Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sound of Silence Marks NYC After 9/11

The video above is courtesy of Bob and Bri, who were in their apartment frighteningly close to the Twin Towers. It is an amazing, gut-wrenching personal account of people witnessing the historic events of Sept. 11, 2001, literally out their window. thanks Bob and Bri for sharing their video. Bob and Bri's video can be seen on YouTube along with other tributes and personal videos by clicking here
Story and photos by Lisa E. Crowley
Eleven days after the planes struck the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, the twisted carnage of the buildings and piles of rubble still smoldered in spots, thick, toxic dust filled the air and covered everything, and security around the site had been tightly controlled and closed to the public by barricades and machine gun-toting U.S. soldiers.
Me and my friend Christine Raeder, an Abington resident, drove the 3 ½ hours to New York City, Friday Sept. 21—10 days after the attacks.
Had another girlfriend not been married Friday, Sept. 14, we would have gone then.
The first sign we knew something was wrong in New York was when we exited Interstate-Route 95 and drove south on the Hudson River Parkway toward mid-town Manhattan.
We were in shock to realize we were the ONLY vehicle heading south.
On the other side of the parkway heading north was a traffic jam of thousands of vehicles leaving the city. It was surreal.
Our hearts began to pound and the pit in my stomach that began seconds after I watched the second plane hit the South Tower Sept. 11 returned in full force.
I had visited high school and college friends in New York countless times, it is me and my husband’s favorite weekend get-a-way, and second to Boston, I consider it my home city.
Except for the Yankees—I love New York.
It shocked us that thousands were leaving the city. It was stunning that we were the only vehicle heading into New York on a Friday night at about 5:30 p.m.
It also scared us. We told ourselves there would be no other attack. We were safe. It would be OK, but in the back of our minds we wondered if another terror plot could unfold while we were there.
We stayed with my friend Courtenay Harrington Bailey, a 1987 graduate of Whitman-Hanson who had moved to New York to make her fame and fortune on Broadway.
As we made our way to her apartment, it was impossible to fathom the lack of traffic, mobs of people and—most shocking---not one taxi beeped its horn on the empty thoroughfares. Even after partying in the city until 4 or 5 in the morning had I ever heard silence in Manhattan. New York City—the city that never sleeps—was deserted. It was mind boggling. Native New Yorker Paul Simon's "Sound of Silence" came to mind.
That evening we visited a nearby pub and met male and female firefighters who were gathered to blow off steam. It wasn’t rowdy. It was quiet and talk was hushed. Several knew Courtenay. Friends and family lost in the attacks were remembered. Their tears came. Their tears stopped. The tears came again.
Saturday, Sept. 22, I planned to head to the Jacob K. Javits Exhibition Center miles away from Ground Zero near Times Square where I was warned by press relations officials that I may have to wait 4 to 8 hours to tour the wreckage first hand and close up. Any member of the press who was willing to wait was assured entry.
I intended to wait and join the media in walk-throughs that from all accounts were stunning, horrifying and gruesome. Many members of the press reported in the days before our arrival how clean-up crews had encountered body parts while removing debris.
Like the rest of us, New Yorkers and visitors to the city could only get views of the damage and updates on the situation at Ground Zero from television footage and newspaper coverage because the area had been sealed off shortly after the attacks.
Barricades, police and soldiers encircled Ground Zero for 20 to 30 blocks. No one without some sort of credentials could get near Ground Zero.

Our plan was to jump on the subway and see how close to the World Trade Center we could get. If we were stopped short of the site, I would double-back to the Javits Center and meet Courtenay and Christine later.
South of Times Square subway cars were emptied. Two stops away from Canal Street, a main exiting stop for the World Trade Center, we were the only ones on the train, except for a man and woman wearing medical scrubs who had air masks around their necks.
We got off at Canal Street and made our way to Broadway and Ground Zero—a short walk away.
We couldn’t get over the smell. Still can't. I remember it well.
It smelled like a barbecue and there was an eerie undercurrent of disinfectant that permeated the air.
We saw soldiers with M-16 machine guns, but they didn’t stop us.
We kept walking and reached Trinity Church, which people remarked was a miracle that it had not collapsed or was harmed much during the blast.

Then we saw the burned, charred remains of World Trade Center #5--a hollow, copper-colored, rectangular shell of a building that gave us a hint of what was to come.
We kept walking and no one stopped us or the hundreds--and then thousands--who during a 2 ½ hour span were able to visit the site personally for the first time.
Most of the photos are from our slow walk—it took about 2 hours—for us to make our way around the site.
The crowds were polite and mostly silent, except for the gasps, the muffled sound of crying, and “Oh, my Gods,” that couldn’t be held back as the wreckage became worse and worse.
The photo of the police officer (whose name I had that day, but have since misplaced my notes) watching all of us taking pictures is one of the moments I remember most.
He was so tired. He was so sad. He was so nice to all of us. He patiently answered questions. He knowingly nodded and shook his head in empathy as people told him of relatives and family members who died in the attacks. He thanked them for their wishes of condolence for those he lost. He asked the people who climbed the light pole to get better pictures to be careful.

It was then that I cried.
Shortly after, there was a plaza where many of us congregated for a breather and to pull ourselves together.
We hugged strangers who consoled us because we felt guilty two of the planes came from Boston. They assured us it wasn’t our fault. They THANKED us for coming to the city. It was clear from their accents that most were native New Yorkers or transplants from all points on
Earth who, like us, headed to lower Manhattan to see how close they could get and were, like us, thrilled, but dejected and saddened that the foul-smelling rubble we were looking at was where nearly 3,000 people lost their lives in such a horrific way.
Me, Christine and Courtenay were with New Yorkers the day, we the public, we the people, without credentials were able to see for ourselves one of the most devastating moments in our history.
Needless to say I didn’t bother going to the Javits Center.
Just as we completed viewing the destruction, helicopters began circling above and soldiers, police and construction crews began replacing the barriers and moving the thousands who for 2 ½ hours visited the site. Officials told us one of the buildings we had just passed had suffered major structural damage and they were worried it was going to collapse.
We left and headed to Washington Square Park where a massive memorial of candles, flowers, photos of victims, poems, keepsakes and mementoes were placed around the statue of first president George Washington.
I have never felt more pride to be an American than that day.
Writing this I am again overflowing with pride.
From the rubble, we came together as Americans. We are the United States—initials U.S.—us.
We are the first country in the world to reject government by royalty and inheritance in favor of one elected by the people, for the people.
It ain’t perfect, but, while 9-11 changed everything for my generation, the U.S. changed everything for every person in the world.
People still risk life, limb and all they own to come here. That’s one of the reasons the terrorists hate us.
We will not sit still for their totalitarianism and blind rule.
It’s about freedom, baby—Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—for all—not just the privileged, wealthy or those who use terror to instill their will on a population.

I hope everyone today on the 10th anniversary remembers the sense of community the attacks fostered for a far too short a time and try to emulate it.
The 2,977 people who died on Sept. 11 between New York, Washington D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania were from all walks of life. Every race, creed, religion and sexual preference were represented.
Terrorists don’t discriminate and we shouldn’t either.
We have differences—politically, financially, socially—but we are ALL Americans.
Above all, live life to the fullest for all of those who have died in the attacks and the wars and conflicts before and since Sept. 11, 2001.
Don’t be afraid. FDR was right—there is nothing to fear, but fear itself.
Don’t let them have died in vain.
In the immortal words of Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer, one of those who stormed the cockpit and brought the fourth flight down in Shanksville preventing it from doing more damage in Washington D.C.: “Let’s Roll!”

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