September 11, 2001 was a beautiful clear crisp fall morning. I commuted that day from Newark, NJ on the PATH, a train/subway that runs all the way to the World Trade Center. I exited that morning at the Exchange Place stop, the last stop before the WTC, on what would be the last PATH train to the World Trade Center for 18 months. I checked into my cubicle and immediately heard that a plane had just crashed into Tower One of the World Trade Center.
Small planes routinely traveled up and down the river showing the NYC skyline to tourists. When we heard of the crash, most people assumed one of these planes had lost control and crashed.
I went to the cafeteria for coffee and a roll wondering if anyone was hurt in this crash. The cafeteria’s windows faced east to the NYC sky-line. Looking out the cafeteria’s windows at the tower, it was apparent this plane was no Piper Cub.
Somewhat disturbed by what I saw, I turned to pay the cashier when I heard gasps and then shouting, “SHIT, OH NO, HOLY GOD, ANOTHER PLANE FLEW INTO TOWER TWO!!”
I turned to see the result of the second crash. Tower Two was struck and on fire. Immediately it became clear what was happening. Terrorists! Arab Terrorists! Those “holier than thou, we know better than you, the great Satan accusing, Jew hating, backward, stupid, violent religion of peace and love, fanatical, perverted, sick faction of the Muslim world” TERRORISTS!
We were in the tallest building in Jersey City, not a likely target, but at this point everyone thought anything was possible. The building was evacuated along with almost all of Jersey City and all of downtown New York. Outside, in a daze, I merely watched the two towers burn. I was numb. I did not know whom I knew who worked in those towers, but I knew there would be friends and acquaintances that were in danger.
Staring at the buildings, there was what appeared to be a blast at the base of one of the towers. It was huge. I thought, “Oh my God, there must be hundreds of workers, cops, and firefighters around that blast.” Someone yelled “the tower is gone.” “No way, I thought.” It was just hidden behind the first tower, but I could not see it. Gone. One of the towers was just gone. I used to work across the street from the towers. I used to exit from the PATH train every day under those towers. Thirty three years before, I watched those towers being built. I watched Philippe Petite tightrope walk across those towers. I watched a human fly climb to the top of one of those towers. I watched a sky-diver chute to the ground off one of the towers. Gone! One of the towers was gone.
Dazed, I simply turned and began to walk. Walk away from the river. Walk toward home. Walk away from the destruction, from the horror I was not able to comprehend. I met a face I knew and we walked together. I did not know his name. I knew he worked on my floor; he was some small familiarity in a world turned upside down.
We walked to Journal Square, the center of Jersey City; perhaps we could catch a train or bus to home. I occasionally turned to see the towers…tower. Half the way to Journal Square I turned to look at the remaining burning building just as it crumbled slow motion to the ground. I felt as if I was in the middle of a bad action movie.
We reached Journal Square to find there were no trains and no buses. Cell phone service was almost zero.
We went into a small café. A TV was on and there was talking about a plane attack in Washington, and a fourth plane unaccounted for. What was going on? When would it end?
The next few hours were a blur. My “friend” managed to get through to his father on the cell. His father drove to Journal Square. They gave me a ride home. It took several hours as some bridges were closed and the traffic was jammed.
When I got home I learned that a close friend worked on the 92nd floor of Tower One. I knew he worked downtown; I just never knew where. I later learned that a co-worker, a broker on the American Stock Exchange, was at a breakfast meeting at the “Top Of The World” restaurant on the top of Tower One. Weeks later I learned of another person I used to work with every day for two years had just taken a new job at the World Trade Center.
Three thousand people dead. On 9-11-01 I thought it would be at least ten thousand. Three thousand people, one a good friend, two acquaintances: I felt a New York-downtown kinship with all three thousand. The towers themselves had a life for me. They really were not pretty. They were New York City - ugly, functional, and big. If ever there were New York City in-your-face-attitude buildings, they were the twin towers of the World Trade Center. GONE.
Ten years later, the trade center is being rebuilt. One huge “Freedom Tower” is being raised. Downtown New York keeps on. Is it a mistake to rebuild? Will the new Tower just be a target? Perhaps, but then we will rebuild again.
We will not capitulate to people who decapitate. We cannot worry how we act or what we say for fear of upsetting a group that will kill cartoonists because they do not like the cartoon.
I am pretty sure they do not like us. I am pretty sure there is nothing we can do to make them like us. I do not want them to like us. Their own kind will bring them down. There are good people who will grow tired of the message of hate that is keeping them under the boot of the fanatics. Their women will see that other cultures do not treat women like property. They will see other people are free; they will want to be free. When they see there is hope for better things, for a better life, they will rise in mass and spit in the face of the fanatics.
In years to come people around the world will come to Downtown New York. They will visit the hallowed grounds of the World Trade Center and stare at the Freedom Tower. They will know that this was where insanity reached its peak; this is where lunatics showed their true colors. They showed the colors of hate, the colors of destruction, and the colors of death because death is what they desire. This is where the rest of the world watched and the rest of the world rejected their colors.This is where the civilized world rose up and the civilized world said NO!