Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 five years later...

Every year, on the anniversary of 9/11, I've sent email to friends and people close to me reflecting on the events of that day. Here's the one I sent this morning....

I can’t believe that this is the fifth of these emails that I have sent…I send them because I feel it is one small thing I can do to keep the memory of this tragedy alive, and to ensure that we never forget it…in many important ways, this is and will forever be the defining event of our generation.

On September 11, 2001, I was in the office early. I was to do a presentation on Microsoft’s Collaboration Strategy for a customer from Detroit in our EBC with my boss. He called me on his way in to ask me to stop by his office and pick up a couple things he needed for the demos we were planning to do. As I stepped out of my office to go retrieve them, my phone rang again, him again, to tell me that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center. What a tragic accident!

By the time I got everything together and got up to the EBC, the second plane had hit, and there were reports that the White House had been hit, followed shortly thereafter by the news that it was the Pentagon, not the White House. We were at war…there was no doubt about that.

We stood, with the folks from the customer, gathered around a television in one of the displays that was then up at the EBC, and watched the live coverage, and watched as the first tower fell. Our customer was calling back to folks in their headquarters in Detroit. If somebody was hitting buildings symbolizing American capitalism, maybe their headquarters would be a target, too. “What about Microsoft?”, I wondered…surely, if people were targeting symbols of American capitalism, Microsoft was right up there…to say that it was a confusing, scary morning just doesn’t begin to capture it. There was going to be no collab strategy presentation this morning…

I called my wife…it didn’t take much to decide I needed to be with her and our children. She and I used to live in Hoboken, New Jersey, across the river from New York City. I worked then at Lotus’s NYC office on Whitehall Street, she worked in Greenwich Village at NYU. Each morning, we would board the PATH train from Hoboken, into the World Trade Center. I would head up the escalators from the PATH station, past the commuter bar (there was eerie video later of the commuter bar, looking like a moment in time, interrupted suddenly, but otherwise untouched), up the wide bank of escalators that led to the shopping mall in the basement of the center, past all the shops, up the last set of escalators that led to the doors and out to the street…and every day, I’d reverse that trip on my way home…

When I think back on that day, I still can’t shake the thought that, had one or two life decisions gone differently, I could still have been at Lotus, in New York, on my way to work that morning…there, but for the grace of God…

Over the next couple of days, we learned of loss. One of my wife’s friends was on American Airlines flight 11, as were two other people I didn’t know directly, but was connected to. One was one of the earliest Lotus employees, who had gone on to found her own successful company, and the other was the daughter of a guy I worked with who had come over from IBM after they acquired Lotus. Five more of my wife's friends from college, who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, were among the dead. And the number of friends we had who had lost husbands or wives or children or friends or knew someone who had was staggering…

I was back in New York in November, 2001, and was completely overwhelmed… Arriving at Grand Central Station, walking past endless, hastily erected bulletin boards with pictures of the missing, phone numbers to call if you knew anything about where they might be…as I made my way over to the Microsoft office, walking past fire stations, the sidewalks in front covered with flowers, pictures of the firefighters from that station who had perished taped up on the doors…a bronze statue of two firefighters, delivered on a flatbed trailer, and not yet unloaded, parked on the side of the street next door to a fire station…we all saw the footage on television, but it did not begin to convey the enormity of the loss…the sorrow and desperation of those who still, two months later, didn’t know, because very few intact bodies were recovered, whether their loved ones had perished, or might be in a hospital somewhere, or suffering amnesia…the scale of the devastation, the wreckage of the buildings still burning at ground zero the absolute silence on the streets down near ground zero, on Wall Street, on Broadway…

Five years later, everything is different, though we’ve become increasingly acclimated to what was called, early on, “the new normal.” Regardless your religious beliefs, regardless your political leanings, there’s no doubt that life today is different than it was five years ago this morning, and it’s not necessarily better. My wish and my prayer for all of you, and for myself, is that, out of this experience, we will all be a little more tolerant, a little more forgiving, a little more focused on the things which truly matter in life…

Thanks for reading. Never forget…

2 comments:

Attta69 said...

This is absolutely awesome, I was on my way to work in the city that day, I worked at 170 Broadway on the 5th floor, I had changed my hours only a week before because school was back in so I was going in 30 minutes later than usual, I dropped my youngest at the time Travis off at my girlfriends house on my way to the ferry and she had the news on and it showed tower one with smoke billowing out and I asked what movie is this and she said it’s the news my heart sunk, no one knew what had happened at that point it had just happened, I got back in the car with my step dad and headed to the ferry thinking it was nothing big as we sat at a red traffic light a block before the ferry terminal we watched the smoke billow out and all of the sudden a boom and a huge ball of fire came through the side of tower two I couldn’t breathe, everyone I had ever known worked in the city I couldn’t talk and my step dad just shook we drove into the terminal and everyone was coming back up to street level as they were being turned away by NYPD…I grabbed my dads cell phone and attempted to contact my office but there was no signal, I got out of his car and used the payphone and got my office manager on the phone who said stay on si because they were being evacuated as we spoke and they were being moved to the basement of PACE university I found out later that as they were exiting the building they saw people jumping and then the towers collapsed. That day changed me forever, for weeks we couldn’t go back to work the windows in our building were blown out and we had to wait and then when were allowed back in I could not look out the windows, it was the most terrifying day, month of my life, there were no phones you couldn’t find anyone my two best friends were on the ferry that was docking right at the time the second plane hit and I could not get them on the phone, people were stuck on the Island because all transportation had to be stopped, for weeks and weeks after we returned to work I walked up nassau street with my head down and my husband had to walk me and put me on my elevator I was devastated, my sons God Mother was there and so was my Aunts ex fiance who we all knew and loved my first job out of business school was Cantor Fitzgerald and Joey Rena was my manager and he died as well…..I still cant handle that date very well youll see I will be at my desk crying on and off all day as I listen to them call off the names of the people who perished. Once we were back and I could handle to go outside it really started to sink in for me a few times we would walk out of the building at 5:30 and start walking down Broadway, myself and Peggy a co-worker, to the ferry terminal and you would hear sirens and horns and everyone would stop everything and salute with their heads bowed and you know it meant they found some part of someone I would always cry all the way home…..we got to see first hand the cards and pictures of the lost that people came down and attached to the fences that blocked ground zero, that was beautiful, When you grow up on Staten Island all you want to do is finish school and work in the “City” take the ferry and walk up in sneakers and put on your heels when your at your desk, and you always no matter what part of my island you were on you could look and see the twin towers for us it was the center of the universe and I still get a little sick when I see pictures of it, people just don’t know how much those of us who were there lost, the country as a whole lost an innocence and a safty that no matter how hard we try we will never get that back, but those of us that called it home we lost so much more, we lost parts of who we were and how we were, and I guess that is part of why I moved away I was lost I just couldn’t cope and still cant im crying now as I type this and this is just the tip of the iceberg for me there are so many more things I could tell you but I think your gonna kick my butt as it is im sorry…..my flag is always flying in front of my house and I will make sure that my kids will have flags pinned to their shirts in school that day as well as myself, my brother has his first baby due on September 11, so the day will have new meaning for me, but my heart will always be bruised by that day…..

I used to go to the commuter bar after work at my first job in the city at Cantor Fitzgerald so long ago I was 21 then on 9/11 i worked at 170 Broadway just a jump away i now live in PA but i spend every day making sure my five kids know what we lost that day and wish people would concentrate on that today we have the rest of the year to bash the government and ponder the woulda coulda shouldas....Thank you for this....

MS Guy said...

Thank you for this...as I read it, I cried, too...what I posted here was my last year's message...as I got the notification of your comment in my email, I was in the process of writing this year's message...

I don't know what else to say...I am moved by your comment...thank you...