Thursday, September 11, 2014

Remembering 9-11 and a Long Walk Home

I've pretty much used up the math metaphors for the Twin Towers years ago, so I don't have another comic commemorating the event. Maybe next year. On the other hand, I do have something that I wrote a few years ago in another forum. People from around the country participated, and I was one of the "locals" to the Event there. My story is just one of the millions that could be told that day, and it's hardly one of the more frightening, nor one of bravery and heroism. It's just a first-hand report.

My moderator of the forum asked me the following year if I would mind reposting it. Of course not, and I did. In the years since, she's had my permission to post it if I'm not on by a certain time to do it myself.

My report is here. Just one from the crowd. If anyone wishes to add their stories, please use the comment section. Thank you.

As requested (and as promised):

This was originally posted (I think) in 2005. It's been an annual repost since then.

At about 8:40am on that morning, I was walking into the Court building on Adams Street (actually, the Court St. entrance) in Downtown Brooklyn to start serving jury duty. As luck would have it, I had been halfway to the train station before I’d realized that I’d left my Walkman on the kitchen table, so I didn’t bother going back for it. I figured I’d just get a newspaper. Besides, I didn’t know how well I’d be able to pick up AM inside the building anyway.

I sat in a dark room watching a video on How to Be a Good Juror, oblivious to what was going on right across the river. We were told to relax in the room that they have, and I looked out the window at the Marriot Hotel. Traffic on Adams St was snarled, not moving. Must’ve been an accident on the Brooklyn Bridge, I thought. (It was a block away.)

People were standing around outside the hotel. Must be waiting for a tour bus or something. What did I know.

Fire trucks and ambulances started flying by on the wrong side of Adams Street, which had no traffic. Okay, traffic doesn’t come into Brooklyn much in the morning, but something was odd here. I had been facing 180 degrees from where I needed to be looking.

Finally, they had made an announcement. America was at war, under attack. The World Trade Center and the Pentagon had been destroyed. They were trying to get coverage on the TV sets in the jury rooms. I don’t think they succeeded. Even if they wanted to, only CBS would be available because it still broadcast from the Empire State Building.

People were beside themselves, many broke down, everyone was rushing for the payphones. I met a woman who had been listening to her radio. She let me share her earbuds. She was shaken and needed a cigarette. I don’t smoke, but I walked her to the smoking room. (There was one on the floor. Quite a few people were there.)

We were dismissed. Not much was going to get done in the Court building that week. Groups of people huddled outside with questions, comments, gossip and hearsay. Some of the lawyers said they saw it happen. What kind of plane was it?

Does anyone know if the trains are running? What about the buses? No trains. No LIRR. A few buses and they’re all packed. It was time to start walking and no one wanted to walk alone. We walked in groups.

Dust was falling from the sky in downtown Brooklyn like a dirty snow that was covering the cars. Papers fell too. We started walking up Atlantic Avenue. People were wandering around with their cell phones out trying to get a signal. no luck.

We took a turn down Third Avenue. I needed to. I wanted to stop at my mother’s house. It was a good resting point for me. The group I’d tagged along with decided to join me. One guy stopped in a hardware store for masks and passed them out.

When we passed Third St and reached the Gowanus Canal, we had our first real look. It was like a scene out of a bad movie. The skyline was there. But the Towers were missing. Just a terrible column of smoke and a cloud drifting our way.

We didn’t stay long. We kept walking. I made it to my mother’s house and said good-bye to the others. Some were walking all the way to Staten Island. One who had joined our group had walked over the Brooklyn Bridge — after having walked down 50 floors of Tower 1. God was looking out for him.

I watched some of the coverage until the trains were running again. I took one that left me about a mile or so from my inlaws, the meeting place for the rest of the family. I stopped in at St. Athanasius on the way. I hadn’t been there since a wedding about 15-20 years earlier. I stayed for a little while and walked the rest of the way.

Thankfully, my wife, who worked at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge on the Manhattan side had evacuated immediately before the trains had stopped running.

It’s not a walk that I’ll ever forget.

Mom isn't there anymore and my "resting place" won't be around much longer, either, sadly. Just more things to remember about that day.


Bteacher99 said...

I had 1st block planning. My principal sent an email: Don't tell the students what happened in NYC. I didn't know myself what had happened, so I wandered from my portable into the main building. As I reached Mr. W's classroom door, I saw (live or the first replay) the second plane hit. My first words were "Are we at war?" The response was, "If we aren't, we need to be."
Parents started picking their kids up before 2nd block ended. I don't remember much else from that day, except watching CNN until I couldn't stand the replays.

(x, why?) said...

Thank you for sharing.