It's a perfect fall day, as it was a perfect day four years ago.
Tomorrow, I'll meet with family and friends in lower Manhattan. We'll observe some of the ceremonies. The tentative plan is to follow the route that some of my co-workers took four years ago--to walk across lower Manhattan in a zig-zag route, stopping in a few places, then walking across the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn.
Then, some of this group will meet some others will meet in the Waterfront Ale House on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. Four years ago, a very large group of us met there on the first Saturday after 9/11. We hugged each other, exchanged what was often still incomplete information on what happened , whether this person or that was alright, or all too often, was not.
Four days after 9/11, with the still-burning site only a couple of miles away. The family of someone still missing came looking for any information that could be had.
I worked in the Two World Trade Center, 25 stories above where at 903am, the hijacked United Airlines No. 175 crashed into the south face of the building at nearly 600 miles an hour. I know people who died instantly then, as they were waiting for the elevator in the 78th Floor Skylobby ; I know others who were trapped in my company's floors above under desparate and soon fatal conditions.
I remember them always.
Fortunately, when the first plane hit the building next door at 845am, most of my co-workers on the 103rd Floor decided to get the hell out. A lot of them walked down to the 78th Floor and just took the elevator right down to the ground floor. If you headed for the exits immediately, you were probably ok.
I've been asked many times what I would have done. And the answer is that I have no idea if I would have stayed, or gone. Noone knew the facts, noone knew that a second plane was on its way. I second guess noone here for staying or going or for telling anyone else to stay or go. But I am glad that many of my friends got out, and that a couple of them, L and G, apparently took leadership roles, barking at others to get the hell out right away.
I was out of town that day. I had a day trip in New England with a client, and I flew American Airlines that left JFK at 745am. I was in the air at the same time as Mohammad Atta and his 18 evil friends. My friend M caught a flight at Newark and could have been going through security at the same time as the hijackers of United Airlines 93, the flight that fought back.
Upon landing in New England, I heard from my friend A that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Like everyone, I thought it might have been a small plane. I used to see the Continental Airlines commuter jets swing by all the time on the approach to Newark Airport. Must have been one of them.
Arriving at the client's office, the fact that something immensely grave immediately became known. Large screen tvs were brought out. I saw my building and the one next door being hit again and again, and I saw them fall again and again.
A offered to take me to a hotel, but I insisted on going home. There was no alternative, and I would hitchhike the entire way if I had to.
We went to the bus station, to learn that all bus and train service to NYC was suspended. I asked to be let off at Interstate 95, where I would hitchhike and find a way into my city. A said that she could not let me do that, that she would take as far down Interstate 95 as we could go. What a great thing to do.
We traveled south, grabbed some late lunch, and then realized that there was a ferry from Bridgeport, CT to Port Washington Long Island. Surely this ferry would still be operational. And if I could make it to Long Island, then I would definitely make it home that day.
We went to the Bridgeport Ferry terminal. A let me borrow her cellphone, another very kind act.
There was a long line of cars, but foot passengers like me could catch the next boat. It was a slow car ferry. I saw the towers fall on tv, again and again, then went to the side table to get away from that image. I ripped the cardboard backing from a pad of lined paper to make a sign to use for hitchhiking when I landed in at Port Washington. The sign said " Brooklyn or Queens "
When we landed, I put my thumb out. The first passing driver, a guy of Indian background, stopped and said he was going to eastern Queens, and if it was ok to go there. I said yes, and he took me all the way to where I could catch the Q46 bus. I rode it a long, long way to where we connected to the E train. The E train that still had signs that announced the last stop as " World Trade Center ". I rode it west for a while, then took the G local to Brooklyn's 9th Street and Fourth Avenue. I would normally catch the R train there to Bay Ridge, but it was not running. I, with a few others, walked to Third Avenue, and rode the B37 bus to Bay Ridge. I make it home.
I spoke with my mother. I made a few phone calls. I met my friend Kenny. We drank a few beers on a park bench , watching the emergency vehicles go by on the Belt Parkway. I fell asleep later that night, at about 430am, in my own bed. I heard fighter jets in the sky. It was a most welcome sound.
I knew that the world had changed forever.
But that's enough writing for now.