I had plans that day. I was going to meet my friend Barbara for lunch. She was in town from L.A. for a conference and we hadn’t seen each other in two years. Before meeting her, I was going to pack.
We were moving on September 13th. We had two days to pack up our apartment and head to, well, we didn’t know where. We were either going to Denver or Los Angeles. We decided to put our future in fate’s hands. Whoever got a job in whichever city – that was where we were moving.
We were awake and trying to drag ourselves out of bed. The thought of having so much packing to do wasn’t motivating either of us. The phone ringing at 9:05 a.m. was a different story.
See, we had ordered moving boxes online. They were supposed to arrive the day before, but UPS hadn’t delivered them as scheduled. The driver said no one was home. He was wrong; he called the wrong apartment.
So, after a not so nice and lengthy call with customer service, we were assured our packages would be delivered Tuesday morning.
Thinking it was his now best friend at UPS, my then boyfriend, now husband answered the phone. It was my sister. “What’s happening in New York City?”
His response, “I don’t know. What?”
She told him to turn on the TV. He did and then ran into the bedroom to tell me I had to come see what was going on. The World Trade Center was on fire.
All we had to do was walk outside, two blocks down and we could see it all unfold in person because we lived in Brooklyn.
My family had just been out to the East Coast to visit us and we all attended our cousin’s wedding in Plymouth, MA. We spent a few days together in New York and then drove to Boston for a few days. My younger sister and her boyfriend flew back home from Boston on Saturday. The rest of my family flew out of New York on Sunday.
Of the many different scenarios when planning the trip, this was what we decided. The outcome could have been very different. We had all visited the World Trade Center exactly one week earlier.
My boyfriend had worked at the World Trade Center in the mall beneath the two towers. He was a manager for Structure during the first year we lived in New York.
It had always been a special place for us and we had spent a lot of time there. We had opposite work schedules, so I would go see him at work on the weekends. Because we were leaving, he had just been there the day before saying goodbye to former co-workers.
At some point that Tuesday morning, UPS delivered our boxes. I can’t remember the exact time, but it was before either of the towers fell.
The driver was a guy about our age, in his late 20’s, early 30’s. We told him we were surprised they still had him working; we hadn’t expected to get anything delivered after the events that were unfolding, and our future was now on hold as we clearly weren’t going anywhere.
He was so nice and calm when he told us his wife worked at the World Trade Center and he hadn’t been able to get ahold of her. He dropped the boxes off and he was on his way.
I think of him every time I think of that day. I’m not sure how his story ended, but I always hope and pray it had a happy ending and he was reunited with his wife.
Not long after he left, we watched the South Tower fall live on TV. That whole morning we were in shock. It was actually very scary and we were glued to the news not believing what we were seeing.
We had been debating whether or not to go outside and see what was going on in person. Because it was so surreal, seeing it in person would make it real. But, then again, seeing it would make it real.
I wanted to stay in the cocoon of our apartment, but we decided to go for a walk. Maybe it wasn’t real after all. It’s funny the way your mind works during a tragedy.
We walked outside to our view of the World Trade Center and we stood looking at what was left – the North Tower engulfed in flames. I only remember that the fire was like no fire I had ever seen before. It was the brightest orange and the smoke was thick and heavy and the blackest black.
This was the building with the spire. The top 20 – 30 floors were what were on fire. It looked like those floors were going to pancake in on themselves at any moment. It seemed like the destruction was so much that there was no way there was anything left inside them.
I turned to my boyfriend and said “The top portion is going to collapse. The flames are too intense it looks like it’s going to go at any minute.” This was my way of saying, I want to leave. I don’t want to be standing here when that happens.
It then happened so quickly, we didn’t have time to leave and at that point I don’t think my legs worked. Or maybe it was my brain trying to process what I was seeing and I was stuck.
Even though the first tower had fallen, I only thought a portion of this one was going to fall. I never in my mind thought the entire building would collapse let alone right in front of my eyes.
I knew I was witness to thousands of deaths and I could not wrap my head around the hatred that was the cause of this.
We went back to our apartment and I immediately started packing. I remember rolling glasses in newspaper while watching the news because I was in shock and needed to preoccupy myself. Funny the way your mind works in a tragedy.
I didn’t get to meet Barbara for lunch that day. She has her own story, but luckily she was safe and we were able to communicate and I knew she was going to be okay.
Our fate was decided that day. We were lucky. We moved to Denver to be closer to my family. Not on September 13th because the entire city was shut down and no bridges or tunnels were open.
We moved a week later. When we were loading up the truck, a man driving down the street stopped and yelled, “Hey, you’re not moving because of what happened last week are you?” We explained it was planned beforehand. He said something to the effect of good, don’t let that scare you away.
Damn, New Yorkers are one tough breed.
Our story continues, but there are so many that day that do not. And think of our service men and women who risk their lives every day to protect our freedoms and our country.
We may say “Never forget,” but unfortunately I think too many people have forgotten.
P.S. The photo was taken in 2004 when we went back to New York City to celebrate our first wedding anniversary.
It was taken at the firehouse across from the World Trade Center, Ten House 10. There were lots of people lined up for photos that day.