Tuesday, September 27, 2011

9-11 10 years and 2 weeks later

I started this two weeks ago and here it is finally.

I have had a tough time putting down my 9/11 post. I didn't know exactly how to translate my feelings I had that day into words. Yesterday though (the 10th anniversary) I watched a documentary by Steve Rosenbaum that had me relive that day 10 years ago. Ten years older and wiser (I hope) I now understood what I felt that day and what I didn't understand and still don't.

The week prior it was Labor Day my Penn friend Chris Graham had an end of summer party at his rooftop at the Rivergate on Chambers Street in Battery Park City (a few doors down to Stuyvesant High School). I remember the Towers and how massive they were. I couldn't fathom just how big they were (and I still can't). I had just left my job working at a startup in Long Island in alternative energy and had gone to England to visit my friend and NYC roommate Mike Niederberger who was working at Goldman at the time. It was Fashion week that week and I remember the glut of parties that we could go to. It was just the prior year that Christian Alcantara and I ended up on a boat party with Puff Daddy. I remember though that I got a call that Monday afternoon that I had landed a part as the Assistant DA in a Sidney Lumet series 100 Centre Street (I think it was A&E). I stayed in that night but I also decided to sleep in and skip a breakfast meeting, ironically New Jobs for the New Economy 7am in the Windows of the World. (I never was a good breakfast meeting person, and to this day I still am not). A few minutes before 9 Nicole McInerney called me waking me up. What's going on? She told me to turn on the television. What the hell? I was still groggy. Reports came in that it was a commuter plane. Jeez, that's horrible, I thought, but I still had to go to Queens that morning. The second plane crashed and I wasn't sure what was going on. I got ready to go, and the subway NR at 49th Street was closed. I tried to open up my cell phone but it was dead. Not sure what to do I went back to the apartment. I heard of the Pentagon and the flight in PA. When the Towers fell, I wasn't sure what had happened. The Towers were so big and now they were gone. Where did all that rubble go? It was a bad nightmare of Photoshop. I was waiting to wake up.

Rudy Guiliani said that America was under attack. I wasn't sure what being under attack was. Desert Storm was the only other war I knew and that was half a world away. Friends from Israel actually saw warfare and I know my cousins in Taiwan had a mandatory enlistment. Yet I had no idea what this was and this was not warfare that I had ever seen before. Who is the enemy? Who are we fighting? Our own people? What is going on?

The Internet worked and I was able to IM and email with my friends and family to let them know that I was ok. At the time I also had this IP phone from Net2Phone. It kind of sucked but it let me call Mike's parents to let them know he had gotten out of One New York Plaza okay. Mike returned to the apartment and we sat there. What could we do? We went down to Chelsea Piers and asked if we could help. What do you guys do? Welders? Heavy Machinery? Drills? I couldn't believe how useless I felt. We could move rubble? We could help dig people out? Well, they said, that there are a bunch of supplies coming in and that we could start moving them and give them to the survivors. Great. There was a ton of stuff coming in. Gatorades, bars, cookies, snacks, fruit. Everything. We moved it around. And around. And around. And then we stopped. No one said what we all knew at that moment. There wasn't going to be the mass of survivors that we expected.

They sent us home. We stayed glued to CNN, went to Union Square, partook in the candle light vigil. I ran into a HS friend Lauryn Nitzberg who told us about the Empire State Building bomb scare and how she was staying with a friend in Hells Kitchen because she lived near the UN. NYC was a ghost town.

The feeling of helplessness was the worst feeling that I have ever experienced. The inability to help, the darkness of not knowing who the enemy was, that was the most difficult thing. The knowledge that hard work, perseverance and integrity wouldn't bring back the folks that died that day, the towers, that was tough to swallow. It was everything I knew and it was wiped away in a flash.

With that knowledge, it has changed my life drastically. I remember all of the people who were "just waiting to get their bonus", "waiting for the right time", "sucking it up" and then …. It was my valediction speech in 5/1995 and I guess that it is still the lesson that I took away from that day. Carpe Diem - Seize the Day, for you never know when it will end.

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