For me, like many others in America, yesterday, September 11, was a day of reflection, prayer, shudders, and probably some tears. Like many others in America I can recall almost exactly where I was, who I spoke to, the horror I felt as I watched (on TV) the buildings as one burnt, the other was attacked, and they both fell. There was added shock as we heard of the attack on the Pentagon and the plane crash in Pennsylvania. And like many other Americans I attended candlelight vigils, reached out to friends and relatives, and cried.
On Tuesday, September 11, 2001 I went back to bed after my son left for school for time to cuddle with my husband who had an unexpected day off. [He was working as an Audio Visual tech on a two-day event in NYC; due to a scheduling conflict the event was scheduled for the 10th and the 12th and was being held in the Marriot Hotel at the World Trade Center.]
Shortly before 9:00 AM my sister called, she had been watching TV, I remember her words, “A plane just hit one of the World Trade Center buildings… Go turn on your TV.” I ran to the living room incoherently repeating what I couldn’t yet believe, my husband followed. We turned the set on and saw flames from one of the buildings and it was just minutes later that we watched a plane hit building 2. I remember hearing someone, myself, repeating “Oh my G-d, oh my G-d.”
A friend of mine, a paramedic, called, the siren screaming behind her, asking me to cancel our ambulance youth squad meeting that night and telling me that her rig was heading to lower Manhattan. I remember the distress in her voice. I made phone calls and left voice messages cancelling the meeting.
My sister and I were on the phone again. She was calling relatives who worked in Manhattan to make sure they were all alright and we were running down the list.
Almost an hour after the first plane struck, building 2 crumbled with everyone watching TV witnessing it. My husband was getting dressed to head to our local ambulance corps building 40 minutes north of the devastation.
The phone rang again, this time it was our son, he was hiding in a school alcove using a cell phone from his backpack that was supposed to remain off while at school. “Mom, where is Dad?” I can still hear the terror in his words even now 15 years later. I was able to reassure him that his dad was safe.
About an hour and a half after I turned my television on, building 1 collapsed demolishing the Marriot Hotel and setting 7 WTC on fire. After another phone call, this time from my daughter (upstate at college) checking on our safety and telling me she was heading back home, I got dressed and followed my husband to the local ambulance corps where we both volunteered as EMTs.
People congregated at the building offering help answering phones, comforting and treating distraught walk-ins, and setting up rehab for any of the wounded transported here because the NYC hospitals were both overflowing and too close to an area in danger. I sat with two young men who were desperate to hear about family, one cousin and one father – the father made it home, the cousin perished in the rubble. We began to hear of other community members who were never going to come home again.
Most of the youth squad members showed up at the building despite receiving the messages. My daughter made the trek home and helped with all the phone calls, oversaw the youth members, and assisted walk-ins. At one point we received the directive from our county’s EMS control that most of the corps, including ours, were sending crews to the city. A few of our youth squad members helped outfit the truck with the specified equipment. My son was one of the teenagers assigned to readying the truck.
My husband was one of four EMTs who went to the city. Our rig was one of a long line of ambulances sent to the disaster from all over the tristate area. They stood by through the night and many went home the next morning frustrated by the lack of injured — too many deaths and too few still alive to receive treatment and transport, too few to save.
Fifteen years since this horror… the Freedom Tower now stands in lower Manhattan, and reflecting pools mark the footprint of the original buildings. The National 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center and many memorials throughout the tristate area have helped to document the events of the day. Families and friends who lost loved ones have learned somehow to survive with the loss and pain.
Those of us who lived the day will never forget.