Thursday, September 11, 2008

9.11.01... Has it really been 7 years?

Seven years ago... is that really possible? Has it really been 7 years? It seems like only yesterday. My nightmares still come, I now really dislike the sound of airplanes over my head and whenever I smell smoke it brings me back to that day.

It was one of those days that I don't think anyone who was alive to see it and old enough to know what was going on will ever forget what they were doing. 9/11/01 joins the day JFK was shot, the day the Challenger blew up and the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked as a day all Americans will remember until they day they die. Over 2700 people lost their lives, our country was attacked, the United States and most certainly New York will never be the same.

It was a beautiful, end of the summer morning in New York City. One of those mornings that you just wanted to call into work sick and spend the day outside. I was so excited because on September 10, 2001 I had my OB appt at NYU where I found out for sure via ultrasound that I was indeed pregnant with a little girl. The 2 ultrasounds before the tech couldn't really tell for sure but this one, she was positive! I had my ultrasound with me and was anxious to share the news with my co-workers that Matt & I would be welcoming Katie Kelly in January!!

I got to our office at 14 Wall Street around 8:15, changed my shoes from heels to sneakers (yep, working on the NYSE was probably one of the only jobs where you did a reverse shoe change in Manhattan! On my feet all day I prefered to look good going to work and be comfortable standing all day!) and went down to the floor to set up my spot around 8:30.

At 8:42 we all heard a crash. Rumors started swirling around the floor. A small plane had hit the WTC. That was just a few blocks away. It couldn't be. What really happened? What is going on? Would the market open? Would we have a delayed opening? What could we do? I automatically walked to my dad's booth on the NYSE. His booth was in another room but there were TVs that played every major news-station and the NYSE admins had their meetings right near him so I was hoping to get some idea of what the hell happened from there. Dad wasn't in yet so I left him a note to meet me at my post when he got there. By that time it was 9. And there it was again. Only this time the noise was louder and for some reason as we heard the noise we all looked up at the windows. There was debris and smoke everywhere. For anyone that has been on the floor of the NYSE you know the windows are high up and tinted but even through the green of the windows we knew there was something very wrong. The guys in my firm that were down there and I agreed that we should go to our office across the street and get our things and try to figure out what the hell to do. I left my dad another note to let him know where I was and to call my office to let me know he was ok when he got in.

It was a mess when we left 11 Wall Street. Smoke, soot, papers, debris everywhere. And the smell... it was indescribable.

As the guys and I got up to the office the news was on, as it is in every financial office in the world. We sat there fixed on the TVs. We were told that our building and the NYSE buildings were in lockdown. We couldn't leave. Thankfully my cell phone worked for a few minutes and our office phones stayed operational the whole time. My dad got through to me, he was upstairs in the NYSE offices teaching a new broker's class. He was on the floor now and none to happy with the fact that I left the building without him. I told him that I would be ok and that we were going to just wait it out and get the hell home... that's all I wanted to do, get the hell home. Me & my baby needed to get out of there... that's what I focused on and that's what I was going to do.
The guys and I watched in awe as all of this happened around us. We watched as the report came in that the Pentagon was hit. Then we watched on TV as they confirmed what we had heard, smelled and saw just seconds before... the first tower went down. It was unbelievable. The office windows went black one by one as the smoke, soot and debris rolled down the streets. The smell that came in through the windows was horrible. Manhattan was shut down. There were no trains, there were no busses... we sat and cried, yes, the tough Wall Street grown men cried right along with the pregnant woman. We were all so helpless and scared. The second building fell, the crash of Flight 93 in Pa... when would it end? Like I said, thankfully the phones in my office never stopped working. Matt called me constantly. My mom hated hanging up every time we were on the phone. My dad called every 15 minutes, he was just across the street but it felt like we were so far away from each other.

Then, the report came in, there were 4 planes that had been hijacked and they were all accounted for. I wish I could say that there was a sigh of relief but there wasn't. I knew so many people that worked in those buildings. I knew so many police men and fire men that were rushing to help those that were trapped and still inside. We all did, we all just wanted to know that the people we knew were ok.

After what felt like days, they finally told us that we could leave our building a little after 1 PM. 16 flights of stairs full of dust and dirt from the explosions and collapses. I walked down with one guy on either side of me, one in front of me and one behind me. They were all amazing to me, they were all worried about me and the baby falling. I had told them that it wasn't necessary and that they could get out a whole lot faster than they would walking me down but they wouldn't go. They all kept saying that if it was their wife they would want people to help her.

I walked out of the building around 2 PM that day. I was so thankful to be out of there. We all walked out with wet paper towels on our faces, bottles of water in our bags (thank God for our boss who always had a couple of cases of water in the office), sneakers on our feet and the men all insisted that over the wet paper towels over my face I should have the 2 surgical masks that we had in the office. I walked out with one on over the wet towels and the other in a ziplog bag in my purse in case I needed it later. We all had no idea how we were getting home but we were all going to try.

I met my dad at the door to my office building on Pine Street. We both cried and hugged. I don't even want to tell you what he did to get past the police lines to get to my office. He had 3 other brokers with him. I said good bye, be safe and thank you to the guys that walked me down stairs and started walking with my dad to the Brooklyn Bridge.

I am not going to talk about the walk. I saw things on that walk that no one should ever have to see. I still dream about that walk.

When we finally got to the Seaport area one of my dad's friends ran over to the NY Waterway ferry terminal. There were fishing boats docked there ready to take people back to Brooklyn. He asked them to wait for a few minutes and a few minutes was all they could wait. They were told they had to leave so we had to hurry. We ran to the boat. It turns out they were fishing off of Sheapshead Bay when they heard what happened. They came right to Manhattan to see what they could do and to help get people home. We caught them just as they were about to go on their last trip to Brooklyn. The sight from the boat was surreal. It couldn't be happening. There couldn't be all that smoke in Manhattan. The skyline would never be the same.

Timmy's wife was able to get to the Brooklyn Army Terminal to pick us up. She brought us to my dad's house where I had parked my car that morning. I stayed with dad for a few minutes, called Matt, my mom and my aunts to tell them all that we were ok and that I was coming home. I truly believe that my guardian angels were with me that whole day and were the ones driving my car home. I know I drove it home but I don't remember how. I do remember showing my license to get over the bridge to Rockaway since all of the bridges and tunnels were shut down. When I got home I called Matt. I couldn't bring myself to walk into my home wearing what I was wearing. I was covered in soot, dirt and debris. I smelled like Manhattan. Matt brought down 2 towels and a robe. He covered me on the front steps and I undressed before I went inside. He took care of my clothes and I went right into the shower. I scrubbed and scrubbed and had the water so hot. I was in there for over 30 minutes. Matt called to let people know that I got home and that I was ok while I was in there.

For the next few days word trickled in about those that were missing. They couldn't find them, they never called home, they never walked through the door again. 75 people in my community were lost that day. I went to grammar school with one of them, I knew another one's daughter, I knew someone else's brother, I saw at least 10 of them at mass ... I can safely say that I knew at least 50 of them or a family member of at least 50 of them.

For the first 24 hours after I got home I didn't sleep, I sat on my couch and watched the news coverage only getting up to pee. The next day I went to a vigil, I did the same thing the day after that and the day after that. I took 3 showers a day for 5 days because I thought I still smelled like 9/11. It took me those 5 days to realize that I didn't smell like 9/11, I just couldn't get the smell out of my head. I cried myself to sleep for at least a month and my heart stopped every time I heard a plane fly over my head for months. To this day when I smell a fire I am brought back to that day.

I say a prayer every night thanking God that my dad, Katie & I got home that day and I ask God to watch over the families that were never able to hug their loved one again.

So, for the more than 2700 people that lost their lives, for the families of those people, for the people that were lucky enough to go home... Always remember, never forget 9/11/01...

With Love,


Kathryn said...

It was a difficult day for many, esp if we have some ties to it even in a smallest way. But for you and all the others who were right there in the thick of it all, well nobody should have ever had to go through all that. And then to have to try and talk about it with your child. It was hard enough for me to do that and I didn't see it happen unfold right in front my eyes in person.

Christina said...

(((Chrissie))) Your story of 9/11 was extremely compelling. I am so thankful that you made it home that day and that I have gotten this chance to get to know you over the last couple of years. You are an amazing person! Love, Christina W.