(Photo thanks to Mike Galvin)
Living on the West Coast, it's all too easy to forget the tragedy that took place eight years ago in New York. Last year I wrote about part of my experience in how I was almost on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. But that actual day I woke up in our house on the Jersey Shore, not so far away from a clear view of the city. And I woke up to a call from Andrew saying, "I'm okay." That's never a good way to start the day. He told me to turn on the TV, and it took me a while to find a channel as the antennas for most stations had been knocked out with the first plane. I found the channel in time to see shots of where the first plane had hit and hear the announcers talk about whether it was an accident or an intended attack. We had no idea what we were in for at that point.
Andrew and I weren't on the phone long. He didn't want to tie up the phone lines, back in the days where cell phones were much less prominent and all the other features we've come to rely on attached to our phone service hadn't caught on or been developed yet. In fact, this morning I was pondering how much different the situation would have been if we had had texting, Twitter and Facebook access, etc. Would the cell strength have been any different? Could we have found people buried in the rubble who couldn't get through otherwise? Could we have texted people stuck in stairways which direction to go - up or down, or on the other side of the building? It's all what-ifs, and I would much rather spend time thinking about the near-misses and little voices people listened to that day.
As much as I was terrified to hear Andrew yell "Holy shit! I have to go, another plane just hit and people are jumping out of the building," from where he stood looking out the window of his office building on 14th St., at least I had heard from him and knew he was okay. He was even able to get one more call in to me a few minutes later saying he had contacted his brother and they were meeting up and headed for the pier to take the ferry home. I didn't know it would be another nerve-wracking 10 hours before I heard from him again, saying he had made it to New Jersey with his brother and that they were at the fire station. They wouldn't let me come and pick him up even because they were trying to keep as many people off the roads as possible. And at that point they had no idea if biological toxins had been released into the air, so they soaked everyone down with the hoses and told them to burn their clothes when they got home. Not really the smartest choice I'd say - burning unknown toxins - but that's what they told people. So Andrew arrived home soaking wet, dropped off by a nice stranger providing taxi-service for the night, and I was never happier to see him in my life.
Later I'd hear stories from friends describing how they'd slept late and the first plane had hit before they had gotten on the train. Or how they'd been walking through the bottom of the World Trade Center, commuting from Brooklyn like they always did (and how I used to every day), and hopped onto the PATH train to Jersey City before realizing that the really loud noise they heard was not a gunshot but in fact a plane hitting the building that stood above them. Hearing these stories offset many of the horror stories we heard, and as much as I do not want anyone to ever forget the tragedy of this day, I really try to focus on the good and kindness and true brotherhood that people showed each other in the face of uncertainty and panic.
It amuses me that after that day there was a huge increase in marriage proposals, weddings, and a whole new batch of babies - will they get their own catchy name as they get older, like the Baby Boomers of the '80s? It just goes to show that our true natures are stronger, purer, and more altruistic than many would believe. Let's just remember that side more often, shall we? Even if it's just to honor those we lost that day.