September 11 Digital Archive

email512.xml

Title

email512.xml

Source

born-digital

Media Type

email

Created by Author

unknown

Described by Author

yes

Date Entered

2002-08-20

September 11 Email: Body

Friends and Family

I was very touched yesterday to know that many of you had called my parents
or Andrew to ensure that both Andrew and I were safe after the terrible
events in NYC and Washington. And for the many emails I have yet to respond
to, thank you as well. I am safe in NYC - shaken, but safe, and I share with
you below my experience of being about 6 blocks from ground zero yesterday
morning.

Andrew is safe, if shaken in Washington. He was evacuated from the Bank
after the Pentagon disaster, and spent the night with our dear friends Larry
and Tom in Baltimore. I know that being with people you love last night was
forefront in many of our minds, and I am, as always, grateful for the love
and friendship of Larry and Tom.

As many of you know, I work in NYC these days, Monday through Friday. While
my office is in midtown, business took me to lower Manhattan yesterday
morning. I came out of the subway at 8:53 on Wall Street, 2 blocks from the
WTC. My colleague and I, and most people in the street saw smoke and fire,
and all thought there was just a serious fire. We were already being
showered in ash and papers - like a ticker tape parade. I in fact called
Andrew to say it was so amazing - that a major fire was underway and the sky
filled with paper. We made our way down Wall Street to our client meeting,
and while waiting outside for another colleague, heard the incredible thrust
of the engines of the second plane, and heard the awful sound of that plane
hitting the second tower. We were about 5-6 blocks from the WTC at that
point. Cars in the streets stopped and blared their radios, as none of us
really knew what was happening. In all, four of us from WCOM met at our
clients building on the sidewalk, and as bits and pieces of information came
through, we realised what was happening and saw the streams of people coming
toward us from the WTC to get away. No one knew what to do - and we all
feared that we were under a continued attack. There was little panic - just
dumbfounded looking people and no one knowing where and what was safe.
Rumblings of the building and explosions caused everyone to jump - the
slightest sounds made us all look up or duck. Misinformation filled the
air. We began to walk, briskly, toward the East River, just wanting to get
as far away from the WTC as possible. While frightened it was almost
impossible to focus on anything but moving away - and we just grabbed hands
to stick together in the thousands of people fleeing. We heard about the
attack on the Pentagon - we heard rumours about the White House, we heard
rumours that more planes were headed for Manhattan. My mind focused on
Andrew, so close to the WH in Washington, on getting as far away as I could
- and in general just not knowing, not believing, not understanding what was
happening.

We reached the East River where several NYWaterway ferries were starting to
evacuate people - the general mood was "get off Manhattan" - we knew bridges
and tunnels were closed and all traffic halted, no subways, nothing
available. The scene was scary as so many people tried to push and shove
onto the pier to reach boats - and in the end, we were more panicked by that
than the island, and retreated back to the road and decided to start walking
north to get away from downtown. One colleague left us to take a boat off
the island - I stuck with my other two colleagues, having no idea what was
safe, or where to go. My colleague that left by boat I know today is ok as
well, but leaving him on the pier, all covered in dust, not knowing - was
unreal. As we tried to get off the pier against all the people trying to
get on boats, we understood and heard that the first tower was falling - and
we all feared it was toppling over - in which case even more damage would
have been done. At this point people remained incredibly calm, almost
eerily quiet as we all just fled to get away. We heard the first tower come
down, and as you have seen on TV - stood at the end of Maiden Lane and South
Street as the huge wall of smoke came toward us. It was surreal and
frightening. The streets of Manhattan between these skyscrapers are like
wind tunnels, and the smoke and dust came at us like a tornado. Within
seconds, literally, we could not see more than a foot in front of us - I
took off my shirt to cover my mouth and face, we held hands, and kept
walking, just moving as a mass of people. We made it maybe 6 blocks north
on FDR drive along the river - and witnessed thousands of people walking
across the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges to Brooklyn. My female colleague
had taken off her heels and was walking through the dust and dirt and grime
barefoot - and in a small example of how the people here did pull together
yesterday, a woman walking next to us pulled a new pair of sneakers out of
her shopping bag and gave them to my colleague - and kept walking. As we
helped her get here shoes on, we heard the rumble of bldg two, turned, and
from our vantage point, stood in horror as building two fell onto itself. I
can not begin to tell you the thoughts in my mind and heart as that happened
and at this point all I felt was fear. Our cell phones were not working but
I was able to send a page to Andrew from my pager to tell him that I was ok
and moving away from downtown.

We continued to walk, with everyone, north - and headed for my apartment in
the West Village. It took us over an hour - we stopped at a deli to buy
water and the gentlemen behind the counter just gave it to us. On the
streets north of downtown, where everyone was fleeing, stores were handing
out water, hoses were being shared to wash off the dirt and dust - people
were huddled around TVs brought onto sidewalks, car radios blaring, and
lines 20-30 deep for pay phones to call loved ones. My colleagues and I
were able to reach family by phone before they took off to try to get home.
I went to the roof of my building, where, until yesterday, the twin towers
loomed over me (my apartment is perhaps 1.5 -2.0 miles due north of the WTC)
and watched as F-16 fighters flew overhead "protecting" the city. As I type
this morning, they still buzz the sky.

Apart from the fear and panic I felt yesterday while fleeing the scene - it
took the afternoon and evening for the events of the day to creep up on me -
to understand what happened, and to realise, by chance, where I was. I feel
as if I am still in a bit of shock, but I am ok, alive, well, and that is
what matters. Clearly there are far too many victims and others that were
in even worse places than me - but I can not begin to fully describe what it
felt like. My clothes are in a bag for the cleaners - my shoes sit here,
next to my bed - grey in dust. I have yet to wipe them off. I have cried
more times than I can think, especially when I get a call from one of you -
and almost everytime I see footage of the walls of smoke coming down the
narrow streets. That is my vision of the day, my experience, and when I was
caught in it, was so very frightened, I can not begin to tell you.

The city below 14th street is shut down - a ghost town - various
pedestrians, but otherwise very desolate. I made my way to midtown this
morning to get my computer from the office, where there is more activity,
but I don't believe anyone has ever seen a NYC like this. We hear few
sirens - the streets are only open to emergency vehicles, and they move
swiftly with lights - but it appears few survivors are being taken to the
main hospital, St Vincent's, about 6 blocks north of my apt. I am planning
on getting back to Washington tmmrw for the weekend to be with Andrew and
friends - and as we all must do, will be back at work in the city on Monday.


I hope none of you have any personal losses from yesterdays events - the
day has clearly touched everyone - and my thoughts and prayers are with
everyone - and to my friend Dave Weinstein, and his wife Bethany - Dave was
working at the Pentagon yesterday morning - and I was glad to hear via
Andrew that he is also well today.

Sharing my story helps me get through this - and again, all of you who have
reached out to Andrew, my parents, and me - thank you - it truly warms my
heart and reminds me of how very lucky I am to have wonderful friends in my
life. I hope to see many of you soon - you are in my thoughts.

James

September 11 Email: Date

September 12, 2002

September 11 Email: Subject

My experience 6 blocks from ground zero yesterday - Safe today in NYC

Citation

“email512.xml,” September 11 Digital Archive, accessed July 21, 2018, http://911digitalarchive.org/items/show/36715.