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My 9/11, where were you?
I was a little late going to work, it was my girlfriend's daughter's first day of kindergarten. So I got to work, picked up some coffee and a bagel in the lower level, from a very nice guy from Ghana I talked to every morning and went up to my 12th floor office in 2 World Trade Center. It was about 8:15 when I got to my desk, I started talking to a co-worker about a big project I had been working on for over a year (redesigning the NYC Board of Education's network). Eventually I sat down and started to log into my computer.
That's when the building moved, it wasn't uncommon to feel the building sway slightly in heavy winds, but this was different. We all got up and looked around, not sure what to do. That's when we started seeing the flaming debris fall gently passed the windows that separated our building from the hotel across the plaza. We knew we had to move. Another coworker and I started ushering people towards the door to the hallway so we could get to the stairs when our Director came out of his office and told everyone to "calmly" evacuate the building - no one knew what had happened, but we could tell whatever it was, it was bad.
We got everyone to the stairs and headed down. We crossed the lower level of the plaza passing all the shops and exited next to the Barnes & Nobles, where the Port Authority cops were directing us to leave. Once outside most scattered, I crossed the street next to the Millenium Hilton and saw our receptionist walking towards me in a daze (clearly in shock), she didn't answer when I spoke to her, she just kept walking towards the building. So I grabbed her and made her look at me, all she said was "why are they doing that?" not knowing what she was talking about I turned and looked and we watched several people jump out of the upper floors of 1 World Trade, still everyone on the street assumed it was a small plane that had crashed into the building. On such a beautiful day we assumed something MUST have happened to the pilot for it to crash directly into the building.
That's when the 2nd plane hit, which we couldn't see (the Hotel blocked our view of our office). I figured it was secondaries from the first crash, the veterans here know what secondaries are. So to prevent our receptionist from getting hit by any debris I pulled her into the receiving bay of the hotel. We watched as chunks of plane and building flew up the street striking a police officer standing next to his Cushman scooter.
After the chunks stopped flying I started to head towards the downed police officer, but my receptionist started heading back towards the building as soon as I let go of her. By the time I grabbed her and got her heading in the right direction (away from the towers) the cop had a small crowd tending to him. I pointed the receptionist down the street and told her we needed to call and let our families know we're okay. As we walked there were huge lines at every pay phone we passed, cell phones weren't working, luckily we weren't that far from a large Verizon building next to the Brooklyn Bridge, we ducked in there and I was finally able to call my Mom and tell her I was fine.
We started walking north since the receptionist lived in Queens I was hoping the subways were running farther north. We had gathered a couple of other people who worked in the building, one lady was from Merryl Lynch - luckily she was a little late getting in, the 2nd plane hit 1 floor above her office. As we walked the receptionist kept looking back, suddenly - in Chinatown, she said "it's gone, the building is gone". I didn't believe her. I turned and all I saw was smoke, I told her "no, it's not gone, you just can't see it behind the smoke". Then the smoke cleared and I saw only one tower standing. That was pretty shocking.
I turned and continued to guide her north, both towards a subway for her to get home and my car - which was parked on 50th st on the West Side (monthly parking near the WTC was ridiculously expensive, it was MUCH cheaper to park on the West Side and ride the subway down). I knew there had been an attack, but I didn't know any details until I got to my girlfriend's aunt's house. I managed to get to my car, but it was pointless, they weren't letting anyone in or out of Manhattan at that point.
Later that day my boss emailed me and asked I could help out, the Mayor's Office of Emergency management had been destroyed (obviously) and they needed to set up a new one immediately. I agreed and hopped in my car and drove down to the pier where they were planning to setup temporarily. After some discussion with the guys from NYC-DOITT and some other vendors we had a plan. So 2 days after 9/11 I was in a manhole on the West Side highway splicing fiber to get the new OEM connected. I stuck around in the OEM and acted as one of the liaisons between Verizon and the Mayor's office. I gave the Mayor his daily briefing on how the work was progressing restoring phone service to lower Manhattan. On the 4th day I got to see the damage first hand, I went on a tour of the World Trade Center area with the Mayor and his team. I remember staring straight up at over 3 stories of rubble, amazing.
"2 things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity............and I'm not sure about the universe" - Albert Einstein