My 9/11 memories

September 11, 2001 dawned clear, sunny and seemingly perfect. A new chapter in my life had started just the day before: on 9/10 I accepted a job that would require me to leave New York for Washington, DC. Truthfully, I was crushed, but I really wanted - and needed - the job so I made what I thought of as the "grown-up decision" to move.

I had just twenty days to pack up my belongings and find an apartment in DC, a city with which I had only passing familiarity. Little did I know how physically and emotionally challenging the move process would be.

On September 11, I lived with a roommate in a cute old tenement on Cornelia Street in Greenwich Village. I recall getting out of bed, and going into the living room as she got ready to leave for work.

"I think I heard a plane crash," I told Kelly as I rubbed sleep from my eyes.

"Go back to bed," Kelly said with an eye roll.

I tried to go back to sleep but failed. After a bit, I decided to go to Grey Dog, my local coffee shop (the original location on LaGuardia was still open then). And that's when the world started falling apart. I had been right, in a way, about a plane, but instead of crashing to the ground, it had been intentionally flown into one of America's most recognizable edifices, the World Trade Center. Later I learned that the first jet's path had, in fact, been right over my apartment, down Sixth Avenue.

 

The sequence of my memories has blurred. I remember calling my mother who asked me to stay home and avoid the subways. I also called my friend and former roommate Kristen who had been staffed on projects based in the WTC for Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) previously, but was now based in Chicago, leaving a message of gratitude that she no longer worked there.

And then I got coffee. The shop was abuzz with the news. Was it an accident? How did pilots avoid the tall buildings every other day, but not today? I was immediately suspicious.

I believe the second plane hit as I walked home from Grey Dog. I went home for my camera, but feeling strange about doing so, I only took three photos. Photo etiquette was much different in 2001 and our cell phones weren't what they are today.

Days of horror followed. I watched a lot of CNN and struggled making or receiving calls to tell people I was safe and OK. Much of our cell service in 2001 was dependent upon antenna atop the WTC towers. Our home internet access was dial-up, slow and taxed by the people of NYC trying to reassure loved ones. Packing for the move to DC, I felt even worse about leaving.

Several days after 9/11, I walked up to Union Square (no buses or subways ran below 14th Street for a while) and saw movies, as much for the air free of concrete dust as for the distraction.  On 9/18 I took a few photos at the make-shift memorial there.

 

I moved back to NYC just prior to the tenth anniversary. As thrilled as I was to return, the anniversary was a looming specter over those first days back, something of a reminder to be grateful each day and also to keep watch. I was in many ways a child on that first 9/11--I returned to NYC in 2011 changed.