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Remembering ..... 9/11 - Part One
I can't believe it's been ten years since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Watching all of the commentaries and footage makes me very sad. First of all, my sadness and concern is for the victims and of course their families, friends and loved ones. Second, I am sad and nostalgic for those two wonderful towers that stood out in the New York City skyline, which has forever been changed. The loss of structures obviously does not compare with the loss of lives, but I used to work in the south tower of the World Trade Center and I still look towards the skyline and remember what it was like.
I've always lived near Manhattan. When I was younger, I would take take shopping trips into the city with my mother and sister and my father would drive us into Manhattan to see the Christmas tree in Rockfeller Center. However, it was only after I graduated college that I began to go into Manhattan on a regular basis. I had never gone into the city on my own, but I could not very well go on job interviews with my mom tagging along!
I had several interviews in midtown, but I was a little hesitant to go downtown, because I had never been there before. The interview was at an international bank located on the 83rd floor of the of Two World Trade Center. So, not only did I have to take a train downtown, but I had to take an elevator up to the 83rd floor too! I was twenty-one years old and pretty shy, but something about that job made me want to try. It was the best interview I had and within a week I received the call that the job was mine.
I quit my part-time job, bought a few suits and started my new job; it was exciting. I learned to navigate the subway system. I became a champ at navigating through the crowds. At lunch, I would explore all of the great shops and eateries in the World Trade Center Concourse. You did not even have to go outside to get your hair and nails done! I could walk to the World Financial Center which was also full of great stores and places to eat. Of course, on nice days, I did venture outdoors. There was a beautiful little church that I discovered early in my exploration of downtown. It was just across the street from Two World Trade Center, next to a parking lot. If I had not looked twice, I would have missed it! The church was only open on Wednesday and Sunday and as luck would have it, it was a Wednesday when I first saw it. I walked in and lit a candle and sat for a little while. I felt peaceful and happy, and glad that I had taken the job at the World Trade Center. I made friends at work and they often came with me on Wednesdays to light candles and just sit quietly for a few minutes. Even though we were not of the same religion, we all agreed on how peaceful and beautiful this little church was.
I also discovered Century 21 Department Store, where I bought two pairs of cute shoes for $24. My good friend and I would visit the store every couple of weeks to check for any great deals. We also loved to go to the Farmer's Market which was held every Tuesday and Thursday between the two towers. We also used to pick up salads from a salad bar and walk to Battery Park City. We would eat our lunch by the water, chat and people watch.
Of course, the view from the 83rd floor and eventually the 99th floor when the bank moved up, was breathtaking. On sunny, clear days, it was difficult not to look outside. We could see the Hudson River and New Jersey from our windows. During Fleet Week, which takes place in early June, we could see the ships coming into the harbor. From the conference rooms, we could see midtown Manhattan. However, my favorite view was the river. On cloudy or rainy days it felt as if we were in a fish bowl and the lightning show during thunderstorms was spectacular. Sunsets were breathtaking.
My sister and friends worked in midtown, so I often met them there for dinner or shopping, but I could never get used to it there. Nothing was as glamorous and exciting as the World Trade Center, at least to me!
It was three months before my wedding when the first bombing of the World Trade Center happened in February of 1993. I was on the phone with my then fiancee when I heard a loud "boom" and the lights flickered. I didn't think anything of it. I figured a transformer blew and that we might lose power. That had happened before and it was not a big deal. Through the years, we experienced lost power or the elevators not working and even the building swaying on windy days. I was naive and never thought that anything bad can happen there. It was cool to work in the Twin Towers.
We did end up losing power that day and eventually the phones stopped working. We were advised by building services to wait until we were told to start walking down. It was lunch time, so half of the office was out to lunch. Those of us that were in the office waited approximately three hours before a fire fighter came to our office and told us we could start walking down. By that time, smoke had crept up to the 99th floor (the bank had moved up from the 83rd floor), so I wet paper towels for all of us to hold over our mouths while we walked down. At that time, we did not know what had actually happened, so we were not nervous. I carried my boss' briefcase and coat and headed down. There weren't any lights in the stairway. We had one person holding a flashlight at the head of the line and one person holding a flashlight at the end of the line. It took us 65 minutes to get from the 99th floor to the ground floor. Our co-workers were all waiting for us when we finally got down. The trains near the towers were not running so we had to walk up a few stations. I finally found a working pay phone and called my parents to ask my father to pick me up from the train. My father looked relieved when he picked me up and my mother said, "thank God" when I walked through the door. I was confused because I did not know what happened. When I looked in the mirror, I had black around my nose and mouth. My mother told me what she had heard in the news. As the story unfolded, we learned of the six people who had died and the extent of the damage to the World Trade Center. We had calls from relatives from abroad and friends who knew that I worked at the World Trade Center to make sure I was okay. The most touching call came from a woman I worked with at my part-time job during college. I don't even know how she got my number, but she went through the trouble to find me, to make sure I was okay. I went to bed early that night and the next morning, I discovered I had lost 5 pounds since the previous morning and my legs were sore from walking down all those flights of stairs. I had a fitting for my wedding dress that morning and I needed help getting up and down.
A month passed before we were able to go back to work at the Trade Center. We worked out of our back-up facility in Jersey City; at least we could still see the towers from there. We went back one morning just to pick up a few files; the authorities were only letting in a few small groups at a time. They still had to make sure that the towers were structurally sound.
Our whole office could not wait to get back to work. A few people asked if I was afraid to go back; that thought never even crossed my mind. I still believed that the towers were indestructible. I worked at the World Trade Center for the next few years. Things had changed though. We had to show identification when entering the elevators, there were lights in the stairways, stone pillars were installed on the sidewalks to prevent anyone else from driving into the buildings and I started carrying a small flashlight in my briefcase.
I left my job to be a full-time mom. I cried on my last day of work; I had been there almost eight years. I started working there when I was 21 years old and fresh out of college. When I left, I was 28 years old and the mother of an almost 2 year old. I feel as if I grew up there. I went through several milestones while working there: meeting my husband, getting engaged, being married, buying a house and having a baby. I would miss my friends and co-workers and going into the city would never be as beautiful because I would not have that view.
The World Trade Center stayed part of my life. I brought my son with me when I visited my friends for lunch. On clear days we could see the Twin Towers from a distance while driving west of our house. My son and then eventually my daughter would point and say, "that's where mommy worked," every time they caught a glimpse of the towers.
In August of 2001, exactly two weeks before September 11th, we had walked through the World Trade Center Concourse and the World Financial Center with the kids. We did not have time to visit the Observation Deck that day, but my husband and I promised the kids we would go back another day.......................................
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