10 Years On
In remembrance of 9/11, I am not posting my weekly stats. I’ve taken them (and probably put them into Lose It! already so you might see them there) and will publish them tomorrow. My thoughts on the anniversary are within. Click more if you want to read or just skip til tomorrow.
I was living in London at the time of the attack. I remember a co-worker telling me a plane had hit one tower. The internet was overloaded and crawling with little additional info available. Thinking it a terrible accident that would cause some damage and some death, but no more, I went into a scheduled meeting with an external auditor over some nonsense (really, I remember thinking how pointless a conversation it was during the meeting before knowing the rest). I came out an hour later to find out about the second plane and that both towers had collapsed at that point. As a native NYer, the attack was the first pang I felt of ‘I need to go back home to my city.’ that I’d ever felt. I remember walking to where my wife (fiancée at the time) worked at the end of the day and us walking home (quite a walk) – everything in London had been locked down not knowing what else was going to happen.
On a personal level, I was very lucky, both in this, and the London bombings of 2005. No one in my immediate circle of friends, family or colleagues were injured or killed. Some had quite a scare, and quite a journey home, but all were safe, even if it took a few days to confirm (international circuits were JAMMED I can tell you). But one circle out, and the effects were there.
- One colleague’s brother-in-law, a H.S. friend’s cousin here in NY, another co-worker’s friend in the London attack.
- A nervous decision about whether or not to cancel a long-haul flight to attend friend’s wedding two week’s after the attack.
- Sitting at the pub with another NYer in the days after trying to understand.
- A trip to Japan where my co-worker (of Pakistani nationality) was detained for quite a while after landing over his name.
- NY co-workers who clearly had some PSTD in the months afterwards.
- Desperately going to IKEA each week to try to see if they had gotten another copy in of a magnificent (in my eyes) wide-angle painting they had of NY including the towers that I had seen once before and kicked myself not buying, for never seeing again.
The north tower opened a year and half before I was born, and the south tower had its first tenants five months before. Before my family moved in second grade, we could see the towers from the back of the school bus in the morning on good days. I had spent a few years working in downtown Manhattan before moving abroad, had been to the towers lots of times. It was a place we went to lunch for sometimes, or sometimes I used to take the E train home to my first apartment. We had two Christmas parties in the Windows on the World restaurant (including the final year before the attack). I worked occasionally in Liberty Plaza (a building) right next to it.
I was shocked that they got things going the following Monday after the attacks in Wall Street. Knowing what a commuter hub WTC was and how many buildings were quarantined for safety (including Liberty Plaza where all my NY colleagues were based), I thought it would be weeks. I had underestimated people’s will to carry on.
After the attacks, I came home for a visit right before Christmas, 3 months after. The very worst had been cleaned up, but the dust, the hoardings full of notes and pictures, and crowds were incredible. I remember not being able to recognize where I was, until I realized I was standing right in front of Liberty Plaza in the park. I recognized the businessman statue sitting on the bench (who I think had been moved). The reason I’d not recognized the place was I’d never seen it in sunlight. The buildings around it, including WTC had kept it in shadow all the time. No more.
When I moved back in 2004, I spent a few months back in downtown, and again in 2008 for a few months. And I’ve regularly gone past the site the last few years and this summer, either to meet people downtown or transit problems on the PATH mean I need to use the PATH route down there which is still right on the edge of the site.
It’s astounding to me, how 10 years on, it mostly still looks like the giant hole in the ground I saw in December 2001. A lot tidier with nicer fencing, and lots of people on the site. But visually, still a pit. They are building the new tower and the memorial, but those are on the west side, way back in the corner. I always came at WTC from the east side. Without everything else to place it, they seems so far away, like it’s some other building site, not WTC. The main area, where I used to go for lunch, or catch the train or enter the complex…just some fencing around a hole.
Downtown is more residential these days. NYSE and many firms are still down there, but the vibe has changed. A lot of Wall Street has moved to mid-town, or Jersey City across the water. I can’t remember the last time I was next to the Wall Street bull, which I used to pass all the time. It saddens me a bit to think about it. It saddens me further to think what we let the fear of more attacks do to us.