What a nightmare.
I began my commute yesterday from Brooklyn, NY to mid-Manhattan a bit late, about 8:35. I arrive at work at 9:25, the receptionist tells me my wife just called. I drop my bag, call her back: as she was walking our dog, Kazu (means "peace" in japanese), with a nice view over the east river to manhattan, she saw all this paper floating, like confetti, onto the streets. She grabbed one, singed around the edges, with all sorts of personal, usually confidential, financial data. She looks up and sees it came from the Tower 2, on fire, across the river. As she is looking, she witnesses the 2nd plane slam into Tower 1, an explosion and fire. She's sobbing over the phone to me, aghast at knowing she just witnessed an act that killed so many people. The TV says its terrorists. I leave work to go to Brooklyn. The subway keeps me in a tunnel between stops for 20 minutes. I sit next to a woman in with a stoller, rocking her baby, saying, "I hope daddy's alright". over and over. like a mantra. er husband worked in the towers. I get out at the next stop, worried about being incommunicado and caught in a subway, and begin the long (and I mean LOONG) walk to Brooklyn. The streets of manhattan are jammed. Cell phone works about once every 40 attempts as the circuits are flooded with thousands of calls by new yorkers to friends and families.
After nigh 40 attempts I finally reach my wife on cell as I walk down. She's spoken to my parents, a good friend of our family, Rosie, works on the 70th floor. We don't know yet...
I march south and pass hospitals with doctors and nurses nervously awaitning ambulances. The streets are full of people, most marching north. As I look down the avenue, enormous grey dust clouds billow across the island, on the horizon. I start to see sporadic people sobbing, some with dusty soot covered faces. I hear sniipets of conversations, news that "tower 1 has actually collapsed", there was another bulding bombed in D.C., the 2nd tower is gone, they're both gone.
A dozen city buses race down 2nd Avenue, filled with EMS personnel. Sirens blaring, and I start to feel smoke in my lungs. This is still 35 blocks north of the explosions.
My wife tells me, finally, that Rosie is alive, and home, and with her nearly devastated husband.
My father, who takes the PATH train from below the towers, luckily is early to work and left for Jersey at about 7:30. He witnessed the entire disaster through the easterly glass wall of his office directly across from lower Manhattan.
He didn't make it back home until this morning, after camping overnight on an apartment lobby couch in Jersey City.
I learned that somehow, the fiance of my co-worker made it out alive from the 104th floor of the 2nd tower hit in the attack. The fact that he is alive is a testament to the emergency procedures in place, coupled with his youth, I'm sure.
Yesterday, I finally made it down to the Manhattan bridge, normally an auto only bridge. But it was open only to pedestrians leaving the city. I trudged across the bridge amidst thousands of others on foot, some merely fleeing manhattan, some returning home to Brooklyn. Amid the span of the bridge, some paused to view the skyline of Manhattan, a dark grey cloud, thousands of feet high, where the towers had stood that morning. Many thousands of people waiting in Brooklyn, wondering where to go. An old man: "Pearl Harbor..? THis is far worse, I'll never forget this day.".
When I got near my block, all the cars were covered in cement dust, blown across the river, and a heavy acrid smell permeated the air. From the window of our house we could see the towers...no more. I'm still in shock, and grateful that those close to me are alive. I've been in those buildings so many times... I live next to a police precinct, and last night the officers stood on the precinct steps, talking and tallying up the dead amongst their ranks.
I live near a large middle-eastern community and was glad to see additional protection by the police today, to protect that community. My wife, who is Japanese, stiffens when she hears comparisons to Pearl Harbor, and hopes middle easterners don't suffer the same fate as the Japanese during WWII.