I had an 8 am meeting in the office that morning. If not for that, I would have likely been at 6th Avenue and Spring Street catching a cab to the office around 8:45. I was grateful that I was in the New York office surrounded by the warm comfort of my colleagues. I found refuge in the Viant office and team in the days following the attack.
I was coming out of my meeting when I overheard Mercedes tell a few people that Michael said a plane hit the empire state building. I recall riding in the elevator with a bunch of people and we were not overly concerned…just wondering why did a small plane hit the Empire State building? To me, it was a last moment of innocence.
I looked north to the Empire State Building and saw nothing but the stunning blue sky. Then, looking south there was a huge jagged tear and thick black smoke high up on the North tower. I immediately knew we were being attacked. I am an avid plane watcher and I know that they do not fly south this close to Manhattan. Suddenly we saw the 2nd explosion. Doug Whitten said he saw a plane go in. The rest of the day was a blur of disbelief, fear, sadness and shock.
Thankfully, everyone on the Lehman team was safe. I didn’t really know any of them well, but I remember feeling so grateful that each and every one was not physically harmed. I remember crying in front of the TV with Janice, Carrie and others when that tower fell; thinking of the people we knew.
I spent the next two weekends wandering the city. I observed war and peace debates, candle vigils, dogs wearing the American flag, a lone bagpiper belting out the most mournful of tunes, rock and roll wannabies playing Dylan, Taylor, a sole cellist playing on West Broadway at 7am. I just ambled through the city feeling very alone but also embraced by the outpouring of community and love.
Immediately following the attack, I would spend my evenings on Canal and West Broadway watching the flatbed trucks hauling enormous beams of mangled steel down Canal Street and out to the Holland Tunnel. When I went out for my runs, I had to try to avoid the transfer zone where dump trucks full of debris would load their haul onto waiting barges. Sometimes you could recognize a water heater, a door frame, but mostly it was just violently twisted steel. I went to mid-town to have dinner with friends one evening and I was struck at how “normal” everyone seemed to be. There were shoppers on 5th Avenue, people laughing. It was weird. I couldn’t wait to get back downtown.
The smell — each night sitting in my southern facing Soho apartment only reminded me that there were thousands of dead people just a short distance from my home. It seemed obscene that I was sitting on my couch watching TV knowing the hell that was downtown Manhattan.
On 9/11 this year I did not go to my office in midtown. I was compelled to say home in my new place in Tribeca. I walked down to the World Financial Center and sat and took it all in for about an hour. The wind was amazing – there was paper swirling through the air, a huge dust cloud reaching for the sky, a tattered and torn American Flag on the Deutche Bank building. As I struggled to walk against the wind, I couldn’t
help but think of the 2,801 people who lost their lives that day – were they sending a signal to their loved ones or were they expressing their rage at what happened to them? I won’t soon forget the feel of that wind.
These days, I am so sorry that I did not look up more often and take in the sheer power of those towers. The Sunday before the attack, on my normal run from SoHo to the Statue of Liberty Ferry, I took a detour. Instead of backtracking along the bike path I turned in and found myself on the Trade Center Plaza. I remember thinking “I hate it here” I felt uncomfortable; I can’t really say why, but my feeling was to get the hell out of there and back on my picturesque path by the water. In retrospect, I am sure that my ending up there was sheer coincidence, but what happened the following Tuesday, makes me feel grateful that I got to walk that ground one last time. I miss those towers and only wish I had appreciated them more when they were here.