.
Those towers held a fascination for me even then.
I never tired of looking at them in admiration...
Late 70's/Early 80's
As I was growing up, occasionally my Dad would let me travel into "The City"
from Staten Island after school, via the Staten Island Ferry, & meet him for
dinner, or a Mets or Knicks game after work.
A couple of views from lower deck of The Staten Island Ferry:
Another yellow SI Ferry boat is in the foreground:
Approaching the dock:
Photos © 1984, 1999, 2001 Vito Macaluso
The energy there is just amazing.
It is something that defies all words or description.
Unless you've actually been in downtown Manhattan,
you probably have no clue what I'm talking about, but that's okay.
Downtown has a feel, a pace, a flavor, an aroma, that is indescribable.
No other city is like it.
Oh, there are other cities that are just wonderful & unique for their own reasons.
Each city has its own "flavor".
But New York... that has always been magic for me.
From the first time I ever visited my Dad in "The City",
I knew I wanted to work there when I grew up, just like Dad.
But not just because of my Dad...
There was something about The City that I just gravitated towards.
It energized me in a special way that again, cannot be put into words.
How do you describe the aroma of your Mom's cooking?
Unless you've experienced it, words are not adequate.
It's a feeling... a sensation... an aura...
But I especially always wanted to know what was inside those Twin Towers.
It never occurred to me that it was just office space when I was a kid.
I just wanted to know what it was like to be in there.
It must be really special to be able to go in there...
I went to college at SUNY in Potsdam, New York, 400 miles away from home,
on the other side of the state, a few miles from Canada. During October
break of my sophomore year, I brought a couple of good college friends
home with me to visit. I played the role of "tour guide" that weekend,
not just for my friends, but for me too -- going all sorts of places
Mom would never let me go just a couple of years earlier. It was a cool
thing being able to show off "The City" to my friends & to see it anew
through their eyes.
Anyway, one of the places I just had to show them was the Twin Towers.
I had never been in them before.
I had always wanted to go there & see what it was like from the top.
Going to the top of the Twin Towers was
by far my favorite part of the weekend.
The view from there is breathtaking.
On a clear day, you can see nearly 45 miles.
The cars all look like little toy matchbox cars from up there.
Photos © 1981, 1984 Vito Macaluso
The perspective... the exhilaration...
You feel like you're on top of the world...
The Manhattan & Brooklyn Bridges over the East River:
View from the top looking north at Manhattan:
Looking south, The Statue Of Liberty & Staten Island
Photos © 1983 Edward Jerlin
I only went to the top a handful of times more in my life,
almost always to show off the view to a friend...
I graduated college with a Computer Science degree.
Went on the job search...
A search that often took me into downtown Manhattan, where the jobs were.
The idea of working anywhere else just never entered into my equation.
One day, I decided to go to the top of the Twin Towers by myself, for myself.
I distinctly remember, even at the age of 22,
wondering what was inside the rest of these two buildings!
All I had ever seen was the lobby, & the observation deck at the top.
I envied the people who worked there, especially those near the top.
That must be awesome.
Through the years, I often thought of going to the top by myself again,
but I never got around to it. It was always something I'd do "soon"...
September 9, 1986
I start my first "real" job working for Garban Computer Systems,
a subsidiary of Garban Securities, a government bond brokerage at
120 Broadway, one block southeast of the World Trade Center.
I would work in this building for 14 years, enjoying most of it.
But no matter what kind of a day I had, I always enjoyed being in
downtown Manhattan. All the famous parades up the "Canyon of Heroes"
passed right in front of 120 Broadway. I especially enjoyed peeking
at the Twin Towers all the time. I never got tired of that, nor of
the view of the skyline from New York harbor during my commute,
aboard the Staten Island Ferry.
120 Broadway as seen from The World Trade Center observation deck
Photo © 1984 Vito Macaluso
February 26, 1993
The first World Trade Center bombing.
I got in late that day because I was working from home in the morning,
helping to test & set up a phone line from work that went into my house
for the purposes of being able to work out of my home occasionally or
at night during emergencies or system problems with the London or Tokyo offices.
While on the ferry, I noticed what seemed to be an unusual
amount of fire trucks, police cars, & ambulance traffic.
I made my way to work, amid a boatload of activity, sirens, & mayhem.
I asked if anyone knew what was going on. Everyone had
heard & felt some kind of a "bang", which shook the building.
They said that the power fluttered for a few seconds, but
after that all was fine where we were.
All kinds of rumors were flying. The most prevalent one
was that a transformer in a subway station had blown.
Another was that some kind of electrical blast had occurred.
It was quite some time before the idea of it being a bomb &
the reality of that took hold.
For some reason, this did not really affect me.
I have absolutely no idea why -- but it didn't.
It sure affected my professional life for a couple of weeks...
With the Twin Towers closed, our two primary competitors,
Cantor Fitzgerald & RMJ, were temporarily out of business.
Thus, we got a boatload of trading activity -- so much that
we actually had to run an "end of day" procedure in the
middle of the day because the system didn't have enough
space to handle the activity, until we expanded the system.
Double shifts were par for the course that week...
But again, the bombing didn't affect me.
Like many others, I felt sorry for those affected,
but even though it was only a block away,
the situation didn't reach me.
I never even tried to venture over there.
I had no desire to.
I can't figure out why this is.
Was it a defense mechanism?
Apathy? Indifference? Selfishness?
The idea that the fact that this didn't affect me is
somehow wrong had never occurred to me until now.
The subject of the Twin Towers became a frequent topic of conversation
though, among New Yorkers, especially those who worked in the area.
Apparently, from what everyone was told, both by the media, & by
"insiders" who knew the buildings well (engineers, builders, etc.),
the effect of the bomb on the Twin Towers was likened to that of a
flea on one's leg, despite the extensive damage we read about in
the newspapers. None of the essential supports were affected in
The general consensus was that those buildings were indestructible.
They were built to withstand almost anything, including earthquakes,
apparently. To try to blow these buildings up was seen as pure folly.
The size of the bomb required would be so conspicuous, they'd never
be able to smuggle it in...
So life went on, although security increased noticeably for some time.
Extra cops were everywhere.
You needed to show your building pass to enter any building.
If you didn't work there, you had to get a visitor's pass.
A security guard was stationed on each floor.
Nothing major... it seemed to most of us to be more for show than anything.
Life went on...
Garban buys/merges with one of our primary competitors, ICAP,
formerly known as RMJ. Although ICAP was located in the World
Trade Center, it was generally assumed that they would be moved
to 120 Broadway with us. Their programmers were assimilated
into our staff at 120. For some time, their brokers remained at
the World Trade Center, while ours remained at 120 Broadway.
For some time, not much changed.
Some departments were streamlined;
in some cases we usurped them,
in others, they usurped us.
Each company had their strong points, & the strong points of each
were taken advantage of. The usual corporate merger stuff, I guess.
Most of this went over my head & didn't affect me. I was still
responsible for the same systems.
At some point, it was decided that we should all be located in one place.
I heard that Jersey City was being considered.
No WAY I wanted to work in some generic office building in Jersey.
I loved working in downtown Manhattan.
Then the rumors began that we were all moving to the World Trade Center.
After all these years, I'm going to see the inside of those buildings!
I'm going to see the view from there!
I did have misgivings...
but not the same ones others had:
More than a few of my co-workers expressed concerns about moving
INTO where the bombing had occurred just a few years earlier.
None of this concerned me.
I thought such talk was kind of silly, actually.
That kind of thing could never happen again.
Besides, the idea of being able to blow up the Twin Towers
seemed preposterous after the previous failed attempt.
If anything, we were probably moving into the safest place in the world.
It's just that I'm one of those people for whom change is a stressful thing.
When I was a little kid, my Mom had to warn me ahead of time if we were
going shopping or something. I had to be prepared for change.
120 Broadway was my home & although I had something to look forward to,
leaving 120 after 14 years there kind of bummed me out. And the time
& effort it took to get all the systems moved while remaining operational
was quite a task, one that required many hours of extra work for all involved.
So Garban moved into the 25th & 26th floors of 1 World Trade Center:
The northwest building -- the one with the huge 30-story antenna on the top.
The Garban Trading Floor on the 26th floor:
Note: No support columns anywhere:
Photo © 2000 Vito Macaluso
My World Trade Center All-Access 24/7 Pass
Note the little tower logos:
Photo © 2001 Edward Jerlin
Some people in other departments of the firm also moved into the
55th floor of the other building, 2 WTC. I was one of the last
people to move, finally taking up a permanent residence in October 2000.
Nevertheless, I very quickly adapted & ended up loving working there.
I admittedly was not above using my seniority to maneuver into getting
a mint window cubicle near the north west corner of the 26th floor,
overlooking the Hudson River & some monstrous sunsets.
Although the view was fantastic,
it could also be slightly frustrating to look at.
The windows were quite narrow, maybe 2 feet wide, & went from
ceiling to floor, interspersed with 2 foot-wide beams that also
went from ceiling to floor.
What this means is that you couldn't really see the whole view at once.
You kind of had to look left & right & see the whole panorama in
long narrow sections.
And you couldn't open the windows.
They were permanent.
If you've ever been to the observation deck (the top inside floor,
not the outdoor roof), you know what I'm talking about regarding the windows.
It was like that on every floor.
I've read that this design gave them a "windowless" look about them.
I guess I never realized that because I've seen the towers up close
so many times that I know what the windows look like. The windows
were kept clean by window washing machines that were automatic &
traveled up & down the side of the building!
Still, even with the semi-obstructed view, this was so cool.
The entire time I worked there, no matter where I was in the building,
I would take the time to check out everyone else's view.
The ones in the other building on the 55th floor had the best view of all,
looking south over New York Harbor towards Staten Island,
with an unobstructed view of the Statue of Liberty & the Verrazano Bridge.
Still, I told more than one person I worked with that if I had to
work on any floor higher than 26 or so, that I'd quite possibly
have to consider finding another job. Not out of any fear for my
safety or anything, but because my ears would pop all the time
from the change in air pressure when you go up that high!
Being a musician, I'm always conscious of taking care of my ears
(i.e. wearing ear plugs at loud gigs & concerts.)
Anyway, I kept planning to bring my camera to work & get shots of
the city from all the various vantage points sometime "soon"...
The View From The Trading Floor - Thanks Vito!
Photo © 2000 Vito Macaluso
When you work in the Twin Towers, the topic of conversation between
people is often the towers themselves -- especially on any windy day.
You see, the towers used to move & sway with the wind.
They were designed that way.
If they didn't bend, they'd break!!
On a windy day, you'd not only feel them sway slightly,
but you'd hear the walls creak, especially in the corners!
To some, it was kind of disconcerting, but I loved it, reveled in it even.
I enjoyed describing it to friends & family.
The towers go many, many sublevels into the ground.
When the towers were built, they were on the water's edge,
right on the edge of where the "real" Manhattan island,
the island God created, ended. They drilled & dug into the
bedrock & made this HUGE hole into which the foundation is laid.
Only bedrock could support such a construction.
To give you an idea of just how much bedrock they dug out:
They then proceeded to use what they dug out to make the
landfill that the lower west side is on -- what is now the
World Financial Center & Battery Park City.
Yes, Manhattan physically grew considerably because
of the construction of the World Trade Center.
I could go on all day with "Twin Towers trivia", but there are
many other sources to get that information. But I did want to
share a couple of aspects which stood out the most for me.
I get a jury duty notice to appear on April 11.
In New York, jury duty is mandatory; there are no exemptions
for anyone anymore. However, they are fair about it.
You're allowed to defer it once to a date of your choosing,
from 2 to 6 months after your summons date.
The deadline for a new Garban trading system in Australia was
fast approaching, & it was deemed by management that I could
not serve on jury duty at this time. I didn't agree; I felt
I'd be able to make my deadline -- but I couldn't guarantee it. (sigh)
So my boss Gordon & I picked another time. Since jury duty can
last from 2 days to a number of weeks, depending on if you get
picked for a case or not, we had to check the schedule carefully.
Many people were on vacation in August, including me for two weeks.
I certainly didn't want jury duty affecting my vacation plans,
so we decided to go for a week in September when everyone would
be back, but before new systems would be due.
We opted for the first full week, September 10.
1st Week of August, 2001
My family vacation to Tennessee/North Carolina, which was wonderful.
The people & the Blue Ridge Mountains are all incredible, even
amidst some of the cheesiest (but fun) attractions I've ever encountered.
The difference between Newark Airport in New Jersey & the airport
in Tennessee is striking. In a nutshell, there is no security
in the least in Tennessee. You just pretty much walk right in to
your plane after checking in. Everything is open & nobody checks
anything once you've checked your bags in.
My wife Kirsten, who really doesn't share my love of New York,
keeps noting the difference & how nice & open & relaxing the
Tennessee airport is. No crowds. No rush. No hassle.
It is difficult to argue with her on this.
Monday, August, 20, 2001
A good friend of mine Roddy is visiting from Pennsylvania over the weekend.
He joins me in the city for lunch. He grew up on Staten Island
before his parents moved to Pennsylvania before his senior year
of high school. He plans to move back here soon because he loves
it here; it's home to him. After lunch, I encourage him to check
out the top of the twin towers, which is something he'd never
done despite having lived here.
As we approach the escalator, Roddy asks me to join him.
"Nah, it's getting a little late; I've taken a much longer
lunch today than I really should. I'll see you later."
I watch him go up the escalator & I head back to work.
Unknown to me at the time, he changes his mind & decides
not to go up there by himself. There are other things
he wants to do & see while he's here.
The twin towers' observation deck can wait until next time...
Some time during the 3rd week of August 2001
I will attempt to set this scene & attempt to adequately describe & explain it.
I had an epiphany of sorts, a moment in time, a realization, an awareness...
I am absolutely not making this up.
This really happened.
It's lunch time.
It's a lunch time like any other normal day.
Nothing unusual, really.
I've finished my lunch & I've decided to enjoy a small
piece of what's left of the summer, my favorite season.
It is an absolutely gorgeous day:
blue skies, a couple of clouds drifting by,
85 degrees, nice breeze, near perfect.
What an absolutely delightful summer it's been...
I'm sitting in what I'd call a HUGE courtyard that
is situated in the middle of the World Trade Center.
In the middle of the courtyard is a nice interesting
waterfall-type thingy with a globe-like statue in the middle.
Around it, laid out in circles is a place for lots of people to sit.
Below is a massive underground shopping mall.
In front of me & to the left of me are the Twin Towers
as I face west towards the north tower, the one I work in.
There have been free concerts in this courtyard all summer long,
both during lunch hour & in the evening, but today, it is quiet,
probably because I'm eating a late lunch, because I got in late
that day, which is kind of the norm for me. ;-) Anyway...
I'm sitting here looking up...
& up... & up... & up... & up...
at these towers.
Photo © 2001 Vito Macaluso
Photo © 1983 Edward Jerlin
I'm feeling good -- thinking about the summer I've had,
the family vacation I recently took to Tennessee,
the vacation/honeymoon I've got coming up next week in
Montauk, Long Island, the Yes (progrock band) concert I
had just seen in Philadelphia, & the Yes concerts I had
to look forward to in a couple of weeks at Jones Beach &
Radio City Music Hall...
And it hits me like a ton of bricks all at once.
The moment probably lasted all of 5-10 seconds...
The thoughts zipping through my head very quickly...
But these thoughts bring an uncontrollable smile to my face...
"Wow, Jerlin, life is GOOD! This is IT!
You are exactly where you've always wanted to be right now.
You've got a freakin' corner office at ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER
overlooking the Hudson River, working for some great bosses,
doing what you've always wanted to do, working where you've
always wanted to work.
When someone asks me where I work, I get to say with pride
'ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER, BABYYYIIIEEE!'
This is THE place to be.
When you say ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER,
everybody knows exactly where you are.
You've been taking this whole scene for granted for too long, Jerlin.
Work or no work, daily grind or no daily grind,
you've got to wake up & appreciate what you get to go to every day..."
This moment is so vivid to me.
It passed very quickly, but it woke me up -- gave me an awareness --
that indeed, carried vaguely, but measurably & sometimes even
euphorically into the next couple of weeks, although not with
the clarity & acuteness of feeling that I had at that moment.
I am so thankful that I had this moment.
It is a moment that taught me something valuable.
It is a moment I will cherish forever...
Friday, September 7, 2001
I leave work a little early so I can catch the Long Island
Railroad out to Kirsten's parents' house, where I'll be
meeting her for the Yes concert in Jones Beach.
It's not often that I get to leave work early on a Friday.
Friday is usually when we install new systems, because there's
no London or Tokyo system to worry about over the weekend.
But I'm not installing anything because I've got jury duty
next week & will not be here to support the system.
Besides, I've got a Yes concert to go to!
Little did I know that this would be the last time I'd ever
see my desk, my "professional home", some very special sentimental
photos, a lot of my "stuff", some of which is irreplaceable,
my ugly one-of-a-kind very-old green chair that followed me
from 120 Broadway that leans back a certain way at just the
right angle unlike any other chair I've ever sat in for
maximum comfort so as to fit my slouching without giving me
a backache, (I've turned down offers of a new chair zillions
of times & even recovered that chair from the scrap heap
twice over the years because a well-meaning person tried to
replace it with a new one), & this view of the Hudson River.
I'd like to say that my memory of this moment is vivid.
Alas, I cannot.
At best, it's a fuzzy memory because it was completely unremarkable.
How many "moments" do we have in our life that are like this?
We can appreciate life's moments as we look back on them,
yet life can only be lived forwards...
Life does not have a "rewind" button, except in our memories...
some of which are recorded & etched in our mind clearly,
others of which pass by unremarkably & are seemingly gone forever...
beyond our grasp, beyond our ability to recall or remember...
Saturday, September 8, 2001
The Yes concert at Radio City Music Hall is probably the best
concert I've ever experienced. Yes are playing with the Long
Island Symphony for the second night in a row & the sound is
crystal clear. There is no better place to hear a concert
from an aural perspective. They don't call it "The Great Hall"
for nothing! It is the last concert of Yes' North American
I'm getting to hear the orchestrations in exquisite detail for the first time.
I hear French Horns.
I hear flutes.
I hear glockenspiels.
I hear harps.
I hear woodwinds.
I am eating up & relishing every single moment of this concert.
Okay, you're probably asking what the relevance of this is.
The relevance is that this was one of those little "peaks" in my life.
And it would be the last time that I'd be able to truly enjoy music for some time.
And it's relevant because of what Jon Anderson, Yes' lead singer,
poignantly said at one point during the concert. Since I recorded
the show, here's a word-for-word transcription of some of Jon's
"Thank you so much, great to be here in NEW YORK CITYYYYYIIIEEE!
We always seem to arrive at nighttime, get into the hotel and
you wake up in the morning get out in the street you go,
'[gasp/inhale] wow it's New York City!'
It's wonderful... crazy... (pause)...
How do you do it?"
"This is the end of our tour.
It couldn't have happened at a better place or a better time for us."
Reportedly, Yes & their entire road crew left NYC on Monday night,
the last "normal" night NYC would see for a long, long, time...
Sunday, September 9, 2001
This is the 15th anniversary of my working at Garban.
After church, our new pastor asks me where I work.
I answer someone for the last time,
"The 26th floor of 1 World Trade Center!"
Monday, September 10, 2001
I report to jury duty.
The courthouse is right by the Staten Island Ferry terminal,
one block from water's edge & a beautiful view of the harbor,
The Statue of Liberty, numerous landmark bridges, & in my opinion,
THE view of the Manhattan skyline.
Jury duty is generally pretty boring.
You do a lot of sitting around waiting to be called for a case.
We get more than a few speeches via the judge, a video, & some
pamphlets apologizing for our inconvenience, & reminding us of
the importance of doing our civic duty. Personally, I've always
enjoyed jury duty & never seen it as an inconvenience. I've
always considered it to be a privilege. It would be nice to be
picked for a case someday, but I guess I'm just too opinionated
to be seen as neutral on anything. ;-)
Anyway, to help mitigate our boredom, they've got
television screens lined up along each wall of a large room.
They are playing a movie.
The movie they are playing is "Armageddon", the "big asteroid will
hit the earth but Bruce Willis & his boys will save the day" movie.
I kid you not.
Some other Staten Islanders who I've told this to have told me,
"They played that when I had jury duty!"
There is one scene in the movie where a bunch of asteroids rain
down on New York City. I'm watching all kinds of famous landmarks,
including the Twin Towers, get hit by flaming asteroids, some of
which appear to hit the very windows I'd probably be looking out of.
I smirk & roll my eyes.
Never one to lack an opinion/criticism about anything, I think to myself,
"This is so stupid! This is insulting my intelligence!
Asteroids of that size would have burnt up long before they
got through the atmosphere. And even if they did get through,
the chances of them hitting New York are miniscule!"
Little did I know that the next day I'd be seeing the real thing...
Oh, there's more to this day. Yikes, I almost forgot about this.
Right next to the ferry terminal, they've built a brand new stadium
for the minor league "Staten Island Yankees". My opinion of using
taxpayers' money to build it to make some rich owner who was born
with a silver spoon in his mouth richer, not to mention taking away
precious parking for the average commuter/working-stiff is unprintable
in a public place.
Since I had been taking the express bus to work every day
since we moved to the Twin Towers, I hadn't seen the stadium,
or the esplanade/park they've built along the north shore.
Today was my first look at it.
Part of the selling point of the park is its
gorgeous view of the harbor & the city skyline.
I have to grudgingly admit that they've done quite a nice job of it,
especially the park which spans quite a bit of the water's edge.
This area was a virtual dump for decades.
Amazing that they could build this in about six months,
yet it's taken them twelve years to rebuild the Brooklyn-Queens
Expressway & the end of the expressway construction will probably
be beyond the end of my lifetime. Money talks, I guess.
At any rate, after they dismiss us from jury duty around noon,
I take a good hour or so to enjoy the new scene & drive slowly
along the shore.
It seems that I'm almost the only one here at the midday hour.
I enjoy the solace.
I'd like to be able to say that this was one of those
"awareness" moments like that lunch hour I had a couple of
weeks ago, but alas, this is destined to be merely one of
those "I wish I had remembered/appreciated it more" experiences.
This was to be the last time I'd ever see the city I grew up with.
How I wish I could hit the rewind button on my life.
I'd play this hour over & over...
Excuse me while I wipe away a tear here...
What follows is my recollection of September 11, 2001.
It meanders between past & present tense,
so as to attempt to adequately explain what I went through.
It is a rambling account.
Please take it for what it is...
Tuesday, September 11, 2001
I'm not due at jury duty until 9:30am.
The extra sleep is most welcome.
I've been told that unless I'm called for a case,
this will be my last day of jury duty. Bummer.
(Oops, did I say that? I hope my boss doesn't read this!)
My wife Kirsten takes my daughter Megan to school & I'm in the
house alone. I take my shower, get dressed & go downstairs.
I'm eating breakfast in my kitchen when I hear a distant "boom"
that causes the house to vibrate just slightly -- not an actual
shake or anything; just one of those "sympathetic vibration"
type of things.
I think to myself,
"Are they still doing construction around here?
Will it ever end?" Yes, it sounded close by.
(In piecing my personal time line with what went down,
I've determined that this must have been the sound of the
second plane hitting the south tower. I'm guessing that I
was in the shower for the first plane hitting the north tower.)
I get my wallet, my keys, & my cell phone, which is provided by
my employer so that they can get in touch with me at any time.
I turn on my cell phone as I'm walking to the car & I see that
I have a voice mail waiting for me. A voice mail at this time
in the morning almost always means there's a problem at work
with one of my systems that requires my assistance.
"Sigh... I don't need this !#$% now.
This was supposed to be a nice day.
I wonder what the problem is this time? (frustrated sigh)"
I sit down in my car & dial in for the message.
It's my wife, Kirsten.
My immediate reaction is "oh good, it's not work."
The signal is intermittently breaking up, & my ears kind of
"relaxed" as soon as I hear that it's her, so I miss out on
a few details of what she says. Nevertheless, I've still
got the message saved on my voice mail.
Here's what she said:
Robotic operator: "Tuesday, September 11, 9:02AM"
Kirsten: "Hi Ed, um, there is a huge fire at the World Trade
Center I don't know if your building is going to be affected
by this or not but (pause) you should check in with them, ah,
it's all over the news it's incredible, I, I just hope that
nobody's hurt it doesn't look like it's on your floor, um,
and I don't know what building it is. But anyway, I'm so
glad you're not there right now (exhale)
I'll talk to you later, talk to you later, bye."
For some odd reason, I opt to save this message.
I rarely do this & there was no real reason to save it.
So I think to myself,
"Well, I'm running late.
I'll check in with work after I get to jury duty.
I'm sure it's no big deal."
Kirsten would normally be in the city every Tuesday for vocal
instruction (she's a singer/music teacher.) For some reason,
I thought she was calling me from the city from a vantage point
of being a first-hand witness. I had completely forgotten that
this week, she had switched to Monday in anticipation of
starting her part-time teaching job on Tuesdays & Wednesdays.
She was actually calling me from the gym.
I turn on the radio as I do every morning on my way to the
bus stop, except this time, I'm driving to the courthouse.
The radio is set for 660AM WFAN sports talk radio from the
Mets game from the night before. At this time in the morning,
Imus is on.
My thoughts, which went by very quickly:
"They're talking about the World Trade Center fire!
Cool, I'll be able to hear what's going on. What?!
Two planes? One hitting each tower? When did this
go down? Two planes? Two? Is that right? They must
have that wrong. Two? If so, that ain't no accident!
Could that be the boom I heard? Did this just happen, then?
Nobody from work has called me; it must not be too bad."
I immediately switch to News Radio 880AM WCBS.
I remember being pretty calm at this point.
I clearly remember thinking, word-for-word,
"Well, I'm heading towards the north shore & the harbor.
Maybe I'll be able to see something from there."
I wince when I recall that thought.
I was not prepared for the scene I was about to see.
When the towers first came into view, my heart skipped.
The smoke was unbelievable.
Black black smoke.
Lots of it.
The towers looked like two smoke stacks.
And I could actually see flames coming out of one of the floors of my building.
It was ugly.
Now I was concerned.
These were taken from New Jersey, northwest of the Trade Center.
That's the Verrazano Bridge to Staten Island in the background to the right.
Photos © 2001 Charlie Siedenburg
I have to concentrate on the road.
I'll look at it after I park.
Still, there's no avoiding seeing the smoke.
How much smoke could there be?
Where's the end of it?
I park my car about a ten-minute walk from the
courthouse because there's no parking around there.
I proceed to Richmond Terrace, which goes along the
north shore, overlooking the harbor.
I can't believe what I'm seeing:
Two black smoke stacks with thick, black smoke, which the
wind is steering east towards the right as I look north.
The smoke appears to cover half of Brooklyn & extends out
towards & beyond the Verrazano Bridge, which connects
Brooklyn with Staten Island.
There is no end to the smoke.
It goes out beyond the horizon.
It's black the whole way out.
(In all the television coverage I saw, I did not see a single
"distance" shot that came anywhere near adequately conveying the
amount of smoke there was that covered miles & miles of the city.
I did see one satellite picture which showed all of New York City.
The towers & the smoke could be seen clearly.
The end of the trail of smoke was off the end of the picture.)
I'm passing by a number of people as I walk along Richmond Terrace.
I mention to a few that I was supposed to be there, but I was
heading to jury duty today. Some of them look at me as if I'm a ghost.
Most of them say, "God bless you!" One elderly woman gives me a hug!
I ask a lot of questions.
Nobody seems to know anything -- until I speak with
one guy who tells me that he saw the second plane hit.
He described it as coming in low right over his head,
right over Staten Island, from the south, over the harbor,
& hitting the tower head on.
I ask him to describe it again, because I'm trying to fathom it,
but he politely declines. Maybe he's lying? Later on, someone
else describes the same thing. Eesh. This made my skin crawl.
He wasn't lying.
I keep trying to call work from my cell phone, using the
"walkie-talkie" function, via which you can directly ring
anyone on our network with a press of a button. Not really
thinking clearly, I first try ringing up my "roommate" Burt,
who shares my cubicle. He just happened to be the first
person I thought of. No answer. Busy. I keep trying.
Nothing but busy beeps. It hits me that I should try my boss,
Gordon. Nothing. Busy. More busy beeps.
I keep trying until I reach the courthouse to no avail.
I linger at the entrance for a couple of minutes,
but it's past time to go in.
I guess I have an excuse to be late today.
I go through the metal detector & go to the front desk.
Everyone seems to be pretty calm. Nobody knows much.
They tell me that there will probably be a delay because
one of the lawyers is coming from Manhattan, but that's all they know.
One guy in the corner has his Walkman radio on.
I go sit by him.
It's there that I find out that the Pentagon has been hit.
WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?!
Now I'm incredulous, in shock.
This was definitely no accident.
This is surreal.
I remember thinking, "This is a 'Kennedy assassination' moment."
I always wanted to have a "where were you when..." moment.
Now, I regretted ever thinking that.
I can't explain these moribund thoughts, or why I had them.
I'm merely relaying them as best as I can remember.
At this point, what was on the radio was like a blur.
I remember going to the front desk asking questions & not really
getting any answers, but I couldn't tell you what I asked or what
they said, but they were quite patient with everyone.
I went back to my seat & listened to this guy's radio, but I
couldn't tell you what was said. I gave up trying to ring up
Gordon, as the phone could not get a connection from inside this
building & the "busy beep" was getting annoying to all around me.
I was recalling the smoke.
It was up high towards the top, I think.
It had looked like everything on our floor was okay.
The smoke was going up & out over Brooklyn, not down.
Oh God, those people near the top.
Oh... I can't think about that.
I won't think about that...
Some woman comes in & screams,
"ONE OF THE TOWERS JUST COLLAPSED!
THE BUILDING COLLAPSED!!"
Everyone runs out of the courthouse.
Nobody tries to stop us.
I'm never one for a "mob mentality", or "rubber-necking",
but I'm out of there with everyone else, heading down the
steep hill one block towards the water.
I'll try to describe the view from there.
If I thought there was smoke before, I was wrong.
Now there was smoke.
The north tower, the one on the left, the one with the antenna,
the one I worked in, is standing. I can see the lower half of it,
and the top of the antenna sticking up through the top of the smoke,
which is obscuring the upper half of the building.
The smoke is completely obscuring the other tower... or so I thought.
The smoke was beginning to obscure the north tower.
But the top of the antenna was still sticking up through the top.
I think we were all waiting to see just how much of the other
tower had caved in. You couldn't see any of it through the smoke.
I was kind of expecting to maybe see the top portion in some kind
of state of disrepair, or something.
Slowly, the smoke eventually began to clear a little...
Where's the tower?
The smoke must still be too thick for us to see it.
The smoke continued to clear enough to see the buildings behind the
south tower. No. Something's wrong. Something's very wrong here.
Where's the other tower?
It can't just be... be... gone.
It totally collapsed?
None of it is there? That can't be!
Many of us standing there went through the same bit at that point.
No. No... Oh... oh !#$%... oh... God...
That's when I lost it.
I completely lost it.
I was standing on the courthouse steps, & I just sat
down & put my head in my hands, weeping uncontrollably.
Photos © 2001 Charlie Siedenburg
Nobody thought a tower would go down.
Nobody thought one could go down.
I don't think that possibility occurred to anyone.
I've yet to meet a single person who conceived that
either tower would topple.
Finally, I heard a couple of people who saw it describing it as
going straight down, caving in on itself. That seems impossible,
but yet, if my memory of the skyline is right, all of the other
surrounding buildings are somehow still there.
Wow, it didn't topple over?
Just straight down?
We had people in there on the 55th floor.
I won't think about that.
The antenna is still sticking up through the top of the smoke.
Look at it!
It's so thick!
It's covering all of downtown!
Then another thought crossed my mind...
something I'm not sure anyone around me considered.
I'm so glad I was wrong about this, but I thought,
"Oh my God, everyone in downtown Manhattan is going to die
because they can't possibly breathe through all of that!"
Photo © 2001 Charlie Siedenburg
That thought completely overwhelmed me for about a minute or so.
I drove that thought out.
I've got to think clearly.
The antenna is still sticking up through the top of the smoke.
We're still okay.
That tower collapsing was a complete fluke.
That's not supposed to happen.
Then all kinds of weirdo thoughts start running through my head.
"Oh my, what the heck will the skyline look like with only one tower?"
Yes, I was actually trying to picture the skyline with only one tower.
In my head, it came out... wrong.
Then another overwhelming thought hit me:
"We'll never be able to call them the Twin Towers again."
That thought overwhelmed me & saddened me greatly.
But what a weird thing to think.
I was mourning the freakin' building!
What was wrong with me?
The antenna is still sticking up through the top of the smoke.
I've long since given up on trying to ring up Gordon.
Everyone around me is getting busy signals on their cell phones.
My understanding is that nearly all communications seem to go
through the World Trade Center, via that huge 30-story antenna.
The antenna is still sticking up through the top of the smoke.
We're still okay.
But that smoke... how could anyone survive that?
No, don't think about that.
Oh no... oh my God...
I don't know why it didn't hit me until now,
but the realization hit me hard:
My sister Susan works on the 25th floor right below me!!
What is wrong with me?
Why didn't I think of that?!
This instantly renews my futile cell phone activity.
I'm trying to ring up my sister who has a phone just like mine.
That was a connection beep!
I know it was!
I got a connection, but I had erroneously taken my thumb off the
walkie-talkie because I was just pressing it in rapid-fire fashion.
In order to talk, you need to hold the thumb down. Keep trying, Jerlin.
"Sue? Sue!! Are you there? It's Ed! This is Ed! Where are you?
I'm on Staten Island. I'm on jury duty.
Can you hear me? Where are you?"
I actually get a digi-noise-garbled message from her.
I can make out "I'm on the ferry" somewhere in the middle.
My first good news of the day.
I begin sobbing all over again.
Through garbled messages, I ascertain that she's on her
way to Staten Island. I see a ferry boat, but it seems
to be going towards Manhattan. Somebody is confused.
Why would any boat be going towards Manhattan, towards all that?
Oh, right. To help people get out of there. Duh.
The confusion is mine. I'm not thinking clearly.
Get it together, Jerlin. You need to think clearly.
I'm sure I heard she was coming here.
"Sue, do you want me to wait here for you?
I'm on the corner of Schuyler & Richmond Terrace."
Very dumb question.
What else should I do?
Go home without her? Not.
I ascertain that she's definitely coming here.
"Where are you? I can't see your boat."
The smoke covers at least a third of the harbor,
& a good portion of Brooklyn & far beyond.
Oh my, how could anyone survive that?
I am overwhelmed again.
I have to remind myself that my sister is okay.
That's good news.
The antenna is still sticking up through the top of the smoke.
We're still okay.
Oh God, I hope Mom doesn't know about this.
If she sees this, she will completely freak out.
Mom & Dad are in Boston right now.
Dad is getting his annual physical from Boston University Medical
Center because of this rare disease amyloidosis he had that is
only treated in Boston. We almost lost him, but the experimental
treatment he got 6 years ago has worked a miracle. I hope Mom &
Dad don't know about this. Can't think about that now.
I can't do anything about that right now.
I'm sure that Kirsten (my wife) must be uptown by now.
At least she's okay. I don't know how she'll get home, though.
I'll probably have to pick up Megan (my daughter) from school.
Someone begins yelling that they're closing the courthouse & that
they're giving out certificates that prove you did your civic duty.
I take another look & I see another ferry emerging from the smoke.
That must be Sue's ferry.
She won't be here for at least another 15 minutes.
So I go back to the courthouse. What else can I do?
I walk in, & there's a guy calling out people's names.
Amazingly enough, I'm the third name I hear.
I get my certificate. He tells me I'm all done with jury duty.
Photo © 2001 Edward Jerlin
I go back down the hill to the shore.
Photo © 2001 Charlie Siedenburg
WHERE'S THE ANTENNA?
It can't be gone!
But people are talking about it falling straight down like the other one.
Twins to the end.
At this point, everything is a blur.
My memory is pretty foggy.
I remember still hoping that part of the building was still standing
underneath all that smoke, that maybe something was left of it.
But mostly, I just remember all the smoke.
Photo © 2001 Charlie Siedenburg
Nothing you've seen on television could begin to convey the amount of smoke there was.
So I sit & wait for my sister.
I don't know how long it took, but it seemed to take a long time.
Efforts to ring up Gordon were fruitless.
God, I hope they got out of there somehow.
But the smoke... where could they have gone to get out of that?
Photo © 2001 Charlie Siedenburg
The idea that anyone I worked with could be gone is too
overwhelming to contemplate. I refuse to mourn anyone
in any way unless/until I find anything out.
That's the only way to deal with this.
I'm assuming they all got out. Period.
But everything I've worked on for 15 years is gone.
It was all so overwhelming.
People were taking pictures & videotaping.
That seemed "wrong" to me.
I had earlier very briefly entertained the thought of going back to
get my camera but immediately felt the "wrongness" of doing that,
although I can't explain why it seemed "wrong", given that I've been
morosely looking at any picture anyone has with a moribund fascination.
The ferry has been docked for some time, but still no sign of my sister.
"Sue, where are you?"
"I'm almost there, be patient."
A couple of minutes later:
"Ed, where are you, I'm right here."
"Where? I'm on the steps."
"I don't see you."
"Where are you?"
"I'm right on the corner."
We were 10 feet from each other for a good minute before we saw each other.
I never hugged my sister so tight before.
Her friend Cheryl was with her.
Somehow they found each other.
After we cried & hugged & did whatever else it was we did,
we slowly made our way towards my car, along the water's edge.
At this point, I did a lot of listening & asked a lot of questions.
What follows is probably a poor second-hand description of what
she went through until we met up.
Turns out that my sister was late for work. (typical Jerlin trait)
She was supposed to be in at 8:30, but was running late & hit a
boatload of traffic to boot. She was in one of the last busses
to come out of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel into Manhattan.
The bus driver let everyone off just outside the tunnel without
even going on to the street because there was nowhere to go,
as traffic was at a complete standstill.
Just after she got off the bus, the second plane hit.
She described the sound as the most sickening thing she'd ever heard:
A loud roar followed by a tremendous crunching noise, that continued
on & on in waves for 10-20 seconds. She had no idea what the heck
was going on, but she saw a lot of people running towards her,
from the north.
She thought to herself,
"Whatever it is, it must be bad. I'm a 10 minute walk from
the Trade Center from here & people are running here."
Then she got a look of the flames & decided she had to find her
friend Cheryl who worked on Broadway. She just did not want to
be alone. She briefly panicked, but then calmed herself down with
the thought, "Nobody cares about you & your own little problem.
Everyone else is dealing with his or her own problem.
Get a grip & get out of here."
Somehow, Sue & Cheryl found each other just outside Cheryl's office building.
From there you couldn't see the towers which are obscured by other buildings.
So they went back to a spot where you could see them.
There were lots of people standing around, completely quiet,
just looking, saying nothing except an occasional quiet muttering,
"oh my God." At that point my sister decided they needed to leave
Manhattan, so they made their way to the ferry.
My sister never looked back after that.
She didn't see anything because she didn't want to see.
The boat had just come in, & the people on the boat were getting off.
It was kind of chaotic, but then again, it always is when those
getting off are mixing with those trying to get on. She got on the
boat & sat on the "outside" portion on the upper deck. (For those
familiar with the Staten Island Ferry, this was one of the "new" boats,
where "outside" is really kind of inside with the huge windows open.
In the winter, they're closed.)
The boat sat there for an inordinate amount of time.
It didn't occur to my sister that they were probably waiting
as long as possible so as to let as many people get on as possible.
She just wanted to leave.
At some point, one of the towers collapsed.
They had no idea what was going on, but the smoke started coming in.
My sister opted to stay outside & breathe through her shirt,
where there were not too many people, rather than go inside &
be claustrophobic & crowded. It didn't occur to anyone to close
the windows. Leaving them open was supposed to result in fresh air.
At this point, after a mostly orderly & calm atmosphere,
people began to panic & a couple of people were trying
to get under her seat to get at her life preserver!
She yelled back at them & told them to calm down & get
their own !#$% life preserver! After some time of panic,
many other people, including Sheryl, were yelling for
people to calm down. It seemed to work.
At some point, the ferry finally began to move.
Turns out it was the last boat out of there for some time,
because the boats would not be able to dock due to the smoke,
because you couldn't see more than a couple of feet in front of you.
She described the smoke as this light tan/grayish powdery mist,
with these metallic sparkly things floating around -- kind of
like pixie dust.
She had turned the volume down on her cell phone. She hadn't
tried to call anyone because she saw that nobody else's around
her had worked. But she looked down at hers & saw my name pop
up on the screen.
She had no idea I was on jury duty & had thought I was in the building.
She knew at this point that I had at least tried to call her.
Through the garbled messages, she got "jury duty" & "Schuyler & Richmond
Terrace" & the asinine "do you want me to wait for you?" question. ;-)
Anyway, as we looked out at a smoke-buried Manhattan,
we decided that there was nothing left to see.
Photo © 2001 Charlie Siedenburg
Anyway, we walked to my car, turned on the radio, & slowly drove
Cheryl home. Although others on Staten Island have described
chaotic traffic, my recollection is that everyone was extra
courteous & moving at a solid 15mph out of sheer numbness,
although maybe it was just me & my own numbness going at 15 mph...
We were supposed to go & vote in the NYC mayoral primaries,
but we heard on the radio that the election was postponed.
I then went to Sue's house. I had thought that my wife Kirsten was
in the city, so calling home would have been useless. So I thought.
And I didn't want to be alone, so I stayed with Sue for awhile.
She had all kinds of calls from friends & family on her answering
machine, but strangely enough, nothing from Mom & Dad. Good!
Maybe they somehow didn't know what had happened!
(They couldn't get through, but I had no way of knowing this.)
One message was from one of her supervisors at work who lives on
Long Island & wasn't due in until 11am. We called him back.
He had heard from & named 4-5 people from our job that he knew
had gotten out okay.
That's good, very good.
If some of them got out, maybe it's possible that most of them or
even all of them did. I wonder about those on the 55th floor of the
other building, though. I can't let myself thing about that right now.
We had to call Mom & Dad & let them know we were okay.
Sue had the number at the hotel they were staying at in Boston.
It was hard to get through, but eventually we did.
We left a message at the front desk.
Turns out Mom & Dad were at Boston University Hospital with Dad
getting a blood work-up when they found out about the planes
hitting the towers. Once the nurses & doctors found out that
they had two kids who worked there, they brought, no, shepherded
my parents into one of the doctor's offices, away from any news
or television. Apparently, they heard that one of the buildings
had collapsed & did not want my parents to know about that until
they could ascertain if we were okay or not. My Mom had to be
calmed down & reassured. They let Mom use one of the doctor's
email to try to email my sister & me, since no phones were getting
through. Somehow, at some point, the message we left with the
hotel got through to them as: "SON AND DAUGHTER OKAY. HOME."
It was after they got this message that they found out about the
buildings collapsing. I am very grateful for the way the doctors
& nurses compassionately handled my parents. Knowing my Mom,
they quite possibly spared her a complete panic attack/meltdown/heart
Anyway, back at my sister's house, the phone rings.
She's home! HOME? How did you get home? Oh...
She was worried about Sue & decided to call there.
She was worried about me too, just in case jury duty ended & I
had decided to go in for some reason. I felt bad that I hadn't
called home, but she understood why I hadn't.
Anyway, I didn't want to leave Sue alone, but I wanted to see Kirsten.
So I lingered for awhile, & then invited Sue over. She declined.
"Call me or come over if you need me for anything."
The rest of the day is kind of hazy.
Lots of calling people & getting calls from people &
telling parts of this rambling story over & over again.
Lots of hearing from very dear friends whom I hadn't heard from
in quite some time -- college buddies & the like, some of whom
knew I worked in the Twin Towers, all of whom knew I worked
"in the city".
It was incredibly difficult to get through on the phones.
I didn't want to use my cell phone (not that it would have worked)
because the battery charger was at work. I wanted to save the
battery time for when I'd need it. I figured this was it for
the cell phone anyway. No job, no phone.
Lots of watching television.
(I watched more television this week than I do in a year...)
I complained & protested when my wife insisted we get cable TV last year.
I had held her off for years until my whole extended family wailed on
me for not getting cable for her at a family cousin's party last year. ;-)
Our not having cable TV had become a running family joke...
I didn't even find out until much later that anyone without cable
TV in New York had no reception for weeks because all of the
television stations transmitted via the 30-story antenna on top of
1 World Trade Center! Only CBS channel 2 could be seen because they're
the only ones who had a backup transmitter at the Empire State Building.
I'll never hear the end of this. ;-)
Anyway, I did have Gordon's home phone number, the only home phone
number I had from anyone at work, because it was in my wallet,
whereas, all other numbers were in a file at work -- now buried in
a pile of rubble. So at some point, I called him & eventually got
through. He was there, as were a number of other people from work,
including my other boss Greg. Amid a lot of crazy conversation,
& some relaying of stories (which I'll get into later), I got a
couple of important things out of the call:
1. As far as they knew, everyone who worked
for us was accounted for & got out safely.
I had no idea how they could know this,
but I was not about to question it.
I was all too happy to accept this completely at face value.
2. All of upper-level management was going to have a meeting
tomorrow morning in Jersey City somewhere & decide what,
if anything, to do. Sit tight, & they'd call me soon & let
me know what, if anything, would be going on.
My next door neighbor, Joe, is a fireman.
He has 8-year old quadruplets: two boys & two girls.
I find out that he's okay; he wasn't there when the buildings
came down, but the entire department got called in & he's
either there or on his way there now. He's a good man & a
great father to his kids. Ah, any description I give of him
will be inadequate here. Suffice to say, I don't think he has
any idea just how much I admire him. We really don't speak
with each other that often. He & all of his brothers in the
Fire Department will forever be my heroes.
I really need to tell him this soon.
I get a call from a dear Internet friend, djp.
He & I help run a Yes (the band I saw Friday & Saturday night)
email discussion group. It occurs to me that I should send out
an email letting all those who know me 2-dimensionally as a bunch
of words on a computer screen & as a nutty Yessucker that I'm okay.
Here is what I posted to the Yes list, warts & all.
I include it verbatim because it's the only actual writing I have
from that day, thus, it kind of conveys my thoughts at that time
a little better than my "retrospective perspective" can adequately do:
"Greetings to all,
I was on jury duty today. Go figure.
The court house is near the ferry terminal on Staten Island
overlooking the harbor.
I saw it from there.
I want to make sense of some of my thoughts, & get them
down in writing, but that's for another time.
I work, er, worked on the 26th floor of 1 WTC,
the 1st tower to get hit, & the second to go down,
the northeast one with the antenna on top.
I talked to my boss & as far as he knows, everyone who
works for us got out okay. I've received lots of personal
stories from locals. I know of someone as high up as the
90th floor getting out. I can only hope that's true of most.
But many firefighters & policemen & ambulance workers were
going in while others were leaving. They are the real heroes.
My next door neighbor is a fireman. He's there now helping people,
or trying to.
But everything I've worked on the past 15 years is gone.
At this point I'm numb.
Guess I've got to look for a new job...
I appreciate all the thoughts & prayers from many of you.
Let's pray for this crazy world.
Something has changed forever, & I'll never be able
to look at Manhattan quite the same way again.
I eventually talked at length to Dad, once he got through.
I'm 37 years old.
It's been a long time since Dad had to be... well, DAD, you know?
I remember that moment/milestone in my life -- my sister Karen's
wedding -- when I shared a beer with Dad for the first time.
A line was crossed from which one seemingly cannot return.
It was then that Dad didn't have to be DAD anymore.
Today, Dad was DAD.
I was a little kid again, his only son,
looking up to him, needing him.
We almost lost him a few years ago.
He's in Boston now because of that.
I know I won't have him forever.
But today, he's DAD.
Again, the rest of the day is hazy.
Lots of television.
Lots of making & receiving phone calls.
Lots of tears.
Lots of disbelief.
Lots of numbness.
Very little comprehension of this whole ordeal.
No anger... somehow, no anger. None. Really.
I don't think I got to sleep until 3-4am.
Sheer exhaustion is the only way I'm going to be able to sleep...
Wednesday, September 12, 2001
The next day is hazy also, & more of the same.
Making/receiving phone calls.
An overwhelming sense of loss.
Trying to understand, to comprehend, the incomprehensible.
The one "activity" I actually took part in was to go back to
Richmond Terrace to see first-hand, what was left. Surprisingly,
hardly anyone was there. I don't know what I was expecting,
but being virtually alone surprised me, especially given how much
pandemonium there was here yesterday.
I will attempt to organize some of the many feelings & thoughts
I went through as I looked out over the harbor this day & during
the week to come. Some of these feelings/writings were
culled/re-organized from emails written to friends at the time.
Some is as I am trying to remember it.
I look out across the harbor, & what I see continues to shock me:
The Twin Towers are replaced by a "puff" of smoke.
Nearly all of the rest of the smoke that covered half the city has dissipated.
But seeing "poof" where Twin Towers are supposed to be looks...
Somehow, the skyline looks -- smaller.
The Twin Towers made everything else around them appear bigger --
Now... looking at it in person...
the reality of not seeing the Towers...
the feeling of emptiness...
Trust me on this:
I used to think that I thought I knew what this "tragic" stuff
was like & whatever. But seeing this stuff on TV & seeing it
for real are just two different things. I see all the stuff
on TV & it isn't real to me, even though I'm intimately
familiar with every scene they show. I go to the water's edge
of the island & look out over the harbor & look with my own eyes,
& it's real.
I've tried to find the word/words to describe it.
But wrong is the only word that fits for me.
I will never be able to look at Manhattan the same way.
I never tired of admiring that skyline.
It rarely ever failed to demand my attention no matter where I saw it from.
If you're not from the general NYC area, I'm not sure you can
adequately understand the "wrongness" of the Twin Towers NOT being there.
You can (scratch that) could see those towers from everywhere...
Jersey, upstate, Long Island...
Think about it:
If you could see 45 miles on a clear day from the top of the towers,
that means that the towers could be seen from a distance of 45 miles.
They were a vital & ubiquitous part of the NYC-area landscape/scenery.
People taught their children that if they got lost,
to orient themselves based on the Twin Towers.
Everywhere we'd go, the Twin Towers would inevitably pop up
over some horizon & my 7-year-old daughter Megan would say,
"THERE'S YOUR BUILDING DADDY!!!"
The other day, she said,
"Daddy, I hope your new building doesn't get knocked down."
One of my friend's 4-year old boy said, upon hearing the Towers
were on fire, "That's okay Daddy. The firemen will put the fire
out and everything will be okay."
Another friend's 4-year old boy who enjoys playing flight simulator
computer games, upon seeing the second plane hit live on TV with
his mother, said matter-of-factly, "He's not a very good pilot."
Oh to be four again.
Now those were the real heroes...
Everyone I've talked to who was in the building says that while they
were getting out, going down the stairs, the firemen were going IN.
Not just going in.
But climbing 80+ flights of stairs while carrying 50+ pounds of equipment --
in hopes of putting that fire out, rescuing those trapped, probably
never thinking the buildings would come down, but well aware their
lives were endangered (nobody I know thought the buildings were
in any jeopardy of actually coming down.)
Go up 10 flights of stairs & see how winded you get.
And now I look out at the altered skyline...
Downtown Manhattan was my home.
I lived there every day.
It was a part of me.
A big part of me has died.
Every scene you see on TV was my home.
I know those scenes in an intimate way.
I walked those blocks every day.
Some time soon, when they let people in,
I've got to go make the trek to downtown
& see what's left of it. I've got to see.
Kirsten thinks I'm nuts for wanting to do that.
But what's on TV isn't real.
It's like a damn movie.
I've got to see for myself.
Is Big Al's Pizza around the corner still there?
Is J&R music around?
Where's my little bookstore?
My post office?
My coffee shop?
My music store?
Those places didn't belong to me...
but they were "mine".
Big Al's was my "Cheers".
They all knew me in there.
Did those guys get away okay?
Will they ever return?
Will I ever see those guys again?
They're not a big corporation, just a little pizza shop:
A bunch of guys who make the best pizza in Manhattan.
How long can those guys hang around waiting?
Can they afford to pay their people?
If they open up now, who is even there to buy their pizza?
How would they even get supplies to make it?
There are a couple of seagulls flying by.
Do they know that anything is wrong?
Are they aware that anything has happened?
So many thoughts to sift through...
I watched those towers go up, little by little, inch by inch, over 3-4 years.
Took them 90 minutes to bring them down... and yet...
They were built to withstand all kinds of stuff.
They swayed on a windy day, so as not to break.
The planes probably would have passed through
other buildings. The towers swallowed them whole.
Any other building would have collapsed when hit.
Not the twin towers, with their redundant support system.
They swayed, bent, moved, gave the people in them
quite a ride (from what everyone has told me), but didn't fall.
Instead, those towers almost defiantly & heroically stood there
for about an hour, allowing thousands of people to get out.
It was the sheer heat that eventually melted the rest of the supports.
Most buildings would have toppled, taking out the other buildings around them.
Instead, they fell straight DOWN, sparing nearly everything else beside them.
They were designed so that they would not topple onto anything.
For some reason, I still feel no anger. None. Really.
It's odd, but it's true.
Why don't I feel any anger?
Am I too numb? Dumbfounded?
I do fear for the world right now.
I do fear that those seeking "retribution" will keep
upping the ante, which then "requires" more retribution.
I do want justice...
But I don't want to see one more innocent person die.
I just want it to stop.
I want it to be over.
There has got to be a peaceful way out of this...
I will never be able to enjoy that skyline the same way again...
I'm not asking for any pity.
Just a little understanding & some patience...
Right now, my brain is all messed up... I mean, really messed up.
Messed up brains were always for other people... not me
Lots of thoughts to sift through...
Thursday, September 13, 2001
I thought I was out of a job, 15 years of work suddenly deleted...
But I've talked to Gordon & Greg & got a message from my company
saying we're insured, that we're all still employees, will still get
paid, & are expected to fulfill our roles in helping to rebuild.
Wow... Loyalty is truly a two-way street...
I'm awed & humbled.
And now I understand somewhat why the managers manage.
From what I've been told, amazingly, only 1 person is unaccounted
for from Garban, Karen, a woman I kind of know from saying "hello"
in the hallway. She was in the middle of a meeting at the "Windows
On The World" restaurant at the top of tower 1.
She has twins, a boy & a girl 3 1/2 years old.
A number of others were supposed to be at that meeting, including
Karen's best friend at Garban, Kim, who was in London at the time.
She had fought the London trip & thought she should be at the
From what I've been told, Kim & Karen nearly always worked closely
together on a myriad of projects. What I find extremely odd is
that although I know Kim well, I hardly know Karen.
I haven't the faintest idea why & that bothers me.
And I don't even know why that bothers me, but it does.
Many other firms were not as fortunate.
Our primary "competitor", Cantor Fitzgerald, who had offices on
the 101-105th floor had some 1000+ employees & I think I heard
that only 200+ were accounted for -- all of which were either
on vacation, worked at another site, were late for work,
called in sick, or in the case of their CEO, taking his kid
to his or her first day of kindergarten.
Nobody working up there got out.
Garban "competed" against Cantor for years.
I can't tell you how many times my professional life was
turned upside down because of our competition with Cantor
and the need to get new products & features to the brokers
before Cantor did.
Keeping one step ahead of Cantor was a way of life.
But, this is not right.
Those people at Cantor are people with families, just like us.
Just people, very talented & dedicated people,
the best at what they do, eking out their little living.
When I started at Garban, there were about a dozen brokerages
that did what we did. It was a competitive business in an
extremely specialized field. Only the fittest survived:
Cantor, Garban, & Liberty, each of which survived only because
they're the best at what they do... or did...
Garban at least has its people.
One thing I've learned from this is that a business is really its people,
rather than a place, or a system.
(This point would continue to be driven home for me time & time
again over the next few weeks in so many different ways.)
Taking a right turn now...
This evening, I go online & after reading some email, I pretty
quickly make a decision to avoid all public forums on the
Internet completely. I've read too many very stupid, petty,
uninformed opinions & I don't have the time or the energy or
even the will to reply. Besides, spending any time arguing
about anything, let alone stupid little things just seems
beyond silly now. And I've had enough of small little egos
on the Internet lately. Besides, I'm not in my right mind,
& I would not ever want to be judged on anything that I wrote
to a public forum while I'm feeling this way. Those noisy forums
are probably a better place without me adding to the noise anyway.
I just can't understand why some of us are eating our own kind at a
time like this. Reading this garbage is not healthy for me right now.
Better to tune it out altogether.
Time to read my personal email from my "3-dimensional" friends,
which I tend to keep separate from my purely "Internet" friends.
Chain letters... boatloads of them...
the same ones over & over again...
I am admonished to fly my flag & light a candle so many times, I can't count.
I wrote this (or a variation of this, depending on who I was writing to)
to a few of my friends:
'I am as respectfully as possible asking you to take
me off your "chain letter forward to everyone email list"
until/unless I ask you some time in the future to put me back on it.
If you want to talk/write to me, just me, I welcome that.
But if I read one more "everybody email 5 people" thing...
I am not doing too well right now.
I need time.
I know you're trying in your own way,
& that you mean well, but these chain letter
emails are only serving to piss me off --
I'm trying to understand why, & I think that the reason
they're pissing me off is that they're not personal.
This whole ordeal is personal to me.
And I'm one of the LUCKY ones.
I know way too many people who love somebody
who has not been seen since Tuesday.
Somehow, I've been lucky to miss even that, in that
I don't actually know anybody directly who is missing.
I believe everyone near NYC has been affected directly or indirectly.
I see a letter in my inbox from "John" & I look
forward to a letter from "John" & I get something else.
I don't need another admonition to wave my flag right now.
I don't need another "eloquent poem" right now unless you wrote it yourself.
[Lots of stuff already written elsewhere here snipped.]
People keep asking me if there's anything I need, to ask.
Shoot, I don't even know what it is I need.
How the heck do I ask?
What do I ask for?
I'm sorry if this is blunt & maybe hitting someone
in the face. That is not my intention. I'm just venting
& sharing how I feel right now & hopefully, some of
you can attempt to try to understand on some level.
I'm not asking for any pity.
Just a little understanding & some patience...
I'm going to bed now.
My brain is all over the place.'
Friday, September 14, 2001
I went to work today for the 1st time.
It was too soon...
It was not soon enough...
(I can only hope that makes some kind of sense...)
I'm hunkered down in the "Garban disaster recovery center",
otherwise known as "Don's house", because he has a recent copy
of most of the software there, thanks to his insisting on having
a complete working environment at his house, rather than being
content with merely logging on to Garban's computers from home,
like nearly everyone else.
He even has software that he was not involved with.
Greg doesn't know whether to give him a raise, or to fire him. ;-)
It's just Don & me.
You're probably wondering why we didn't have a disaster recovery site.
The other tower.
If it wasn't so unfunny, I'd laugh & I wouldn't blame you if
you had to stifle the smallest of chuckles when you read that.
We even supposedly have backup tapes...
in a sealed vault...
in the basement of the other tower...
quite possibly still intact...
but inaccessible... buried deep within the rubble...
Who could have predicted this?
Anyway, I've never been so thrilled to look at my own programs/code before.
I don't expect everyone to understand this, but:
A piece of me has been restored.
Saturday, September 15, 2001
This was probably a complete waste of a day.
I have very little recollection of it.
However, it's time for me to write something positive...
In re-reading what I've written thus far, it has occurred to me
that I've made very little mention of my wife Kirsten in all of this.
Quite possibly, this is because I've been feeling very detached --
not just from Kirsten, but from everyone.
Unable to play music or get any enjoyment from it...
Unable to pray...
But I must say here that Kirsten has been absolutely wonderful
through all of this. And I've been an S.O.B. to live with at times.
She has held me up when I've needed it.
She has reassured me when I've needed it.
She has hugged me when I've needed it.
She has left me alone when I've needed it. (She's done a lot of that.)
She has even kicked me when I've needed it (but not very often).
Everyone should be so fortunate to have a spouse like mine.
All those "yes, dear's" have been well worth it. ;-)
Sunday, September 16, 2001
Church is kind of strange & surreal today.
Our new pastor gave a most excellent sermon
pertaining to Psalm 13, which helped me greatly.
They asked me to play the piano during a "silent prayer" portion
of the service. I felt I was not up to the task (funny I should
say 'task' here, as playing the piano is one of the things I love
most in life & has rarely ever been a 'task'), yet I felt that I
"should" do it for others. So I did. Kirsten, who knows me best,
was the only one who recognized how mechanical & devoid of emotion my
playing was -- or perhaps she was the only one honest enough to say it?
Anyway, what really sticks out for me was the bible study we had
before the service. At one point, our bible study leader Larry
made an observation that it seems to be in times of trouble that
people go to God in prayer & rarely think to do so when everything
is going well. Most everyone seemed to agree.
I just had to speak up.
"Then why am I so backwards?
Honestly, I've lived a charmed life.
I've never wanted for anything.
I've been so completely blessed for so long.
And I've always been appreciative of that. Really!
I thank God every day from the bottom of my
heart for all the blessings I've received.
I truly try to not take any of it for granted
& I do try to share generously what I've been given.
And yet now, for the first time in my life,
I find myself completely unable to pray &
I find myself feeling separated from God's presence.
That's never happened to me before.
What is wrong with me?"
Amazingly, a couple of people spoke up to me & shared similar feelings.
They were in the minority, but the two of them, Dan & Diane, shared
their own similar experiences. They helped me far more than they know.
Related thoughts from the latter part of September
I'm just now getting to the point where I feel "blessed",
but only because there are so many others far worse off than me.
How perverse is that?!
I'm one of the "lucky" ones. I truly am.
I have to keep reminding myself that I have my job, my family, my friends...
They say God doesn't give one more than they can handle.
People are telling me that God protected me.
Although I'd like to think that's true,
then what about all those other people?
That's what I just cannot adequately answer.
I get that God has given mankind free will & that we are reaping that.
I get that.
But if somewhere in this, I'm somehow supposed to have
some sort of "protected" status, while others don't...
sorry, that just does not compute.
What makes me so special?
Yet, a friend of mine wrote this bit to me,
which somehow cut through all the "noise" for me,
after my bristling & scoffing at the first sentence of this:
"You were the fortunate victim of divine intervention -
I would not doubt that for a moment - it's as if you
were somehow meant to observe the tragedy - you were
destined to be a witness -- yet you were granted this
space from which to observe it - I don't mean to wax
poetic, but it is an incredible circumstance - you
weren't home in SI, you weren't on vacation, you were
still THERE.... "
At this point, I'm forced to face up & play "what if"
with myself & ask the $64,000 question:
What would have happened if I had been there?
Time to get brutally honest with myself.
I know myself.
Yes, I would have evacuated the building with everyone else.
But I know myself.
I would have been one of those "idiots" who would have been
hovering around underneath the buildings watching everything
& trying to get a better view of it.
I kind of saw it all... yet I was spared the horror of actually
viewing either plane hitting or either building coming down.
I still have my job.
And I also think about the fact that I don't personally know anyone who died.
And somewhere in all this, I am feeling a vague bubble of protection.
I know, I know, how presumptuous it is of me to even consider this.
Yet, everyone around me keeps saying it.
Biblically speaking, the worst thing that can happen to someone is to be
"separated from the presence of the Lord."
That's where I've been since Tuesday, still unable to pray.
I don't like it.
And I have no idea how to fix it.
Wednesday, September 19, 2001
After two more days of "Don's house", I go to our temporary/borrowed
(soon to be permanent as it turns out) offices in Jersey City.
I could write a vitriolic book nearly as long as this missive on how
much I hate it in Jersey City & why, some of which has to do with my
love for the city.
The Garden State?
Where's the !#$% garden?
This area is the armpit of America.
No, it's the "You Can't Get There From Here" state.
Only Jersey closes entire train stations "because
they're being used too much & are over-crowded."
That's like Yogi Berra's talking about his favorite restaurant saying,
"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."
Anyway, I think I need to leave my feelings about Jersey
out of this though, beyond this brief mention of my feelings
regarding where I now work. But my feelings about where I
now work have affected me greatly over the past month.
Every day I work here serves as a reminder...
Every view of the city from the other side of the river...
(Why do some of those buildings look red from over here?
What's with that?)
I see many of my co-workers for the first time since before this all happened.
Most of them have been working here since Monday, some since Friday even.
I believe that human nature, sadly, kind of dictates that any time
you put any 10 people in a room together that somebody is not going
to get along with somebody, & somebody won't like somebody.
Today, everybody loves everybody, even though it's extremely crowded.
It is good to see everyone.
It is good to hug everyone.
It is good to hear the "war stories".
I want to hear them all.
This group of people now shares something in
common besides working in the same place.
There are so many knowing looks & glances between people.
Surely, this has been my best day since September 11, despite Jersey City.
At this point in time, it seems appropriate to share, second-hand,
as best I can recall them, some of the various stories I've heard,
both from people I work with, & from friends of mine who work or
worked in Manhattan.
Some of these are combinations of stories from people whose stories
intersected & were similar; others are unique snippets of moments.
Nothing I write here will do this justice, but I've tried to
get a feel for what it was like from various viewpoints --
where people were,
how they got out,
what happened when,
what they saw/felt, etc.
What might I have experienced had I been working there that day?
(Not that I would have been there, because I no doubt would have
gotten to work late, much like my sister. I generally get into
work around 9:15-9:30.)
Since I worked on the 26th floor of tower 1, the first building to
get hit, most of the recollections here are from that perspective.
First a couple of very close calls from downstairs:
Shirley: "The elevator doors were about to close. I let another
woman go ahead of me. I told the passengers I'd take the next one.
Right after that I heard a loud whoosh, like a strong wind.
I didn't know what was going on. I started running, but before
I got through the revolving door, all the glass fell on me.
I got all cut up. Look here, where my head was slashed.
I'll have these bandages on my wrist for awhile."
Danielle: "One guy I work with, Pat, you remember him? [Yep, I do.]
He was downstairs for a cigarette & waiting for an elevator.
When the doors opened, flames shot out of them & killed the
guy in front of him & the guy beside him almost immediately.
Pat got burns on about 30% of his body, or something like that.
It's amazing he's alive. I guess he's in pretty good spirits
because I heard that he joked with Steve that he's now uglier
than he is. I don't know when or if he'll come back to work."
From the perspective of my office:
Many: "When the plane first hit, we heard this loud 'wwwwwwffffffffump.'
Almost immediately after that, the building swayed one way, then
rocked back & swayed in the other direction, then shook briefly
but violently as the building righted itself."
"It felt like the building was going to just tip over on its side.
It seemed to be just at the edge of falling before swaying back
the other way & doing the same thing in the opposite direction.
Then it straightened up & shook. I nearly fell over twice."
"All the stuff on my desk slid over to the other side."
"My chair rolled towards the other cubicle."
Burt: "I didn't hear anything because I had my headphones on.
I just felt the rocking & the shaking. I took off my headphones
& yelled, 'what the hell was that?'"
"Somebody said to get out. I didn't need to be told twice."
Many: "We had no idea what happened. Then outside the windows,
there was all this falling papers & flaming debris.
Our first thought was that a bomb had gone off above us."
Tommy: "I went to the stair case, but it was filled with people barely
moving, so I figured I'd stay awhile & wait for the crowd to clear out.
I was the only one answering the phones. One of the calls was my wife.
She told me a plane had hit the building & to get out of there.
I just yelled at her & told her to calm down & not to worry.
I can't believe that the last thing I could have said to my
wife was me yelling at her to calm down & stop worrying."
"I was going though all the offices to make sure everyone was out.
Many of the executives were still hanging around. Everyone was
pretty calm. That's when I saw a body falling past the window.
That's when I decided to just get out. I'll never forget that."
Many: "It took about a half an hour to get down the stairs. It
was quite calm & orderly actually. I don't think anyone really
had any notion that anyone was in any real danger at this point.
As we were all slowly descending the stairs, many firemen were
going up the stairs carrying lots of equipment. At one point,
they kind of herded us out of the stairwell at the 8th floor.
I don't know why. But soon after that, we continued down
"There was some smoke in the stairwell, but not that much.
When we got to the last couple of floors though, there were
a couple of inches of water on the ground, probably from the
building's sprinkler systems. Some women were actually worried
about their shoes!"
"None of us in the stairwell heard the 2nd plane hit.
Nobody had any idea. Those stairwells must be super-insulated
or something for us not to hear that. Really, everyone was
pretty calm & orderly going down the stairs."
"When we got to the lobby, they let us out of the side of the
building on the 2nd floor, the upper-lobby where all the tourists go."
"All the elevator doors were black & burnt out & mangled at all
kinds of odd angles. There were a couple of inches of water on
the floor. They were hoarding us away from the central courtyard
towards West Street."
"The courtyard was littered with debris & bodies.
I only looked briefly. That was more than I wanted to see.
All kinds of flaming debris was floating around like a meteor shower.
I couldn't begin to describe what that looked like."
"There was a guy just outside the door holding everyone at the door,
making them wait. Then some huge piece of glass or something would
hit the ground. Then he'd yell, 'NOW! RUN! RUN!' He was letting
out 3 people at a time to RUN out of there towards West Street.
Then he'd stop everybody again, followed by something else falling.
He was trying to get everyone out without anyone getting hit by anything.
He was putting his own life on the line to get others out.
I really hope he got out."
"You could feel the heat."
"I'll never get over seeing people jump from the building."
From the 55th floor of tower 2:
Danielle: "We heard the noise when the first plane hit. Our
building shook & swayed when it happened; we all thought it was
our building that got hit. At that point, we all decided to leave.
We got down to the lobby on the 44th floor & were told to wait there.
Then we were told that it was okay to return to work, that everyone
in this building was safe, that there was some kind of explosion
in the other building. Fortunately, most of us decided to get
out of there anyway."
Many: "They made the announcement, 'There is an incident in tower 1.
There is no problem in Tower 2. Tower 2 is secure. Please return
to work. Please stay where you are."
Anyone who worked in the Trade Center has heard the 'there is an
incident in the other building' or 'there is an incident on the
xxth floor; please stay where you are' message a number of times.
Although in nearly all situations, this is supposed to be standard
operating procedure, I would not want to be the guy who made that
"We were down on the 44th floor when the plane hit our building.
The windows all broke & chairs & equipment, anything near the
windows, got sucked out of the building."
One of the first people I asked my boss about was Rich.
I was extremely worried about Rich because he is the
kind of guy who would have told everyone,
"Don't worry; I'll stay behind & make sure the system is up & running."
Thankfully & amazingly, especially given that they knew I was out on
jury duty (we cover each other), Rich was working from home that day:
"I had no idea about anything until the connection went dead.
The system was up & running right up until the building collapsed."
Larry: "I was on the express bus from Staten Island when it happened.
The bus stopped short of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel because
the traffic had completely stopped. They let us out right there
on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. It was the only thing to do.
I couldn't believe that there were office papers & documents strewn
all over Brooklyn."
Don, who walks with leg braces & a cane & can't feel his legs from
the knees down because of a motorcycle accident years earlier:
"I had just gotten out of the Path train (from New Jersey, which stops
underneath the Trade Center) when the plane hit. They closed the
train station so there was no way to get back that way. I went outside
on to Liberty Street in front of the firehouse. The fireman there
invited a number of us into the firehouse in order to protect us.
We were all in the back of the firehouse. I was sitting there reading
a book when the first building came down. The front door got blown
out. I laid down to the floor next to a refrigerator. Stuff flew right
over me. The fireman in the front has his legs broken when the front
collapsed. The window I was sitting in front of was blown out.
I did the only thing I could do. I climbed out the window.
I had walked down a few blocks east when the second building came
down. I had just turned a corner when a lot of debris & smoke blew
past me. It was very difficult to breathe. It was like being in a cave.
That's the only way I can describe it. I just kept walking north until I
caught a ferry to Hoboken at 34th Street. I've come very close to death
3 times now -- twice in one day."
Dennis: "I had just gotten off the Ferry when the second plane hit.
I went up West Street to get a better view. At one point, I thought
better of that & started heading back towards Battery Park when
the building came down. The only way to breathe was through my
shirt. You couldn't see your hand in front of your face. Day had
become night. I knew I was in Battery Park. I had traveled this
area so many times, you would think I could find my way around,
but I could not find the ferry. I eventually somehow ended up
going up the east side, so I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge &
ended up hitching a ride over the Verrazano Bridge & I walked
home from there."
Greg: "We were watching everything from Broadway when our
instincts told us that we should probably get out from under here.
We went over by the stock exchange on Wall Street when the
buildings came down. We had no idea what had happened.
You couldn't breathe. We were afraid to go into any buildings
because we didn't know if any others were under attack. You
could barely see an arm's length. We eventually caught a ferry
across to Jersey & walked from there to Hoboken."
Vito: "It was hard to see, hard to breathe. I was trying to get to
the ferry but the police were directing us up the FDR Drive,
saying that the ferry wasn't running. I was on the Brooklyn Bridge
when someone said that they had opened the ferry, so I decided
to go back. I was making my way back there near South Street
Seaport when a policewoman helped me out. She said the ferry
wasn't running, but she directed me to a dock nearby where a
guy was operating a tugboat between Manhattan & Staten Island.
That was the most unusual boat ride I'd ever been on."
Many: "We stayed inside until the smoke cleared."
"It was dark, like night time, only you knew it wasn't night."
"I walked to the Bronx."
"I walked home to Queens."
Jim: "This is personal. It's attempted murder. They tried to kill me."
Photo © 1999 Vito Macaluso
"What's this?" you may be asking.
At Garban, it's been known as "The Indian".
This wooden indian has been part of the Garban trading floor
and a companion of Garban's brokers "since the beginning of time."
One of my co-workers Rich absolutely swears that he saw and
recognized this wooden indian among the wreckage on television.
Thursday & Friday, September 20 & 21, 2001
Mornings are the hardest part of the day.
They are absolutely overwhelming.
Unlike some, I've had no nightmares. On the contrary...
Night time & dreams are the best part of my days.
In my dreams, everything is back the way things were...
Then I wake up.
Getting to sleep has been incredibly difficult,
not because I can't get to sleep,
but because making the decision to relinquish control
& go to bed simply paralyzes me completely.
I have this need to know everything that is going on.
I cannot shut off the television.
Last week I made the decision to begin video taping the news coverage.
I'm well into my second 6 hour tape...
Saturday, September 22, 2001
After a few incredibly chaotic days at work... Saturday.
This is the first day that I did not have what I call "rot gut",
that ugly feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I'd file this day under "good" -- "good" being a relative term.
Our new pastor & his family came over for some of my homemade Swedish pancakes.
Our very good friends Bob & Doris came over today.
They helped more than they know.
Monday, September 24, 2001
I'm talking with Leslie, who I've worked with for 15 years.
We shared a conversation about an odd thought process we each went through:
"Well, that's gone -- no, wait --
I've got that data on a backup tape...
uh... no, that's gone...
But Tony has that backed up on CDs...
uh... no, that's gone...
Wait a minute, Yelena has this program that converts that file to...
no, that's gone...
But on the other machine...
no, that's gone...
Wait, I'll log in from home and...
...uh, can't do that anymore...
Wait, Rich has a copy of that on...
no, that's gone too..."
Your mind goes through all these machinations,
all these scenarios, all these contingencies...
...only to realize that all of them are buried in the rubble...
It's all so overwhelming.
Thursday, September 27, 2001
There is a memorial service for Karen, the only person Garban lost.
The company closes early so that everyone who wishes to go can do so.
Nearly everyone does, as far as I can tell.
More than one person comments to me how odd a memorial
service is without a body. I hadn't even thought of that.
There is a reception afterwards at some fancy catering hall.
In the middle of this room amid a bunch of tables is a grand piano.
Karen's 3 1/2 year old twins & one of their cousins/friends are
playing underneath the piano with all kinds of nifty little
toys, Lego's, coloring books, papers, stuff -- seemingly somehow
oblivious to the significance of the day.
We all agree that the best place to be is under that piano,
being kids again, oblivious to what has gone down.
Can we all fit under the piano?
Is there room there for us?
Can we play too?
This really stinks...
Saturday-Sunday, September 29-30, 2001
Kirsten & Megan have gone to New Hampshire for the weekend to visit
& help out a friend of Kirsten's who has recently had a baby. They
had planned this trip for some time.
I've heard it said that:
"Babies are God's opinion that the world should go on."
I wouldn't disagree with that sentiment.
So I'm on my own this weekend.
A good thing?
I'm not sure.
At one point in time, I had marked this weekend on my calendar as
prime recording studio time to make some headway on the boatload
of recording projects I've got backlogged. But at this point in
time, I'm unable to get much enjoyment from music. I'm not too
hip to recording anything this weekend for two reasons:
1. The vibe probably wouldn't be much good & the performance/recording
would reflect that.
2. Even if I manage to coax some good performances devoid of any
vibe, would I ever be able to listen to it in the future without
being reminded of the time & circumstances in which it was recorded?
I've been wanting to make the "pilgrimage" to downtown Manhattan,
so this weekend seems to be the time to go. I do plan to go.
But I end up blowing it off. Too overwhelming.
Actually, doing anything is too overwhelming.
I'd say this was a nearly entirely lost weekend...
...except for one positive thing I did which would reap some
"dividends" (poor choice of word, but can't think of a better
one right now) in a few weeks which would help me heal in a
At one point, in the middle of all the wallowing & thinking &
pity party, I found myself thinking/focussing on all the things
at my desk at work, trying to remember/evaluate exactly what it
was I lost -- trying to figure out what was replaceable & what wasn't.
The desk/cubicle itself
The reference books
Most of the other books, if I could find them again
Most of the music CDs
The coffee cup
Office supplies, stamps, envelopes
Some of the pictures that I still had the negatives for...
The hopefully replaceable:
Some out-of-print books that I might be able to scoff on eBay
Lists of stuff I had on hard disc such as addresses & phone #'s...
The irreplaceable that isn't really important:
The backup data tapes (the irony in that)
A bunch of Mets-Yankees Subway Series memorabilia
An "EarthMother" CD that was signed by Jon Anderson, the lead singer of Yes
The irreplaceable that is important, at least to me:
A couple of special one-of-a-kind pictures for which I have no negatives
My ugly one-of-a-kind green chair that I've sat in for nearly 15 years --
the one that had just the right angle/tilt for my unique slouch
A "portfolio" filled with loads of curios I've accumulated over
the years -- things like jokes, anecdotes, momentos, knick-knacks,
emails from people I've printed out & long-since deleted, & other
poignant or even inane stuff
A boatload of stuff I had saved on hard disc that existed
only at work consisting of poignant email messages & images
A special letter of encouragement from my wife she sent to me while
we were engaged -- the only personal letter I've ever received at work
A CD of a one-of-a-kind performance from an Internet friend of mine,
a one of a kind I'm really going to miss...
How do I make a long story (too late for that) short?
Last July, a bunch of Yes fans organized a huge gathering/party
in California via the Internet to coincide with the first gig of the
Yessymphonic tour. My friend Jamison was part of the entertainment.
He arranged a number Yes songs & medleys for, get this: a sax quartet.
Now, you'd think that this can't possibly work.
An intricate progressive rock band played by a sax quartet?!
Yet, it worked, & worked beautifully.
The key is in the way that Jamison arranges them,
which is nothing short of pure genius, in my opinion.
He's got a love for Yes' music & it shows in his most perceptive arrangements.
Anyway, he kindly sent me a recording of the performance.
I listened to it for the first time on September 5 at work.
Let me tell you, listening to this performance was the
highlight of my final week working at the World Trade Center.
There was sheer joy in this performance.
How I'd love to get some joy from music again somehow.
Yes' new album "Magnification" came out in Europe on September 11.
I'm so glad I didn't get it because I'd have ended up associating
it with what has gone down. Nothing captures a mood or a moment
for me like a piece of music can. The album will be coming out
in the U.S. in December. I'll get it then.
Yet, what I would give to hear "Saxlife" playing at the Yes fan party.
That would be a reminder of before all this happened.
Listening to that would bring me back to September 5-7 all over again.
But it's gone...
...wait a minute...
It's not gone.
I can ask Jamison for another one!
What the heck was I thinking?
So I wrote him a letter.
It wasn't an easy letter to write, but writing him a letter
was much more personal & appropriate than sending an email.
I'm not up to going on line anyway. I still have the envelope
he sent the CDs in with his return address...
In trying to put some of the pieces of my life back together,
I've discovered something is missing... "Saxlife plays Yes".
Yep, it seems that a small piece of you is buried in that huge
pile of rubble which used to be the World Trade Center. Kind of
brings it home, eh? Anyway, at least this is something that I
can recover! When you get a chance, could you kindly send me a
replacement copy? I really loved that performance. Listening
to it was a highlight of my last week working in one of my favorite
places in the world. I thought it was gone. It didn't even occur
to me to ask you for another until now. My brain has been so
screwed up by this. But life goes on... I'm truly one of the lucky
ones. Still have my job, although we're now working/rebuilding in
a generic office building in Jersey City (YUCK!) I miss Manhattan
so much. Manhattan was my home, my turf, my element. It'll never
quite be the same... at least I have a view of what's left of it
from across the Hudson River -- the exact opposite view I used to have.
I'm telling you that seeing it in person & seeing it on TV are two
completely different things. TV does not begin to convey it.
Anyway, I know you'll balk at me sending you a check, so I'll at
least suggest that you could donate it to the Red Cross or whatever
other charity you think is worthy, if you want. I expect to see
that it was cashed next month!
Someday, I'll be able to go back to Yessin', I hope. But I'm glad
"Magnification" isn't out here yet, because I think I would have
associated it with all that's happened. Nothing captures a moment
or a mood for me like a piece of music. I'll be happy to get it
when it comes out here in a few months. I wouldn't be able to
listen to it now, anyway.
Getting enjoyment from music has not been easy for me lately, but
it's slowly coming back. For some reason, I'm feeling that hearing
Saxlife will be a healing thing. There was such complete joy in
every moment of that performance.
I'll be telling my "story" on my website soon, still working on it.
It's something that needs to come out, whether anyone else cares to
hear it or not... ;-)
Thanks for being the positive life-giving force that you are.
Tuesday, October 2, 2001
I got the day off to attend a "curriculum conference" with my daughter's
teacher that my wife was originally supposed to attend on September 11.
Since my wife had to work today, I decided to try to get the day off.
After the curriculum conference in the morning, I decided to make the
"pilgrimage" to downtown Manhattan to see what's left of it.
I need to do this.
I need to face this.
I need to see for myself, unfiltered through a TV lens.
I brought my binoculars, but not my camera.
My memories will serve as my camera.
I'm going to slip back into present tense now in order to attempt
to adequately describe what I see & how I feel about it.
If you're familiar with downtown Manhattan, you'll "get" this.
If not, I can only hope that I'm somehow adequately describing it...
. . .
Even though I've been seeing the skyline from the Jersey side every
day at work, for me, "the view" has always been from the harbor.
And it still looks wrong from here.
It always will.
As the ferry sails past the Statue of Liberty, I am choked up.
There is one vantage point, about a minute or two before the boat
docks in Manhattan, where one has a clear unobstructed view right
into ground zero. There are massive cranes, the blown out & crumbling
side of one of the smaller buildings which made up the Trade Center,
& a glimpse of what's left of the facade of my building.
And still lots of smoke. Still.
This shot doesn't really show it.
Photo © 2001 Tanya Kiskanyan
As I get off the Ferry, with more than a little trepidation, I have no
idea what to expect. I'm expecting not to see much of anything of
what is now called "ground zero." I'm sure they've got that sealed
off. But I've seen pictures & images of the devastation of my home,
my turf, which comprised of the surrounding area which is now
open east of Broadway.
I get off the Ferry.
Other than everything to the left being blocked off,
& the train station being closed up, everything seems "normal".
I proceed up Whitehall Street, which soon turns into Broadway.
It's way too quiet for a weekday. Way too quiet.
There is someone selling framed pictures of the Trade Center
skyline for $20 & $30. The pictures are beautiful. They really are.
I am overcome with emotion & actually consider springing for
a picture, against my better judgement which tells me clearly that
this guy is profiting off a tragedy. I rationalize with myself that
I don't want to carry these around & if he's still here on the way
back, maybe I'll get one then. That gets me through the moment.
A half block later, there is an elderly oriental woman selling
two types of American flag pins. "Two dollah, three dollah",
she says, as she points to the merchandise. I suspect that "two
dollah, three dollah" is the only English she knows. I suppress
a small grin & appreciate the patriotic sentiment. For now.
A half block later, I get to the point in my old commute where I used
to see the towers from a pedestrian's standpoint for the first time.
It's wrong that they're not there.
Other than that, everything on Broadway seems... normal...
no... not normal...
It's too darn quiet.
Where's the energy?
Where's the aura?
Where's the people?
Where is everybody?
Is anybody home?
Shoot, nobody's home!
My eyes well up.
I go past the bull.
If you don't know what the bull is, don't worry about it.
For those who know what the bull is, rest assured, it's fine.
Yes, there are tourists taking pictures of it & with it.
I've never seen the bull without someone taking a picture of it.
At least something is right.
The Bowling Green subway station is open.
But that's not "my" station.
"My" station is the number 1 train to South Ferry.
That subway will be closed for years, since it travels
under the Trade Center & the tunnel collapsed.
I've gone half a block & there's another elderly oriental woman
selling the same American flag pins for "two dollah, three dollah."
Must be her sister.
Most of the shops so far have been open. That's good.
Having seen the images of Broadway, I'm amazed at how clean
it is. The clean up job that's been done is nothing short of phenomenal.
Not to slight anyone in the least, but I've not heard much at all in
the media about the role of the sanitation department in all this.
That the street seems completely clean is downright heroic.
I look up at buildings that continue to be covered in a fine grey-tan dust.
I take a deep breath because I've heard so much about the smell.
I don't smell anything out of the ordinary.
Perhaps the wind is blowing westward today.
My sense of smell has always been lame anyway.
It looks as though from here I could cross over Broadway & go west
one block to Church Street. I thought nobody could go over there.
I'll do that on the way back if they let me.
I stand in the middle of Broadway.
Because I can.
There's no traffic.
I'll probably never get to do this again.
The view straight up Broadway takes in the Empire State Building,
& uptown, but you can only see it like this from the middle of the street.
As I continue up towards Trinity Church, the left side of Broadway is
now blocked off. There's a point just after 120 Broadway where I used
to work, where one should be able to look across Broadway through
the park across the street right into "ground zero". Won't happen.
They're directing everyone east on Pine Street towards Nassau Street.
This means that Big Al's is definitely closed.
They're on a little side street that connects Broadway to Church Street
across from 120 Broadway. I wonder if I'll ever see those guys again.
From here there is now a lot of pedestrian traffic, almost all of it
until I get to Nassau. Ah, here's where the New Yorkers are.
They've kind of "migrated" one block east.
Nassau Street is now what Broadway used to be:
The main thoroughfare.
I soon find out why:
Broadway is almost completely impossible to navigate through because
of tourists taking pictures at every corner for the next 4-5 blocks.
Anyway, I proceed behind 120 Broadway on Nassau to Cedar Street,
which is closed off to all except those that work at 120 Broadway.
National Guardsmen are patrolling all the block-off points.
For quite some time, I used to have my 120 Broadway building pass.
Then, not long ago, in order to make room in my wallet, I took it out
& put it in my desk drawer. It's now buried in the rubble.
Anyway, even from here, there's a reasonably substantial sliver of a
view of "ground zero" through the park. It's not a park anymore,
though. All the trees are gone. I believe they've taken them out
in order to turn it into an equipment area. At any rate, even this
small glimpse blows away every TV shot I've seen. Unless you've
been here & seen it, you have no idea how big this is.
Photo © 2001 Tanya Kiskanyan
Lots of people here are taking pictures.
There are lots of little snippets of conversations.
Many somber people.
There are tears.
There are pictures of missing people on every lamppost.
Some are accompanied by stories that rend your heart.
Some of the buildings adjacent to "ground zero" have red netting
draped over them to keep debris from falling. Ah, so that's why
some of the buildings look red when I look from Jersey.
Nobody could figure out why the buildings looked red from there!
There is an elderly oriental woman selling, you guessed it,
those same two types of American flag pins.
"Two dollah, three dollah."
She can't possibly be following me around.
It can't be the same lady.
I get a good look at her just to make sure.
My New Yorker sense tells me that I will see "her" on every corner.
My New Yorker sense is not let down.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry...
I have to ask...
I go up to one of the National Guardsmen.
"Excuse me sir; If I used to work in the Trade Center,
how close can I get to ground zero?"
"I'm afraid you're as close as you're going to be, sir. I'm sorry.
If you have any deceased relatives, they'll escort you in.
You have to go to the command center & sign in."
"Okay, thank you very much. You hang in there."
"Thank you, sir. You too."
I shake his hand. Good man. I admire him.
From here, I can go back towards Broadway on the north side of Cedar.
It's slow-going, as I make my way through the crowd.
My deli is open.
I like that.
I get to Broadway again & I look up at the huge
black building that is One Liberty Plaza.
It is completely dark on the inside. Eerie.
The building is covered in grey-tan soot. Beyond eerie.
The soot shows up sharply on this black steel building.
Photo © 2001 Tanya Kiskanyan
As I continue up Broadway, many of the shops are still closed.
But I'm not prepared for what comes next.
No, I'm not talking about another elderly oriental woman selling
American flag pins for "two dollah, three dollah", although I do
pass by one.
On the corner of John Street & Broadway is a closed jewelry store.
Inside, the store is covered with grey-tan soot & debris.
Inside the store.
The jewelry has been cleared out, but the rest of the store has been left
exactly "as is". It looks as if some accountant-general-ledger type
person had been working at a desk & just left everything there.
Looking through the soot-covered window into this
sooty-debris-covered store is like looking at a snapshot in time.
I almost think that this should be preserved exactly like this as a
museum, but there's a sign that says they'll be open in November.
This is a clothing store, not the jewelry store. Same scene, though.
Photo © 2001 Tanya Kiskanyan
At this point, it occurs to me to take another deep breath.
There it is.
The metal-smoldering stench.
That dead smell.
It's faint, but it's there.
That's what everyone's been talking about.
It's not bad, but then again, I'm sure the wind is blowing west today.
At each corner there is another glimpse into "ground zero",
which I just can't begin to describe.
Photo © 2001 Tanya Kiskanyan
And at each corner there is another elderly oriental woman
selling American flag pins for "two dollah, three dollah."
Now what was once a mildly amusing curiosity has become
for me a major exploiting profiteering annoyance.
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself."
"Two dollah, three dollah."
She thinks I'm interested in the pins. Sick.
Ah, I leave her alone.
That's as angry as I'm capable of getting right now.
My comic book-baseball card store is open.
At the next corner is another glimpse into "ground zero".
What I see amazes me.
Borders Book Store, right at the foot of the Trade Center,
is still there, still intact.
If you look right at the bottom on the middle, there's the Borders Bookstore sign.
Photo © 2001 Tanya Kiskanyan
I know the back of the building it's housed in is blown out/collapsed
from the other angle I saw earlier from the south, but the front,
& the retail store itself appears to be completely intact.
As a matter of fact, the Burger King across the street a couple
of blocks back on Liberty Street seemed to be intact also.
Come to think of it, I've got a view from Jersey every day
of the World Financial Center just west of the Trade Center.
This is nothing short of amazing.
I think about how much worse it could have been.
Those buildings came straight down.
I pass by a clothing store.
The door is open & everyone can see in,
but it's not open for business.
None of the merchandise has been moved.
It's all covered in grey-tan soot.
Many of the windows along Broadway are covered with soot.
There are patriotic & poignant messages scrawled into them,
much as one might draw on their fogged-up bathroom mirror after a shower.
I look forward to going to J&R music...
I was not expecting that.
But there is another elderly oriental woman selling
American flag pins for "two dollah, three dollah."
There is a famous photo of people running away from the Trade Center
just as one of the buildings is collapsing. The smoke is billowing
behind the people as they head north-east along Park Row.
I've seen this particular picture in almost every publication.
This picture is taken from in front of J&R, two blocks north-east
of the Trade Center. (Look at the row of stores to the left.)
I can see City Hall from here.
There's a big flag draped on it.
Time to head back.
I head back down Broadway through the crowd again.
At one corner, a crowd is gathering.
I decide to stop & look, but instead of battling the crowd forward,
I step backward up one step onto the entrance of a perfume
cosmetics store that is closed, both to stay out of the way of
pedestrians & to admittedly get a clearer view.
A faux-policeman-wanna-be-security-guard who apparently
works for the building starts screaming at me out of nowhere.
"GET OFF THE BUILDING YOU'RE NOT ALLOWED THERE."
"Hey, chill, calm down, I'm just standing here."
"YOU CAN'T BLOCK THE PEDESTRIANS."
I'm not blocking any pedestrians. I'm out of the way here.
"YOU CAN'T STAND HERE. YOU'RE BLOCKING PEDESTRIANS."
"I'm not blocking anyone.
But if I go where you tell me to go, I will be blocking them."
"EVERYONE MOVE. I SAID MOVE."
This guy is beyond obnoxious, & everyone knows it.
It would not take much effort for him to courteously keep people
moving, like every real policeman & National Guardsman has done on
every other corner.
A few people kind of go through the motions of jostling,
but they basically ignore the guy. This makes him incensed.
"I SAID MOVE PEOPLE. GET OFF THE CORNER."
I can't take it.
This guy is getting rude to people who are crying & mourning.
"Hey, relax, man, many of us used to work in the Trade Center, okay?"
"USED TO. KEY WORDS: USED TO.
YOU PEOPLE DON'T WORK THERE ANYMORE."
This is beyond all reason & all sense of compassion or decency.
At this point everybody turns around & glares at the
Nobody says a word.
Nobody has to.
Nobody wants to.
They're too shocked for words.
He mutters & grumbles & thankfully shuts up.
As I continue on Broadway & then back west on Cedar,
I run into my boss Greg. He & another co-worker Tanya
were coming from a meeting with one of customers at...
the 20th floor of 120 Broadway where we used to work. The irony.
The view from there of the Trade Center used to be...
"Hey, did you see ground zero?"
Tanya got a whole bunch of pictures.
She's given me permission to use them.
You can find them HERE
(Check back soon if they're not there yet).
Greg & I head back down Nassau so he can get a ferry back to
New Jersey, while I head back down towards the Staten Island ferry.
We have a really good talk.
I don't remember most of it, but I remember it was good.
We reflected on the 15 years of work.
When I joined Garban, the computer department was Gordon & Greg.
He told me that if I need time, not to be afraid to ask for it.
He knows I've been taking this hard.
I deeply appreciate that.
As we head down Nassau, it amazes me that even the buildings
facing east, away from the Trade Center, are covered in soot.
I shouldn't be surprised because I saw the smoke myself,
but still, it just seems amazing.
"Look at that."
There's one spot where a stairway goes down & leads to a basement door.
The stairway is covered in grey-tan soot.
They missed this spot.
This must be what the whole city looked like a few weeks ago.
I stifle a small tear as my eyes well up again.
After we pass by the Stock Exchange, Greg & I part ways.
I head back towards Broadway, south of where the tourists are.
It's now almost 5:00.
I wonder what rush hour will be like?
On Broadway, I see the street that looks like it's open towards the west.
Sure enough, it is open.
And from Church Street, there is that same clear view of
"ground zero" I saw from the ferry, except I'm a lot closer.
The tourists don't seem to know about this spot.
I'm standing in front of the entrance to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.
Only busses & emergency vehicles are allowed on it.
It seems quite odd to see it hardly in use.
I head south & as I get to Battery Park,
what I see cheers me up considerably.
It looks... normal!
It's a normal rush hour scene!
Busses, & cabs, traffic, & lots of people waiting for the bus.
Thinking about it, this is the point where "open" meets "closed".
I stand on the corner taking this scene in.
There aren't even any elderly oriental women selling
American flag pins here for "two dollah, three dollah."
I savor this little slice of pretend-normalcy.
The rest of the trip home is uneventful.
But as I contemplate what I've seen, the thought that pervades:
There's only half a city there.
Photo © 2001 Tanya Kiskanyan
Saturday-Monday, October 6-8, 2001
Two of my best friends, John & Barb come to visit from
Syracuse for the three day weekend with their two children.
We have not seen each other for some time.
There have always been reasons not to, other things going on.
As John Lennon once said,
"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
We share many tears, & many laughs.
The kids are great.
I took John to see downtown Manhattan.
This time, the front of 120 Broadway was open.
Now, he knows.
Though the time, the distance, & the circumstances have sometimes
recently served to separate us, I know that there is nothing I wouldn't
do for John & Barb, & nothing they wouldn't do for Kirsten & me.
It's heartening & greatly encouraging to know
that some good things really don't change.
This weekend is my first glimpse of life & hope again.
I was actually without rot gut for extended periods.
Tuesday-Friday, October 9-12, 2001
A largely uneventful & very stressful week.
Most of it is spent looking forward to the weekend...
Saturday-Sunday, October 13-14, 2001
Our good friends Bob & Doris take my daughter Megan & me
upstate for a couple of hiking trips. Kirsten has been
sick, so she decides to stay home & rest up.
As much as I love New York City, it is truly good to
get away & see the "fall foliage" of upstate New York.
The colors of the mountains this time of year are breathtaking,
as always. The hiking is therapeutic & relaxing.
Megan holds up quite well!
I can't thank Bob & Doris enough for doing this.
They made all the arrangements & took care of everything.
I didn't have to think. Just enjoy.
And yet, this is a temporary salve on a very deep wound...
Monday-Tuesday, October 15-16, 2001
I thought the weekend would help.
If anything, returning to work in Jersey after the contrast of
being upstate only makes Jersey worse, not to mention that there
is no escaping anthrax all over the news.
And with that, my thoughts turn darker.
I hesitate to write this, but it occurs to me that there
is absolutely nothing to stop a bunch of terrorists from
each going over a bridge at the same time with an SUV &
a truck bomb. Everybody takes a bridge at, say, oh, 5:30pm.
One takes The Verrazano; one takes The George Washington;
one takes The Brooklyn Bridge; The Manhattan Bridge;
The Williamsburg; The Tri-boro; The Throgsneck; The Whitestone;
The Goethals; The Outerbridge Crossing (which is named after a
guy whose name was Outerbridge, by the way. They couldn't call
it the Outerbridge Bridge, so they called it the Outerbridge
Crossing. Just thought you might like to know that little
piece of trivia. We need some levity after all this heavy stuff.)
Anyway, I can't seem to shake this thought.
Is terrorism winning?
Today, it is with me.
What can I do about it? Nothing.
So I shouldn't worry about it.
I know that.
But I can't help it.
I am edgy.
I cannot relax.
My back is in knots.
Rot gut is in full force & is my constant companion.
What is coming next?
I keep thinking that it's not over.
At work, we're all still sitting at one big desk with laptops.
Everyone is talking all the time.
I can't work or concentrate like this.
On Monday night, as I'm going over the Bayonne Bridge,
I see a plane to the west turning towards me.
My brain tells me everything is fine, but I speed up anyway.
On Tuesday night, as I'm going over the Bayonne Bridge,
a van directly in front of me puts his flashers on & decides
to stop for no apparent reason. There's only one lane here
during rush hour because of construction. Typical Jersey.
I freak out. Obviously, it's probably nothing; the van starts
up shortly thereafter. But I don't remember ever reacting that
way before. I can't deny my fear.
Last month, Don had given me & everyone else at work an article
on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or whatever it's called.
I gave the article a once-over at the time. I've rarely been
one for psycho-babble, however, I have had someone close to me
go through clinical depression & I've seen them get help that
worked. Some time later, I gave the article another look, more
out of interest & understanding.
Tonight, I took the test again.
I am now beginning to answer "yes" to far too many of these questions.
I include them in here in case there's someone out there who could
possibly be helped by answering these:
This is not good.
This evening, rather then shutting her out again,
I spend the whole night talking & venting with Kirsten.
I know that it hurts her to see me like this.
But I know that I need to be honest & I need her help.
I can't hide inside my shell anymore.
I need to start connecting again to the people I love
& those who love me back. If I let this pattern of
fear go on, it could get pretty difficult to break.
I've got to stop watching television.
I've got to start getting some sleep.
I've been my own worst enemy.
There's this part of me that "needs" to hold on
to this "bad" feeling. I don't ever want to forget.
But I need to stop harboring the negative thoughts
& get on with my life somehow.
One day at a time, I guess.
Kirsten gives me some excellent advice:
"You have to find a new 'normal' for yourself."
I mark this day as my personal nadir.
I can't live like this anymore.
Talking with Kirsten has helped.
Time to get a good night's sleep.
Wednesday, October 17, 2001
Today is a good day.
The black cloud I've been harboring & nurturing has lifted.
I don't know why, I really don't, but I'm grateful.
Maybe I need to talk with Kirsten more.
Maybe I just haven't been getting enough sleep.
Nothing else is special about today.
Just that it is way better than the last two days.
I'll just accept that & move on to tomorrow.
Thursday, October 18, 2001
Today is an even better day.
There is some healing today.
It may even be the best day I've had since all this happened.
Where to begin?
After a pretty "decent" day, I go to the weekly Thursday rehearsal
for the worship/music team at my church. I go there planning to
take a break from this for awhile. I do not feel worthy to be
leading worship at a time when I'm having so many problems doing
that myself. To my way of thinking, the ablility to play the piano
does not automatically make one qualified to be leading worship.
I plan on continuing to come to rehearsals on Thursday, but with
the intent to bow out of "performing" (bad word, can't think of
the right one, but worship is not a performance) on Sunday mornings.
But something happens. As I walk in, they're playing a new worship
song we hadn't done before. Almost immediately, without even thinking,
I sit down at the piano & begin riffing over & around it.
I'm having fun.
I'm enjoying myself, despite myself.
I don't realize it at the time, but it occurs to me later that
it's the first time I've had fun making music in some time.
Since I was upstate last week, Espen, our worship leader asks
me if I'll be at church on Sunday. "Yes, I'll be there..."
I'm letting the "but" go unspoken.
I want to explain why I'm taking a break for awhile,
but I can't find the right words.
I never do find the right time or the right words to tell
everyone I'm taking a break. And the rehearsal goes well.
Three of us, Russell, Jonathan, & I have been attempting to
restart a church coffeehouse band. After being derailed by
a myriad of circumstances, including medical problems &
September 11, we're trying to finally get this off the ground.
We've finally settled on rehearsing every Thursday after
worship team rehearsal.
For whatever reason, God has decided to place Russell,
Jonathan, & me together at this time, in this way.
That is the only explanation for the way we are relating
to each other, both personally, & musically.
We are three very different people.
Yet, we are serving to each help each other through a very
rough time. I cannot begin to describe all that goes on
between us -- all the conversations, the phone calls, the
checking up on each other, the mutual encouraging of each
other, & the sharing & venting & allowing of each other
to express themselves.
We each bring something to this "group".
As a trio, musically, it's difficult to decide who plays
what on which songs sometimes. I play keyboards & drums.
Russell plays guitar, bass, & keyboards. Jonathan plays
drums, bass, & guitar. We switch around depending on
whatever the song requires. And somehow, it's all
sounding pretty darn good. But more important, it's fun.
So I go home around 11:30, after driving Jonathan home
& having another of those extended "life talk" conversations
that I've come to cherish, & I come home in a pretty good mood.
I sit down & check my mail.
There's a package from my good Yesfriend Jamison.
I am smiling.
I can't wait to hear this again.
Another small piece of my life has been restored.
I am hoping, but not really expecting that Jamison would write
me some kind of a letter. His moving letter touches me deeply.
I put on "Saxlife", & I fall asleep with a smile on my face.
Well, I could continue to share my "daily journal", with my little
"ups" & "downs", "good" days & "bad" days, "triumphs" & "setbacks",
but at this point, it's just a personal thing that is probably of
no real interest to anyone. In re-reading this, I realize that this
is what this has become for the past few entries since October 6-8.
My paychecks that come in the mail still have a return address of
2 World Trade Center
New York, NY
Paychecks from the crypt...
Yet a big part of me hopes that never changes.
I wonder what they're doing with all that mail that was
supposed to be delivered to the World Trade Center?
I'd like to say that this little story has a "happy" ending.
But I can't.
This story is still being lived by me as I go.
It has not been easy.
It has been downright painful at times.
I really thought that after Thursday, October 18 that I was "okay".
I was wrong.
But I do see in my life how God is reaching out to me
& bringing me back into the fold in many ways. He has
placed me among family & friends & believers whose faith
At this point, I've had some time to think, read, learn,
& come to some thoughts & conclusions about what I think
about this whole thing. If you've made it this far, I beg
your indulgence for just a little longer. I promise that
the payoff at the end is a good one.
My first thoughts continue to be with those firefighters.
I don't know how those guys do what they do.
I don't know how they cope.
Those guys have something I don't have.
I don't know what it is, but they have it & I (most of us) don't.
I'm not envious; it's just an observation.
I saw a television show which had nothing but the firefighters
trying to make sense of everything in their own words.
Three comments stick out for me (paraphrasing):
1. One guy has this vacant look on his face as he tries to come
to terms with the idea that he's somehow still here while others
are not. He begins to name all his brothers in the department
who are no longer with us. I can't imagine what he's going
through, but I can relate to his thoughts regarding, "Why me?"
2. "We'll go on, because we don't want to bring dishonor to
the men we lost." What an amazing perspective. He refuses to
bring dishonor. Wow. There's an inner strength in this man
that is just incredible.
But this one gets me the most:
3. "We went to a fire the other day & we looked at it & said,
'we can handle this'. It was nice to get back to normal."
"Normal" for these guys is going into a burning building.
Think about that!
On to more philosophical thoughts...
As a Christian man, I don't need vengence or retribution or justice.
I really don't.
Because I know in my heart that God will carry out His justice
in His own time in His own way. Throughout this ordeal, even
when I've felt separated from God, I've known this to be true.
If the U.S. does not ever catch the people who are involved
in this, I'm completely okay with that. God will handle it.
I don't need vengence. Besides, the men who did this are already dead.
However, preventing this type of thing from ever happening
again is another matter altogether. I truly believe that the
United States needs to do whatever it feels is necessary to
insure that this kind of thing never happens again.
Prevention, not retribution, should be our prevailing motivation.
The role of any government should be to protect its citizens.
Again, the role of any government should be to protect its citizens.
Think about that.
On that note...
I've been asked if I see Hiroshima & Nagasaki in a different light now.
I had to give this some very serious consideration, but I have to say
that I still believe that it was a preventive measure.
In the big picture, ultimately, more lives overall were saved.
The war was ended. But it hurts more than ever that the circumstance
that made Hiroshima & Nagasaki necessary were ever there at all.
When you see the propoganda on television where innocent
targets are hit by the U.S. overseas, keep this in mind:
If the Taliban is supposedly Afghanistan's "government",
then it is their job to care for & protect its citizens.
Think about that.
The Taliban was warned what would happen & what they needed to do.
It is they who are choosing to hide themselves among their
own innocent civilians. It is they who are using their own
innocent civilians as pseudo-bomb-shelters. The blame for
innocent civilians getting hit rests with them. They know
what they need to do to end the bombing. They've chosen
to harbor terrorists & to terrorize their own citizens.
That's the path they've chosen.
We need to defend our citizens & prevent this from happening again.
The war ends when ALL governments EVERYWHERE begin to respect
others' women & children & civilians, AND, more importantly:
The war ends when ALL governments EVERYWHERE begin to
care about their OWN women & children & civilians.
Think about that.
It's really that simple.
Don't for a minute lose your resolve to defend & protect
ourselves & to prevent this from happening again.
Now, I noted earlier that anger was one thing I was not feeling.
That's still true... almost.
I'm not angry at those who did this.
I can't adequately explain why -- only that it's almost as
if they're not worthy of me feeling anything towards them.
But there is one thing that is capable of getting me angry:
This sick perverse idea that we somehow deserved or caused this
with our foreign policy or whatever else we've supposedly done.
To anyone out there who thinks that anyone in the Trade Center
deserved what happened to them no matter what our foriegn
policy is, you are one incredibly sick !#$%. You have no !#$%
clue. Whether you're a right-wing dude who thinks that American
values have eroded to the point where it's our fault & were
deserving of this, or whether you're a left-wing-self-loathing-
apologist for the U.S., you bring dishonor to all Americans by
even thinking this, & you should get the !#$% out of the country.
Nobody deserves to have their building blown up like that.
This sick perverse thinking makes my blood boil.
You people who think this ought to be ashamed of yourselves.
If you think that we should not defend ourselves & not do
everything necessary to prevent this from happening again,
then get the !#$% out of my country. I don't want you here.
I got that off my chest.
On to my final point...
Someone commented to me that my generation is really the
first to never experience war. That got me thinking...
I was too young to really remember Viet Nam.
My first memory of it was it being over.
I remember asking my Mom what Viet Nam was -- when it was over.
The Gulf War was over in a week.
Other wars have always been overseas & remote.
Yes, until now, I've never known war in my life.
I see The Twin Towers as a big peace sign that spanned the peace time.
Remember in the late 60's & early 70's what the peace sign was?
It was someone holding up two fingers.
Like The Twin Towers.
The lifespan of The Twin Towers spanned the time from the
end of Viet Nam through the beginning of whatever you would
call this new war against terrorism.
Think about that.
The Twin Towers reigned over & during America's peace.
They respresented peace.
The Twin Towers: A big peace sign.
This photo of the antenna made me cry.
Who can forget the images of seeing it fall
inward & down when the last tower fell?
Who can forget the men hanging a flag on what was left of it?
Photo © 1981 Vito Macaluso
"The World Trade Center is a living symbol of man's dedication
to world peace... a representation of man's belief in humanity,
his individual dignity, his beliefs in the cooperation of men,
and, through cooperation, his ability to find greatness."
-Minoru Yamasaki, chief architect, durinnng construction of The Twin Towers