2006-09-07 / Top Stories

MEMORIES OF 9/11/01

September 11, 2001 was Primary Election Day and my dear friend, Herb Berman, was running for New York City Comptroller. Also, city councilman and good friend, Lewis Fidler, was running to fill Herb's council seat.

That morning at five, I met members of the Thomas Jefferson Club at the Arch Diner for breakfast in preparation for the opening of the polls. We were excited, as Herb was the first Thomas Jefferson Club member to run for citywide office.

I later took my position outside P.S. 222 in Marine Park and began greeting voters and passing out palm cards. I shortly went inside and greeted about 50 poll workers and chatted with them about the neighborhood, the election and the party that was planned after the polls closed.

The morning was uneventful until one poll worker came outside at about 9 a.m. and told us that a plane had crashed into the World Trade. She said her daughter worked there, but the woman couldn't reach her on her cell phone.

I vividly recall looking north that bright, clear morning and saw smoke rising from one of the World Trade Center towers. I got into my car and turned on the radio to find out what happened. As I listened to the commentator, he indicated that little information was available, but then excitedly reported a second plane crashed into the other tower.

I went into the school to inform the poll workers and others. A radio was turned on and the reporters spoke about a possible terrorist attack. More information soon ensued about a plane that had crashed into the Pentagon and another crashing in a field in Pennsylvania.

I left and drove to the Thomas Jefferson Club where people were arriving and watching the television, which had been set up to receive voting results that night. About 20 of us sat in horror, shock and disbelief as we watched the first and second towers come crashing to the ground.

How could this happen? Who did this? How could someone commit such a terrible act? These and so many other questions were discussed as events unfolded, but no one had any answers. There was also growing fear as to what else might happen and anger that so great a city, so powerful a nation, had suffered such a catastrophe.

Later, it was announced that all off-duty police officers and firefighters were to immediately re-port to their respective commands. There was also a call for retired police officers and fireman to go to the closest precinct or firehouse for possible service. As a retired police officer, I went to my old command at Brooklyn Borough headquarters. After I spoke with Chief Joseph Fox, the Brooklyn South Commander, he assigned me to my old job in community affairs.

After consultation and anticipation of what we might expect in the aftermath of the attack, I worked with the Community Affairs staff to open information centers in Marine Park and Bay Ridge. These centers subsequently provided up-to-date information to relatives of those who worked in and around the World Trade Center and to families who came in for the latest information, a list of casualties and names of survivors.

We next set up an evacuation plan for casualties who might be taken from Manhattan to Brooklyn hospitals, like Lutheran Medical Center, because of its proximity to the Brooklyn piers.

As I drove on the Belt Parkway, past the Verrazano Bridge, to get to Lutheran, the view was staggering. There, where two majestic towers once dominated the Manhattan skyline, was now nothing but a mile high cloud of smoke and flames.

It was expected that ferries from Manhattan would begin transporting the injured to the hospital, but as time passed, few casualties - less than 50 - arrived because those trapped when the buildings collapsed did not survive.

As the day wore on, the realization that this would be the worst tragedy of my generation became apparent as New York and the world entered into a period of uncertainty and fear.

We have grown stronger in ways, but somehow America's innocence was lost that tragic day and the need to be ever vigilant has became routine.

Frank Seddio

Surrogate Judge

On Sept 11, 2001 I was at work and during the time of the attacks, I had just been in a car accident in Harlem and was waiting for the cops to arrive. While waiting for the cops to arrive at Fifth Avenue and West 133rd Street, I noticed black smoke in the air as I looked downtown. My first thought was of my best friend who worked on the 94th floor of One WTC. Her body was never recovered.

My heart goes out to all those who lost loved ones because I know first-hand how they feel.

I was just angry as to how anyone could be so cruel to do something like this.

Ramona E. Grant

Pennsylvania Avenue

When I left a supermarket on Flat-lands Avenue where I was shopping that morning, I noticed a large cloud of smoke to the north. I thought it might have been a few houses burning or a tire company on fire because the smoke was so dense and black.

When I got home my wife was watching television and told me she heard a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. A few minutes after I joined her, we saw a second plane hit the other tower.

We both sat there stunned and shock-ed. I'll never forget it.

John Frolund

Foster Avenue

I first heard the news on the radio and couldn't believe what I heard. But when I saw the pictures on television later and realized what had real-ly happened, I was shocked that it could happen again, eight years after the first World Trade Center attack.

I thought nobody could have survived that devastation. I had a doctor's appointment later that day and as I walked there, I saw the smoke rising from the downtown area where the Twin Towers had stood.

My heart sank knowing that it was terrorists who had struck again.

Bill O'Neill

Manhattan

I was teaching in my classroom at St. Jude. Before we learned about the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, the school was placed in lock-down then evacuated to the church when we were told what was happening.

My next thought was of my brother-in-law, who worked across the street from the Twin Towers. My family did not hear from him until he got home on the last ferry back to Staten Island.

I also thought of all the lives that were lost. I was on the school roof when the first tower collapsed.

It was a day I will never forget.

Teresa Sacks

Canarsie

I remember going into the office early on the morning of September 11, 2001 for a conference call with our London and Sydney offices to discuss global processing for disaster recovery. Little did I know that we would need their help the rest of that week.

I barely returned to my desk when one of my co-workers told me that a plane hit the World Trade Center. My initial thought was that it was just a plane crash - terrorism never crossed my mind. Word quickly spread around the office and everyone tried to call family and friends, but the phones only worked sporadically.

We soon gathered at a co-worker's desk to listen to the events on his radio as they unfolded. Everyone was visibly shaken when we heard about the second plane crash.

My office is on East 23rd Street, between Park & Madison avenues, and we were able to see the smoke and part of the tower from a window. We had some offices at 7 World Trade Center, and our managers were trying to account for everyone there.

Some subways weren't running so we hung around until the afternoon when I decided to walk to 14th Street with a co-worker to get the L train. As we approached Union Square, I remember thinking how could there be anything wrong on such a beautiful day? It didn't seem like this was really happening. Everyone on the L train was talking to each other and discussing the attacks as it made its way to Brooklyn.

Linda Steinmuller

Canarsie

On Monday, September 10, 2001, my wife Josephine and I took a bus to Atlantic City where Harrah's Atlantic City Casino and Hotel gave us a free overnight stay. After a full day of fun and games, dining and seeing a show, we went to bed around 2:00 a.m.

When I awoke several hours later, I, took a shower and headed back down to the casino and let my wife enjoy her sleep.

After I returned to the room to wake up my wife, I turned on the T.V. so she could wake up gradually and saw that the World Trade Center was being highlighted. At about 8:45, the channel reported that a commercial airliner had crashed into one of the Twin Towers. I didn't realize I was watching the news and thought it was a movie or something. I said to myself, "Hey, this is a great film, so realistic" and wondered how Hollywood shot that scene. I kept watching hoping to get the name of the "film." As I admired the action, about 15 minutes later, a second airline smashed into the other tower. I suddenly realized this was no movie and said something like. "God, this is terrible, this is really happening."

The news commentator then an-nounced, "America is under attack." The government immediately shut down all transportation, including bridges and tunnels into and out of New York City.

Before checking out, I called our bus dispatcher who told us we would have to remain in Atlantic City until buses could return to the city.

Next, we asked to speak to a hotel supervisor regarding being stranded in Atlantic City. We were told that under the circumstances Harrah's would allow us to stay for free until it was okay to travel back to New York.

Four days later, our bus returned and we were finally able to get home. Though we gambled and lost more money than we had planned, we still thought we were lucky to be out of New York City during such a tragic week.

Peter G. Lotto, Canarsie

"I was working in the hospital as a telephone operator when we got the news. The first thing I thought about was my lawyer who worked in the World Trade Center. My only concern is that he was safe - and he was. God was good."

Elaine Guido

Canarsie

"A lot of sorrow. Nobody wanted to go outside that day. When the Towers fell, I was wondering how many blocks were affected in the area surrounding the World Trade Center."

Joey R.

Canarsie

"I was actually in school in London at the time. So I called home to see if everybody was all right. And my family was fine. But the World Trade Center was destroyed. There's nothing but a big hole there."

C.J. Liverpool

Canarsie

"It was an ironic event for me because I was in high school at the time. And a week before the tragedy my Social Studies teacher had just gotten through a discussion about how America has never been attacked. Then on 9/11, he came into the classroom - and apologized for the discussion - telling us that the World Trade Center was attacked."

L. Blake

Canarsie

"I was in my car listening to music on the radio when they announced the attack. My first reaction was that I didn't believe it. You know how sometimes they make jokes on the radio. Then, I got home. I'm in the Army Reserves. And I got a call to report for duty the following day."

Claude Knowles

Canarsie

"People were in disbelief that it could happen. I think people felt a sense of helplessness."

Ayana Markland

Queens

"What I remember most? I'm a cab driver - and I dropped a customer off right there. And never saw her again. That's the sad part."

Ahmad Iftikhar

Canarsie

"One of my daughters was a year old. And I was taking the three year old to school that day. Someone told me that the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Then, I went home and learned that the second plane hit the World Trade Center. I thought it was unreal."

Harper Callum

Canarsie

"Just the horror. You thought it wasn't real. You thought it was another movie. And then reality set in. And then you get the shivers - and you start to cry."

Rita Garfinkel

Canarsie

"Well, I remember all the way in Canarsie you could still smell the smoke. My friend lost her aunt - and she was never the same - and moved out of Canarsie. Things will never be the same. You could see the horror in people's eyes. It was a day that will live in infamy."

Natasha Brutis

Canarsie

The editors would like to thank our readers who took the time to send us their personal memory from five years ago.

We found each one interesting and many were quite poig-nant. However, due to limited space, we could only publish those that you see on this and the preceding pages.

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