9.11.01


A satellite map of the area around the world trade right a few days after 9.11.01

Pictures from September 10, 2002 - Rebuilding

September 11, 2001

Why does this site exist?

These pages are a collection of pictures taken by a bunch of regular people who just happened to be working in the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time on one really bad Tuesday morning in September of 2001.  These are pictures taken by people as they evacuated the area, but who had their cameras with them and knew that history was happening.

At the time, I worked at 120 Broadway on the 29th floor - which is right across the street from the World Trade Center. You all know what happened that day...I was there, my dad was there and we all had the worst day of our entire lives. 

Todd's story...

September 11, 2001 was probably one of the best weather days ever in New York with a perfect temperature and clear blue skies.  I worked for a business consulting company called Capco at the time and I was scheduled to teach the second day of the technology foundation course where I would teach my co-workers about networks, the web and other stuff. I mean I knew it was going to be a long day because I also had to teach my Intro to Dreamweaver class that night at Pace University. But I knew that on Wednesday I would be working from home to recover. I always got to work early, around 7AM or so, and I had spent the morning prepping for the class, in particular, I was having a hell of a time trying to make a homegrown network cable so I could demo it for the class.  That morning, I skipped my normal stop at the Borders bookstore that was located at the World Trade Center (this was usually followed by a stop at the Krispy Kreme, only a few steps away from Borders).  In retrospect (of which we all have plenty of) I wish I had stopped there, but who knew?  I was in the IT room with Bernd (one of the picture takers above) chatting with him and getting his help, when Ed, my cousin who worked there, opened the door to IT (a closed secure room with no windows) but didn't come in, he kept looking down the hallway towards our conference rooms, which faced the World Trade Center.  He's staring down there a while.   He says he sees paper flying, and then he goes down to check it out.

Ed calls Bernd and tells him the world trade center is burning.  In a scene reminiscent of the Matrix when that kid announces Morpheus and Neo are fighting, we scramble over to the meeting rooms at the end of the hall where we have a clear view of the WTC.

What we see is hell.

Tower 1, the one with the big antenna, is on fire on the upper floors.  Now we face the east side of Tower 1 and the plane hit from the north so we just see fire and figure it hit from the west side.  I see the normal up and down pattern of lines disrupted by jagged edges and smoke and flame.

Someone says that a plane hit it.  We all thought it was a small plane.

Obviously we can’t believe it, I try to get Ed to take some digital pictures realizing we’re watching history.  But the camera won’t work (we find out later that apparently you need a battery…go figure)

There’s probably 20 of us (and more at times watching it burn).  We all stay there for a while, just watching it, amazed at what we see.

Some go back to their desks.  Me?  I’m transfixed.  I call my dad who worked a few blocks away and told him a plane had hit.  He called back a few minutes later and lets me know that it wasn't a small plane that hit, but a airliner.

Then it gets worse.

There are 4 rooms across that wall, an office, then 2 conference rooms, then another office.  I’m watching the first tower burn in the first office.  Then I hear the sound.

I see a plane.  A plane? I thought, “what is it doing?  Is it doing a fly by? Why would it be doing that? And it’s moving real fast….the sound that plane made as it came in was sickening.

Then boom.  It almost happens in slow motion in my mind as the second plane piles into the south tower (2 World Trade).  The tower engulfs the plane, swallows it whole.  And then the flames. 

For some reason, I thought it was a FedEx plane that hit the building (based on the purple colors of the plane), and I took comfort that there weren’t that many passengers on it.  Later I found out I’m wrong.

From what people told me I screamed or something, I can't remember, but it was surreal.  The most surreal thing that you could ever see.  

I called my dad again and told him what I saw.

I stood there, watching it and I saw most horrible things.  The people.  The ones by the windows, above the fire.  I thought they could be rescued, I thought that for a long time until I saw a show a few months later which said how it was impossible for the helicopters to get near. I saw things moving, falling, I thought it was debris.  Then I realized it wasn't.  It was someone, someone who decided that it was better to let them take fate than let fate take them.  I watched the person fall, fall from where they jumped all the way down to where they landed into the roof of the stage that was in the plaza of the World Trade Center.  People say I was crazy for watching this, but I felt that by watching them, at least, in some way, they weren't alone in their last moments.  I was there with them.  I know it sounds dumb, but that's what I felt at the time.  You know, if I was trapped in those towers, I would have done the same thing.  There was no hope for those above the fire. 

This is when most people started clearing out of the office.  I was still staring in disbelief.  Eventually, I got my act together.  The building announces there is an "optional evacuation" above the 19 floor.  We all decide to leave.

Here's the thing, I wasn't running, I wasn't panicked.  I was in shock.  I went back to my training room/office packed and called my dad very curtly and said I'm out of here. He told me to come to him.  I think it was at this point that I realized some really really bad shit was happening.  

We left in packs from 120 Broadway, ignoring all safety regulations and taking the elevator downstairs.  A group of us started to head out, we went to Chase Manhattan Plaza where one of our group rested and we watched both towers burn against the clear blue sky.  We were there for a few minutes, the streets were actually calm.  It's like we were all in shock, in disbelief.  All watching the towers burn, not knowing that we were some of the last humans on the planet to see them standing.

One thing I remember is the paper, the sky was raining paper.  Like some sort of sick ticker tape parade.

Eventually, reason prevailed and a few of the guys who lived in Staten Island got our asses up and running and started heading towards the Staten Island ferry by way of Water Street.  At this point, I realized I didn't have a friggin clue as to what I was doing.  We made our way to Water street and oddly, I still had cell phone service and was able to call my fiancé (and now wife).  People were just standing and staring, almost kind of wandering around in shock.  Some were on the street corner crying.

On Water Street, we stopped again.  I was going to make my way to my Dad's office at 4 New York Plaza a few blocks away.  I was bringing refugees with me so I went to my dad's building and called him to see if it was good to do so.  The ok was given so I took two co-workers with me to my dad's office.  In retrospect, this was the smartest thing I did all day.

The three of us went up to my dad's office, and we walked into a fairly normal office situation, well aside from the fact that my dad's boss had CNN on the computer and at least we had an idea of what was going on.   The more we learned, the worse it got.  The building had power, they went onto generators when most of downtown lost power.  Things were tense but at least I had my dad with me.  I wasn't going back to NJ without him.

Then, things got worse, we heard this loud rumble, looked out the windows and saw people running.  Then we saw a the cloud.  On CNN we learned that 2 World Trade had fallen, the one I had seen hit by the plane earlier.  The cloud that followed was beyond belief.  Picture the sky engulfed by darkness.  Picture the world ending as you know it, and that's how we felt.

But wait, there was more.  Between all the crazy stuff you heard, the rumors, the darkness from the cloud for those minutes, the atmosphere was unlike anything you ever want to feel.  I called my fiancé and without her realizing it at the time, I made my peace with her as I was convinced I was dead that day.  

Then the second tower fell, more darkness.

For hours we stayed at my dad's office, my two coworkers eventually leaving to make their way home.  We left around 3:00, probably some of the last civilians left in lower Manhattan at that point.  People were evacuating anyway they could all day.  The East River was filled with every type of watercraft available, tugboats, ferries, you name it, they were being used to evacuate.  At one point, we even saw all the tugboats lined up, as if in some sort of meeting of how they were going to handle the rest of the day.

I decided that getting on any ferry that could get us to Jersey would be the best way to go.  We went over to the piers near wall street and wound up on a ferry that took us on a circuitous route that included going up to 34th Street, then out to Brooklyn and finally onto the Jersey Highlands where we were met by my mother.

It was somewhere on that route where we heard that 7 World Trade collapsed too.

As we headed out to the highlands, it was like we were leaving Saigon.  With a large plume of smoke of New York City.

But this was only the beginning....

We all had to go back to work after.  Ironically, it wasn't my primary job that brought me back first, it was Pace.  I went back to New York on September 20, 2001 to teach my class.  Went back there while the World Trade Center site was still literally burning.  Went back to a New York that was now a war zone, with limited access everywhere.  Went back to a bunch of kids who, god bless 'em, just wanted to move forward with their lives.  That first class back, we didn't talk about 9/11, we did a normal class, because that's what we all needed to do.

The next Monday, I went back to Capco.  It was surreal.  The air was a mess with a lot of terrible smells and streets that were beyond dirty.  Broadway was not accessible for the longest time.  Heck, it took 3 - 4 months before we could even go through the Holland Tunnel.  My dad and I used to have to take a bus to Jersey City, hop a ferry and get off at the South Street Seaport.  We didn't go out for lunch much.  It didn't feel right.  

But we went on with our lives.  And things began to change.  From those conference rooms where saw some of the worst things ever happen in human history, we saw amazing things.  We saw rebirth.  We saw a crew clean up ground zero far faster than anyone thought possible.  We saw bodies brought up from ground zero in coffins with an American flag draped over them in a solemn procession of firefighters, policemen and construction workers.  But we saw progress, we saw New York come back, saw it take a sucker punch from a bunch of hoodlums and still stand its ground.  Considering the devastation that took place that day, it's unreal that New York has rebounded the way it has.  But that's the point, we're better than all this.

But we can't ever forget...

*****************************************************
 Special thanks goes out to Jackie Womack for putting this site together many many years ago for me.