Almost everyone has a 9/11 memory. On that fateful day, I was on an uptown #4 train, heading to work. When the first plane struck the first tower at 8:46 AM, I was still underground, in a tunnel, riding the iron horse. When I emerged from the train station at Nevins Street and took a right on to Fulton Street, going East, the smoke was already rising but it was behind me, slightly northwest. My mobile phone rang. “Did you hear what happened?” At this time, it wasn’t known that it was a terrorist attack. Moments later, at 9:03 AM, it was clear that this was no mere accident.
Two months prior, I was standing in line in one of the twin towers, to go up on the Observation Deck with someone who had not been born in this country but was now a Brooklynite. We were about to pay for our tickets when she said she was tired, from a day of shopping, and that perhaps we could do this another day. We got out of the line. Incidentally, the person who called me on 9/11 was the very same person standing on that line with me in the tower.
The weekend before 9/11, I was on a boat in the East River. As the boat passed the World Trade Center, I snapped several pictures of the iconic towers. Months later, when I got the film developed, I looked at the pictures of the towers, date stamped 09/08/11.
In the office, a TV was set up in the staff lounge. My coworkers, silently, in disbelief, watched the tragedy unfold. I don’t remember getting any work done this day. We were mostly glued to the TV, watching the endless coverage.
Hours later, legions of Brooklynites crossed the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, escaping from Manhattan. They filed down Fulton Street, covered in soot. It was surreal. It was…apocalyptic. You could see the shock etched on the faces of these survivors. One coworker, who went straight from her home to lower Manhattan because she had court, was among the legions, the seemingly endless line streaming across the bridges, filing down Fulton Street. She, too, was covered in soot, clearly traumatized. She made it into the office. Before the end of the day, however, she was taken to the hospital, still in shock. All these years later, she doesn’t remember how she got back to Brooklyn and to the office.
I am a born and bred Brooklynite. I have memories of standing on the Brooklyn promenade in Brooklyn Heights throughout the course of my life looking at the Manhattan skyline. I have countless pictures with and now without the towers in them.
On that fateful day, the City that never sleeps, where dreams are born, entered a terroristic nightmare. New Yorkers, though, as resilient as they come, emerged from that nightmare and, as the Empire state motto declares: Excelsior (“ever upward’). Just look at the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn Heights, the buildings going up.