I was at my desk in my NJ office on 9/11/2001. But the NYC office was very familiar to me. I had traveled there frequently over the 6 previous years. I was there the week before (visiting old work friends), and traveled in the same way I had for all those years. Amtrak Metroliner to Newark, jump on the PATH train to WTC. Walk from WTC down Broadway a block past Wall Street, pass the Merrill Lynch bull… to the office on the 24th floor of the NASDAQ building on Bridge and Pearl Streets. When I traveled there, I stayed at the Marriott (it was the Vista Hotel for many years) in the WTC complex.
The last time I traveled there, I had stayed for three days. I remember checking for email in my hotel room on the 22nd floor, looking out towards the Financial Center and the water just over West Side Highway, and thinking how beautiful and alive the city was. I was always excited to visit, if not to work, but to try a new restaurant, walk somewhere new. I was a country girl from NJ, lucky to work for a company that opened my eyes to every corner of the United States. Most of all, the shining apple of New York.
When I would leave the hotel in the mornings to walk to my office, I’d always stop to peer up the side of WTC buildings. It would make me dizzy every time, but somehow it was so stunning I could not take my eyes off of them. I especially loved visiting during the holidays… the smell of roasted chestnuts in the air, and shopping at the Century 21 store across the street.
One of my last meals at WTC was at the restaurant on the top floor of WTC. I was there with a couple of coworkers having dinner. I was excited to be at the top, because for so many years I never had the opportunity to see the observation deck. It was awesome, and made me feel so small looking out at the city.
So, when that fateful day became ingrained in the memory of all Americans, I was at work watching my city fall. About 35 of us that were in the office that day gathered around the TV. Hearts in our mouths. Worried for our coworkers who were in our Wall St office, but also those in the WTC buildings at customer locations were we were doing consulting work. Work that day pretty much stopped, except for my company’s HR organization making the grand effort to account for all 30,000 US employees.
At the end of the day, we lost only one employee (on the plane that hit the Pentagon). All of our employees at WTC got out, and walked on foot all the way up to Midtown. Two were very good friends of mine. They “retired” three years ago from the IT business, I think that day played more into that decision than the rigors of travel and consulting work. Neither could bring themselves back to work there. I have many friends and family who have lost a family member that day.
As for me, I have been in NY, but have not been to the old stomping grounds. I changed roles shortly after 9/11 and no longer had a need to go there anymore. I’ve thought about going to see the site, but it seems that I would rather remember my city as I remember all of my visits… untarnished, and unblemished.
A prayer to all whom 9/11 has touched. Please take a moment today to think of the people who you love and those you have lost… and the people who will carry the memory of this day forever.