For so many of us September 11, 2001 does not seem over a decade old but still a memory that is clear and visual as if it happened yesterday. I would like to share my story in the wake of 9/11 this Tuesday.
I remember it like yesterday. I was shooting for either Marie Claire or Mademoiselle editorial spread and I was running late for an 8:45 AM call time. I know this is silly but before I left to head out to the shoot, I had heels on and all of a sudden I had an extremely strong urge to wear flats, I have no idea why and it seemed ridiculous at the time but I’m glad I listened to my intuition, because little did I know I would have to walk from 23rdst to Queens to stay with a friend since all subway lines were temporally terminated due to 9/11.
The studio where I was shooting was located on Chelsea Piers in New York right by the west side highway. I lived in NJ at the time so I was taking the bus to 42nd and Port Authority and did not need to leave the bus terminal since there was a subway station located inside. I took the train to 23rd street and walked to the Westside Highway. As I was walking I noticed something immediately strange…there were surges of people walking through the streets with a state of urgency. Now of course this is nothing new, this is New York and everyone is on the move but what made this day peculiar was everyone was coming from one direction. No one seemed to be heading downtown, only in the uptown direction. Since I was running late I assumed there had been a fire somewhere because I could smell the distinct smell of smoke and hauled my a@s to try and make it to the set on time.
When I reached the studio about, 10 minutes pass my 8:45AM call time. Everyone seemed preoccupied so I went straight for the food that was set up for breakfast before I headed into hair in makeup. I was STARVING and this is why it took me a minute to notice the energy in the studio was drained, to say the least. As I finished loading my plate and proceeded to find the editor and style team to say hello, I saw about 10 members of the crew staring out the window in a complete silent daze. Now the studio I was shooting at is known for its amazing panoramic view of the city because of the floor to ceiling glass windows, including a distinct view of both twin towers. As I am walking over to the window, I notice pitch black smoke coming from the North Tower and all I could mutter was “what happened” just before anyone could answer I saw a plane headed for the South Tower.
I was in such shock I couldn’t even comprehend that the plane would impact the Tower but it did and automatically I shut down and just remembering robotically reaching for my phone to get in touch with my Mom, sister and friends who were all in the city. My Mother and Sister weren’t supposed to be in the vicinity of the Twin Towers that morning but I wasn’t sure. Due to the high volume of calls and line failure due to the incident I couldn’t get through (eventually most lines would be out of service) but the only thing that kept me sane was I refused to believe they were harmed, I refused, it was actually the only thing that kept me calm…the only thing.
For safety reasons everyone stayed and tried to get in touch with loved ones. As everyone was making phone calls staring out the window in horror that is when the first tower goes down and any hope I had for a huge survival rescue mission for the thousands trapped was stamped out in seconds. During the collapse of the first tower I was in the studio desperately trying to get in touch with my family, and that is when I heard a tumultuous sound that is hard to describe till this day. The sound I heard was the South Tower collapsing. About 30 minutes later I would witness the collapse of the North Tower…I will never forget that image, never.
Soon radio accounts were announcing that the incident was intentional and other incidents that occurred in DC and Pennsylvania, and I begin to really fear for the safety of my Mother who was working one block away from the Empire State building at the time. Hours later I eventually reached my family and friends who were all safe.
To the thousands that passed they will always be remembered and to the survivors, family and friends who lost a loved one, nothing can really describe the courageousness and strength they possessed that day and continue to possess.
One story that hits close to home was a friend of the family who worked in the World Trade Center and felt ill that morning and called out, all friends and employees of his company perished in the attack. My story really pales in comparison, in fact I wouldn’t even dare to make an comparison to the horrors and atrocities that happened that day and the losses that so many are still dealing with till this day but it is my memory and something I will never forget.
Where were you or what was your 9/11 memory?