September 11 Digital Archive

That Day


That Day

How has your life changed because of what happened on September 11, 2001?

From September of 1996 to October of 2000, I worked at the Borders Books Music & Cafe at 5 World Trade Center. I used to love talking walks on my break outside to look up at the towers. I had only ever been to the TKTS booth a few times and the interior observation deck once in 1994 when visiting with friends. I quit Borders because I was burned out from the job and I had wanted more tutoring hours at Writing Center at Hunter College, where I was a student.

Based on the times, I was asleep when the first tower was hit, and I was in the shower when the second tower was hit. I was living in Queens at the time with my then-partner. I never watched the news at that time of the morning. I didn't have time.

Nobody was talking about what happened when I got to the subway, and nobody was talking about it while I rode the train to Hunter. When I got my food at the cafeteria and was about to head to the Writing Center to begin my shift, I noticed that about 60 people were clustered around a TV attached up on the wall in one of the eating areas. I only glanced at the footage because I wanted to have enough time to eat breakfast before my shift, so I figured that a small Cessna plane had hit the Empire State Building.

About an hour later, my boss came into the Writing Center and said to all of us, "It wasn't just one tower that was hit, it was both."

I said, "BOTH? What are you talking about?"

My boss asked, "Anthony do you have ANY idea what's going on right now?"

I shrugged. "A plane hit a building."

He said, "It was the World Trade Center."

Immediately, my mind flashed on all of my friends who were in Building 5 at Borders. I worried that they would all be killed. My boss told me that the school would be cancelling classes but that we couldn't go home because transit was being shut down. He also said some students might still be showing up in the next hour or so and that it was okay if they wanted to talk about what was happening (or if we wanted to share our own feelings with them). One student came in, and I asked her if she was all right. She said she was a little shaken and asked me if I was okay. I said I was, and we had our tutoring session.

It didn't occur to me until about noon that I should call anyone and tell them that I was okay. I was able to get through to my dad and let him know I was all right and to tell everyone else in the family. After I hung up, I called my partner to let him know as well, then I went to my email and sent out a general "I'm fine" message to as many people as I could.

The school said that they would keep the vending machines stocked in case we had to stay too much later, and I figured we'd need some entertainment as well. So I walked uptown to 84th Street in hopes that Game Show (my favorite board game store) would be open so I could bring back some games for everyone.

On my way, I stopped by an ATM where the line was way out the door but moving very quickly. Everyone was talking about it. "Terrorists" was a word I heard in every conversation. We all agreed by silent consensus that THAT was what it had to be. It couldn't have been an accident.

I continued on my way uptown. The streets were closed off to traffic, and there were only a few people about. The only thing I have to compare it to is the scene in the "Hush" episode of _Buffy the Vampire Slayer_ where Buffy and Willow are walking through Sunnydale. I saw a few small groups of people, I saw one man sitting on the curb appearing to be crying, I saw a couple of people just staring toward downtown.

When I got to Lenox Hill Hospital at 77th, a large group of doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel were waiting, gurneys and medical equipment at the ready in case survivors needed to be brought in. Just seeing all of them gave me hope.

Game Show was closed, so I headed back to Hunter. We were able to head back home around three because transit had re-opened. I had never seen the subway so quiet. Nobody was talking. One young woman looked up at me, and I offered her a wan "It's going to be okay" smile, which she returned.

September 11th was five days into my final semester of school. I had to stay focused on that. I had to finish because I was so close. Class numbers dwindled. By the end of the semester, 30 of the 60 students in the Greek Civilization class I was taking had dropped out. Usually, there's only about a ten percent loss of students at most from classes at the end of the semester.

I graduated and took a three-week vacation out west with my then-partner and a friend of his. When I got back and started to apply for jobs in the publishing field, I found that there was nothing available, all due to the attacks' effect on the economy.

I never thought that day would still be so fresh in my mind twenty years later. It took a long time for me to recover financially and emotionally from the effects that the attacks had on me. I have dreaded the 20th anniversary for years now because every year on That Day, the news is all, "It's x number of years since the 9/11 attacks -- what have we learned?"

Beats me.

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“That Day,” September 11 Digital Archive, accessed June 24, 2024,