Whenever I would fly into my hometown of New York City, the one thing that I would look for to let me know that I was “really home” were the Twin Towers, glistening in the sun as if to say, “you’re home”.
I also loved walking on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade in Clinton Hills, where my oldest son and his family live. One could see the New York City Skyline of lower Manhattan which is a spectacular site to see. The Twin Towers always dominated the beautiful skyline and added a stylish elegance to the already stunning light-speckled silhouettes.
The weather in Atlanta on the morning of September 11th, 2001 was absolutely gorgeous. The infamous “Hotlanta” heat had started to subside for about a week and I had decided to go walking. I turned the television on at about 8:55 am, having no knowledge of what I was about to witness, I stood staring at the tv, stunned and confused. The reports from CNN indicated that a small plane had hit the World Trade Center. My phone started ringing off the hook. My children were all checking in with me to let me know they were ok. That is, all but one, who I had not heard from at all.
To make things worse, My son, Marc’s wife called to tell me that Marc had an appointment at the WTC that morning at 9:00 am. As I spoke to her, we both watch the second plane going into the south tower. I was trying to console my daughter-in-law and at the same time my heart was racing, wondering if my son was in one of those buildings.
I asked my kids to find out what they could and get back to me. I told my son’s wife that I was certain he was ok and that I would call her back shortly. My heart was in my throat, thinking about Marc and the thousands of people in those buildings.
By this time the news reports indicated that we were being attacked. I couldn’t believe I was witnessing what was tantamount to my mother’s recollection of the events that followed the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
I sat on my sofa, mesmerized by the unfolding events. Eyewitnesses telling their stories, correspondents and reporters trying to piece together what happened. I felt helpless because I lived in Atlanta now and I kept wishing I were there, to comfort my family, to help or volunteer my services somewhere. All I could do was stare at the television screen in total shock and disbelief.
My son Marc called me at about 10:00am telling me his bus was stuck in the Lincoln tunnel and he was unable to use his cell phone to tell us he was ok. I was so relieved and grateful that he was alive and well. Conversely, I was very sad to see the many people who were searching for their loved ones, some of whom would be found and so many many more who wouldn’t.
What I take away most, from the events of that day was not the hostility of who or why, I wasn’t “there” yet. I remember the entire world, rallying around us in gestures of good will. I remember the people of New York City coming together and helping to do what they could to make things easier for the first responders, especially after the south tower crumbled to the ground.
I remember thinking how New Yorkers always come together in a crisis and this was no exception. I also remember thinking how the NYPD and the NYFD rocked! They were the finest and the bravest, working together regardless of risk and without hesitation.
The politics of that day came days later for me. As things began to unravel and reports surfaced that the Bush Administration may have been negligent in foreseeing the ensuing the disaster.
On September 11, 2001, I was in the moment. The human triumphs and tragedies. The tears and laughter. The horrific loss of life, including a group of firemen who’s communication equipment failed them (thanks, then Mayor Guiliani.) In fact, I was in the “moment” for at least first three days of broadcasts and repeats of important events.
September 11, 2001 is one of those days when people ask: “Where were you when….?” In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed the assassination of our 35th President, John F. Kennedy, the March on Washington, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Malcom X.
Yet, the events of 9/11/2001 hit harder because of the global implications and the sheer numbers of people killed at all three sites. I’ll always remember where I was on that date.