This is a previous post remembering 9/11 as it still rings true.
At the time, I was living with my friend, Vonnie, on 57th/10th in midtown and bartending at a hotel in Times Square on 42nd St. I was in my work out kick and awoke around 8:45 a.m. to exercise to a video. Probably right before 9 a.m., I turned the TV on. I was still a bit bleary eyed from just arising. I see a building smoking on TV. I assume that HBO or some movie channel was the last channel on before the TV was turned off the night before. I just figured it was some movie and immediately stuck in the DVD and started to warm up. Within minutes, Vonnie ran out of her room and shut off the DVD and turned the TV back on. I was still half asleep and wasn't sure what was happening. She had the phone in her hand and was talking to her mother. She shouted out that the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane. I immediately realized that what I saw a few minutes before was not a movie.
We sat in horror as we watched and tried to figure out what was going on. And within minutes, our horror was magnified. A little after 9, we witnessed the 2nd plane crashing into the 2nd building. Vonnie and I were both trying to get through to our respective family and friends. Luckily, we were both able to get through to our mothers who were frantic. People that live outside of NYC, assume we're all clustered together in one big place, so naturally...people were worried about us. As I was about other friends. You never know who could have been down there as a major subway stop was located inside the WTC. I was there the night before on 9/10, taking a wine class at Windows on the World on the top floor of the North Tower. Anyone could have been there for any reason.
After trying to send out an email to let friends know I was fine and on my way to the hotel to work, I hugged Vonnie tightly and headed off. There was a stench of smoke in the air traveling uptown from the WTC site. I jumped on the downtown bus, which was overcrowded, and it was abuzz with speculation of what was happening. It was announced around 10 a.m. or so that it was a possible hijacking/terrorist attack. People seemed to be genuinely concerned for one another.
I get off at 42nd st. and head into the hotel around 10:30 a.m. As the elevator lets me out to the lobby, where the bar was located, I was greeted with a sea of people. The entire lobby was full and the restaurant/bar was completely packed. Since the airports were shut down, there was no where to go. People had arrived to check in were stuck there with people checking out and trying to extend their stay. People have to eat and many wanted to drink. We were totally slammed. Most people were pretty gracious and understanding and I noticed everyone talking to each other. Many were quite nice to me and offered to try to get a hold of my sister for me (since we hadn't gotten in touch). A couple of people acted out and tried to yell at me or a waiter or manager. I suppose it was their way of dealing or they were just plain assholes. Not sure. One guy tried to go off on me for taking awhile with the food/drink he ordered. At least 3-4 other bar patrons came to my defense and made the guy realize there were more important things happening.
Hotel management brought out a TV later so we could catch updates. It was non-stop busy throughout the day. At one point, in the early afternoon, they had sent some other hotel guests from a sister hotel near the WTC site up to our hotel. I'll never forget one woman who was clearly shaken from what she saw. Crying and trying to express what she witnessed. She saw the people jumping out of the towers and said, "I was looking out of the window of my hotel and saw one body drop. And then, it was like raindrops of people coming down." Later, those words hit me much more as they actually showed the jumpers on the local news.
At one rare slow point during the day, we looked out the window of the hotel. The lobby was located on the 23rd floor, so we had a view of the city. The streets were completely empty. We weren't facing downtown, so we couldn't see the site, but there was definitely still smoke in the air.
Most of the day was a blur. As I said, it was so busy that we just didn't have time to think too much on it. And as a bartender, I was listening to horrific eye witness accounts of the events. Listening to people try to get a hold of family/friends all the while not being able to do the same myself. I'm not martyring myself, I'm just saying I was too busy to process it.
We ended up staying open a bit later just to serve those that were stuck out in the lobby over night and finally closed up around 1 or 2 a.m. (Normally, we closed around midnight.) Again, I am grateful to many who kept coming down from their rooms to see if I was okay and offered to contact loved ones.
A couple of us lived near each other and walked home. Everything was closed. Streets were barren. And the air was full of a smoky stench. I got home and Vonnie was stuck to the TV watching coverage of it all. We sat there for hours watching it until we finally had to go to bed. I kissed Vonnie on the forehead, hugged her tightly and sauntered off to my room, closing the door behind me. I sat down and openly wept for a little bit to myself. I finally had a chance to process it all and it was just as overwhelming as you can imagine.
A few days later, a large group of friends went out and had drinks. Our families and friends had offered to come get us and take us away,etc. We vowed then that we would not leave. It was a scary and dangerous time, yet we knew NYC was home. And we weren't going anywhere.
8 years later, it's still fresh in our minds. Especially New Yorkers. I understand that if you don't live here, it might not impact you as much. And as much as we protested that it wouldn't change our way of life, it certainly has. While these are unpredictable times we live in, most of us still live and go about our lives as normally as possible. As well we should.
It doesn't mean that the importance of this date will not be remembered. I, for one, will never forget.
My mother sent me a copy of the email I sent out days after the tragedy. As you'll be able to ascertain, emotions were high so do forgive the dramatic tone of it all. Apropos at the time, I think.
Thank you all again for all of the wonderful emails, calls, etc. I have heard from people from all over the world and from some old friends that I haven’t heard from in over 10 years. As I said, I am fine. I have reached all of my close friends who possibly worked down there. Unfortunately, I fear that someone I know will be among the missing/deceased. We wont know for weeks. We can only hope and pray for more survivors and for the families of those who were lost.
Having been at Windows on the World at the top of the World Trade Center on Monday (Sept. 10th), I still find it very surreal. As do we all. While I will never forget the devastation of Sept. 11th, I remember the previous day quite well. The conversation the elevator operator was having with a friend, my friends in the wine class I was taking, the general busy-ness of the shops and all of the people. My God. All of the people.
I have had to work every day since then. I haven’t had a full day to digest all of it. I am finally off today. I am going to spend today walking around the city and possibly trying to volunteer.
While working kept me busy, it was very difficult. As I was trying to reach people and vice/versa. I work at a hotel bar in Times Square. The Millenium Hilton by the site (Ground Zero) has become a triage. Many of their guests were sent to our hotel and I heard horrifying eye witness accounts of the events of the day. One woman told me a brief few sentences that I will never forget: “I was looking out of the window of my hotel and saw one body drop. Then, it was like raindrops of people coming down.” Then, seeing these images on the news later only made it all the more real.
While this is the most horrific tragedy in our history, we must live our lives. I am amazed at how we New Yorkers have pulled together. We will perservere. As I know those in D.C. will too. We can not be fearful to leave our houses. Yes, I understand how frightening this is, but we can not show those responsible that we can be made to cower. NYC is on high alert with daily bomb threats, etc. WE WILL NOT SUBMIT TO THESE TERRORISTS! Understandably, people are scared. Many of my friends. A new friend of mine has been here a month from Ireland and is already trying to get back there. While I understand her concern to be with family, I feel that we must stay here and pull together as we have been doing. My family and all of my friend’s families have offered to “come get us”. I went out with about 8 of my close friends the other night. We all came to the same conclusion: Our place is here. This is our home. Our backyard. We will not be bullied away. We will not be made to hide in our homes. If, God forbid, something else happens, we are all going to be here to help each other and rebuild this city. If we can do it, so can all of you. For all of you outside of NYC, thank you for following our lead of strength and unity. We will continue to need it. Keep it going. Live your lives and be strong. We can be a true UNITED States of America. Never forget. Never give up. I love you all. Take care and stay in touch.
Peace and Love
Be good to each other, kids. We're all we got. I'm not the most perfect person in the world and I screw up. A LOT. But I try to be a good person and spread the love. Are there people out there I don't like? Sure. But I hope the good outweight the bad in my life. Let's hope the rest of the world feels the same way.
Mad love, folks. Nothing but mad love for you.