How are they going to put that OUT
On September 11, 2001, I was late for work, and went into the 72nd Street subway at exactly 8:45am. I know because there's a bank with a large digital clock right next to the subway entrance, and I was frustrated because I was running late. Unbeknownst to me, the first plane had just hit the first tower.
When I got to my Union Square West/14th Street Subway stop, I checked my watch - it was 9:10. Late again, I thought.
I didn't know, but the second plane had just hit the second tower.
As I came up out of the subway, there were hundreds of people spread all over Union Square standing completely still, staring South. I was heading North, toward my office. Must be someone climbing a building, I thought - I'm not going to look.
But then someone next to me gasped and I turned... and saw two little trails of smoke coming from the tops of the towers. "How are they going to put that out?" I thought. I briefly thought about going into the bodega on the corner and getting a disposable camera; I thought better of it and went towards my office. On my way, I caught snippets of conversation: "It was a plane," "No *two* planes," "Are you sure?" and I went up in the elevator.
When I got into the office, I said to my co-workers, "Guys, the World Trade Center's on *fire,*" and we all went back down to Union Square.
By this time, the smoke was billowing out in huge plumes. There used to be a clear view of the towers directly down 6th Avenue from Union Square, so we could see everything.
We went back up to the office, and I pulled out the little 7" black-and-white TV that ran our company's on-hold music, and we gathered around to see that the Pentagon had just been hit. (My parents live 5 miles from the Pentagon; my Dad's office was only 2.5 miles away, and my mom's school was 3.5 miles away.)
We watched the towers fall on that 7" black-and-white TV.
No cell phones were working, but my parents were able to reach me on the company's 1-800 line, and sent emails to the family that we were all okay.
When we went out for lunch, there was nothing left of the towers but a huge plume of smoke. The view down 6th avenue was otherwise empty.
Hundreds of people were walking North now, many of them covered in ash and blood, looking dazed.
I went back up into the office and started making calls for hotel rooms for the commuters on staff who were stuck in the city, and was able to get some of the last rooms available since they couldn't get home.
When I left the office that afternoon, I had to walk in my uncomfortable work flats from 14th Street to 71st Street (roughly 3 miles) past what seemed like every other potential target in New York City: The Empire State Building, Madison Square Garden, Times Square, Lincoln Center, and then I locked myself in my 7' wide, 16' long apartment (that's 112 square feet) for three days in shock.
The "Missing" posters started to go up. They were everywhere. Union Square, where our office was located, was the central location for posters and candles and stories and pleas to come home or find a missing father or daughter or friend.
One night I went to meet a friend for drinks down by NYU, and the smoke was so thick, I had to wear my turtleneck over my nose in order to breathe.
When I was trying to figure out how I could help, I heard the firefighters needed socks. I had a ton of extra men's tube socks, so I bagged them up and took them to the nearest collection point. When they told me they had more than they needed, I burst into tears. I felt so helpless; it felt like the only thing I could do, and it hadn't been needed. The person took pity on me and accepted the socks.
My husband at the time was living in Cincinnati while I was in New York, so I went to Penn Station to book a bus ticket back to Ohio. While I was in line, people started running past, shouting, "Go, go! Run, run!" and we found out there had been a bomb threat - we all ran out of Penn Station and stood across the street while it was investigated. I thought about going to try to see a Broadway show that night instead, so I went to line up for $25 tickets to The Producers. They ended up giving out the last ticket *right* in front of me, so it felt like a sign to try the bus again.
I went back to Penn Station and the guy told me, "You better get the next bus. If they have another bomb threat, they're going to shut us down." So I got a ticket and took the 12-hour bus ride home to Ohio with everyone else escaping the horrors of Manhattan. As we drove out, the lights of the city illuminated that giant plume of smoke at the South end of the island. The landscape has seemed empty to me ever since.
Attached is my 5-page journal entry from September 11, 2001. I was 30 years old.