9 / 11 - A witness to destruction

Tribute in Light

'I live on west 57th Street, and my apartment faces south. On a good day, out my windows, even as far north as I am, I could see the top of the Towers jutting above the tree lines of the buildings.

I worked at a restaurant on West Broadway and Reade Street, about four blocks straight north of the World Trade Center. Before 9/11, for years, my restaurant was a destination of choice for many Trade Center workers. 

Irony, being what it is, on Friday, September 7, 2001, I stepped outside my restaurant for a smoke and made a mental note of how great it was that where I stood I could see three of NYC's greatest monuments - to the south, the two Towers, and to the north, the Empire State Building. Little did I know it would be the last time I would enjoy that view.

On the morning of September 11, from my apartment, I could see the Towers burning. I was worried about my workers at my restaurant, so I hopped on my bike for the ride downtown, all the way fighting the crowds that were escaping Lower Manhattan. By the time I reached West Broadway and Reade Street, the crowds were gathered, gaping in horror at the Towers burning. They all appeared to be in front of my restaurant. There was no way to get in. At that moment, the first Tower came crashing down.
Although the sight of that massive building coming down was shocking, it was the sound that has always stuck with me....like a thousand freight trains rolling down the tracks all at once. Still on my bike, and in total shock, I watched the hordes of people flee for their lives. 
I remained stunned! I watched that building come down, crack, crack, crack. I saw the cloud of dust. I thought, well, that's crazy, but I'm far enough away so I'm cool. I wasn't. What I didn't realize was that the debris cloud had intentions. And it was heading for me! Before I had time to clear my head, it was on me, around me, all over me.

The after-effects were surreal and haunting.  A clear, beautiful day had been reduced to a semi-nuclear rain of horror. The first thing I noticed after the dust had settled somewhat, was a woman who came out of the mist, like a ghost, asking me if the nearby payphone was working, as she wanted to call her husband to say she was still alive. 

 After that I got my bearings, only then to witness scores of people jumping to their deaths from the North Tower. Oh, Lord. I was close enough to even see the colors of their clothes. Some were even jumping in unison, holding hands, falling to their certain deaths, knowing it was their only option. That visual still haunts me to this day...

Then, the second Tower came down... Gone. Too much. And, before long, 7 WTC goes down, too. Total destruction. My neighborhood, my customers, my friends, gone forever. Weeks and months later, the tragedy sets in. I catered for months to fireman, police, iron workers, volunteers. And they all had their stories to tell. It was tragic on all levels, but we were there for them - to support them in their recovery efforts, and to comfort them during their time of need. To let them know we were there for them and were a sounding board to allow them to open up and tell us of the horrors they had lived through. Fireman would come to me and tell me how many they lost from their units. Iron workers would cry as they told me about finding mangled bodies. Volunteers from all over the country would share their stories with me. It was cathartic for all. Too many times, however, I would have to step away and weep...I was trying to be strong for them, but at times it got to be too much.

While I wish, as everybody does, that the tragic events of September 11th never happened, I was glad to be downtown during that experience and witness how my city, New York City, and mankind in general, responded to this evil. We proved to the world that we were not to be shaken or beaten down by the acts of cowards and detractors of the democracy this country is built on...We always persevere...We stayed strong and we continued on. So on this day, September 11, 2015, we must remember those we lost. Remember that day, and never, never forget'.


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