Friday, September 11, 2009

Never Forget

This is a brief pause from the recent Lighthouse-related drama to remember the terrible events of September 11, 2001. I will never forget being a high school kid sitting in my desk and watching in speechless horror as this tragedy unfolded before all our eyes, and I will always be grateful my mother made a last-minute decision to go to her office across the street from the World Trade Center the next day, instead of that day. She would have gotten out of the E train right about the time of the first impact.

My first childhood memory is from the top of the World Trade Center, as I tried in vain to grasp the cars on the street below that reminded me of Matchbox cars (my favorite toy). I had many other memories there, including, sadly, this one.

World Trade Center aerial view March 2001Image via Wikipedia

I remember driving on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and looking at Lower Manhattan a month after the attacks - I looked at the new, scarred city and said "My God, there's a hole in the sky." May they soon fill that hole in the sky, and may we always strive to fill the hole in our hearts.

I want to leave you with this quote from World Trade Center principal architect, Minoru Yamasaki, at the Twin Towers' dedication in 1973. Let it always remind us that, even when we fall short in practice, man must always strive to the highest ideals and the better angels of our nature:
"I feel this way about it: World trade means world peace and, consequently, the World Trade Center buildings in New York ... had a bigger purpose than just to provide room for tenants. The World Trade Center is a living symbol of man's dedication to world peace. Beyond the compelling need to make this a monument to world peace, the World Trade Center should, because of its importance, become a representation of man's belief in humanity, his need for individual dignity, his beliefs in the cooperation of men, and through cooperation, his ability to find greatness." - Minoru Yamasaki, 1973
RIP Bruce Gary (FDNY), Anthony Infante (PAPD), Steven Tighe (Cantor-Fitzgerald), and thousands of others - we will never forget you.


  1. You were the student Nick, I was the teacher. I was a 2nd year science teacher and I had a 7th grade class in front of me. I was down on the 1st floor- but the 8th graders up on the third floor, with western facing classroom windows, could see it all. They were crying, parents were showing up and grabbing their scared kids, but it was the children whose parents did not come who were even more scared. Many of them knew their parents worked in the city, but being 11, 12, 13 they didnt know what buildings or whether they were even OK. Cell phones were mostly down, the kids didnt all have them yet at that time anyway. All I could do was try and comfort them, even though I had no idea what was going on myself. A teacher is supposed to have the answers, but that day as my chemistry lesson sat there on my desk I had none.

    During my break that morning I was outside my school with some other scared teachers, and from the corner we could see the smoke and the top of the towers. A police officer came over to us- tears in his eyes, he held out his radio to us. "They are trapped, and they arent getting out. I hear them, and there is nothing I can do. Theres nothing anyone can do." Hearing all the voices and rescuers and fire figheters and officers and guards and people on their radios... I will never forget that moment as long as I live.

    My dad lost his best friend of 50 years that day- he was an uncle to me and I loved him. He was a security guard in the north tower and he got his brother in law a job there too. He tried to get his young son and my father jobs there, too... but they didnt get the jobs. I was a resume away from losing my own father. His wife Rita lost both her husband and her brother that day.

    RIP, Jimmy Hopper... you wil always be remembered the way I last saw you, joking and laughing.

  2. Nick ... pardon me while I break up my post into sections ... to accomodate the text limit ... LOL .. I was long over due for a long post ... but I sit here at work fuming at lack of progress at ground zero and the Light House.
    Nick when I first read this thread you conjured up many memories for me... but I didn't post a comment out of fear of posting one of my novels. But heck ... who cares ... those that don't like it don't have to read it. LOL!

    But here goes:
    As I write this now I'm at work sitting exactly in the same place I was on 9/11 at the time of the attacks. As you know Nick I work in TV, and I had various TV camera views of the NYC skyline on the monitor wall in front of me. So in TV terms I had a front row seat... but before I talk about my experience on that day. I'll talk about before 9/11.

    My first memories of the Twin Towers were as a kid a few years after they opened and my Dad who is afraid of heights took us to the observation deck. I remember looking down and seeing lots of yellow taxis. You could actually detect the sway when looking down because parts of the road way directly below would disappear and reappear from my vantage point.
    I always marveled at those towers my entire life. I remember clearly how I was able to see the tops of the towers protruding above the hills of Staten Island from Great Kills Park where I rode my bike and roller bladed. In one view I used to have the Verrazano bridge and the towers in sight ... two (3 if you count the towers as 2) of the most majestic feats of engineering ever in one glance.

    Every Friday during summer months I'd be down at Long Beach Island, NJ for the weekends with my friends... after Labor Day Friday nights resumed out Manhattan Happy Hour Tour ... We usually met at this cool outdoor pub/cafe in the World Financial Center complex overlooking the Hudson River.

    Since I lived in Staten Island, and worked in NJ I had to commute to Happy Hour. I got off of work at 4 so I had time to get to the City by 6pm. My trip would start by Bus ... The bus stop was literally about 45 second walk from my apartment at the time ... sometimes I'd just take the local bus to the Staten Island Ferry if the weather was really nice to take in the view from the harbor. It's free so everyone should do that at least once. Other times I'd fork over the cash and take the Express right into Downtown and get off at Church St.

    The Friday before 9/11 (Sept. 7th) I took the SI Ferry over. It was a nice warm clear evening with the pink of the low sun filtering through the wispy clouds and coloring the Twin Towers in its light. I remember saying to myself that I wish I had a camera (my cell didn't have one back then). I figured to myself next week I got to bring my camera. It also had some pics on it from our last party at our Long Beach Island rental on it that I should have brought to share with my friends.

    That night as I walked between the towers on my way to the pedestrian skyway to cross West St. towards the World Financial Center I looked up in awe just like I did as a little kid my first time there. It just never got old.
    Later that evening as my friends and I decided to move our tour to mid-town we walked past the towers as we had dozens of times before during our Happy Hour Tours on our way to the City Hall subway. My best friend used to work at the Twin Towers and was there during the first attacks in 93... we stopped to look at the memorial of the victims of the first attack ... and as we continued to walk towards the subway ... every once in a while we'd glance back on our own ... those buildings were awe inspiring... even though we walked by them once a week for Happy Hour.

  3. On Monday Sep. 10th my boss grabs me at 8am and says we had to go to the City to stress test some new fiber circuits we had installed at the NY Mercantile Exchange for TV transmission to a hub a few blocks up that distributes to us and facilities globally. I was actually excited to get back to the city and go to the towers.

    I remember that Sept. 10th was a nice weather just as the 11th was. I think my boss wanted me to come along because he needed a ride to the fiber hub and he knew I knew the way. I had a small sports car at the time that was about to hit 100,000 miles. I told my boss that I was going to get new wheels after 100,000 miles anyway so I didn't mind driving.

    I hit 100,000 miles inside the parking garage (God how I remember such trivial things). I remember looking up at the towers with my boss as we approached the WTC telling him that I'd rather be designing buildings like that instead of the work we do. He said to me then ... well you'd miss out on the coverage of the Victoria Secret fashion shows that we did twice a year. LOL! I was dating a stage wear designer & model at the time (she lived in Long Beach, NY) that I had met at the shore 2 months earlier so I told my boss I got that part taken care of. LOL!

    Then we went to work on the stress tests and never thought anything of the towers.

    Because I took my boss to the City he let me go home early at 2pm instead of 4pm when we got back to our facility. I decided to take a look at new SUV's at a few car dealerships in NJ. I went home later that afternoon and figured ... heck ... I made my mind up drove back to NJ and bought a nice new SUV...

    Driving home in my new wheels over the Outerbridge's viaduct I had a great view of the Twin Towers even from 20 miles away from my new elevated position above the roadway. I saw the lights of the towers showing the way to the Empire State building further in the distance of the late summer evening's dusky glow from the west... to the South of my vantage point I could also see the top 3rd of the Verrazano Bridges 2 towers with pearls of light cascading from the cable supports about 12 miles from my vantage point. Great views provided by great designers, engineers and the labor that built the metropolis around us.

    I said to myself ... WOW!! What a view ... this is going to be a nice view to come home to every night.
    Then Sept. 11th, sitting in the chair now that I sat back on that fateful morning I can still recall.

    It was about 8:40 I was on the phone with a Los Angeles TV broadcast center, checking in a daily syndicated show we do. The person I spoke to was a buddy of sorts that I spoke with every weekday for over 3 years. We exchange pleasantries and talk about our weekends as we wait for the studio check to complete from a NYC broadcaster's studio.

    After we are all calibrated and lined up we still chat a bit. I tell him about my new wheels, and how I can lug more hockey gear around. He then happens to ask how the weather is in NYC. I said it's the perfect day, and I look up at the video camera shot on our 36" monitor and see the NYC skyline looking from Midtown to downtown with the Twin Towers, NY Harbor, Statue of Liberty, Verrazano Bridge and beyond in view ... and say yup... crystal clear ... not a cloud in the sky... and it's in the 70s. I then say goodbye at just past 8:45 and look back up at the video screen ... and I think to myself the millions of humanity in that one camera shot going about their day.

    It was just sometime after that as I was broken from my trance like gaze that I saw a black blotch on the North Tower. I said to my colleague ... Hey Pete... look ... there is a black spot on one of the towers. He looks and says yeah I see it... it's not on the camera lens ... and then I realized it was smoke ... and you know the rest of the story.

  4. Pandemonium broke loose in the TV industry... we were angry... pissed to say the least ... I was getting calls from friends and family for some info ... and I told them they probably had more info than I had... because I was getting everything in bits and pieces ... I knew it was a terrorist attack right away .... While the news (networks that remain nameless) was saying that the pilot of the plane probably didn't realize how high the towers were ... I was like ... HUH?!?!?!?!?!?! Are you kidding me? Crystal clear day ... no way ... you can't miss seeing those towers. I admittedly thought it was Iraq behind the attack at the time ... I was yelling nuke Iraq once the second plane hit. I was on the phone with my Mom and she probably never heard me swear so much in 5 mins.

    The reason I thought it was Iraq was because we also monitor and trafficked satellite phone traffic because we charged carriers in 3rd world countries by how many megabits they use to communicate with. Iraq, Iran, Saudi and Afghanistan all had increased traffic in the weeks before the attacks ... with Iraq having the most... so of course my misplaced blame pointed there.

    I couldn't get back to NY that afternoon to go home ... I ended up working till 8pm and driving 70 miles to the South to stay at my Sisters since the bridges were closed. We all know how life changed in the days, weeks and months after. Seeing anti-aircraft missile batteries at the bases of bridges really sent a signal.

    My next trip to the city was a few days later ... On Friday night ... the 14th. It was the first of many benefit nights I'd attend at some pub for a fireman, cop, first responder and even citizens.

    My first close-up view of the site was that first Friday ... taking the Express bus into the city and coming out of the Bklyn-Battery Tunnel I saw the lower part of the towers with smoky light billowing behind it ... very creepy ... then the bus made a quick detour to the FDR as downtown up Church St was obviously closed. I still have all my ribbons, tee shirts and mementos from all those 911 events I attended those following weeks.

    That designer / model I was seeing actually worked downtown at a studio in Tribeca ... After one of the nights that I met up with her in Manhattan I was driving her home to Long Beach. We were on the Van Wyck and she said that the USA had it coming... and that it was our own fault. I was infuriated ... I never ever yell when I'm angry with someone ... only watching hockey games (wink) ... LOL! However I was thinking of the people weeks later that were still being pulled out of the rubble. I argued with her to no avail, so I actually pulled off the expressway and drove to the Jamaica LIRR station at about 4am, and said ... you know the way home ... I stand to look or talk to you anymore!

    Sad fact is she isn't the only one who thinks like that.

  5. Now here we are ... 8 years later ... still with a huge hole in the ground ... That infuriates me ... and even magnified by the fact that with the TOH's BS with the Light House Project I have lost faith in all our governments' ability to move projects forward.

    There is NO excuse ... I had the opportunity to speak with Mayor Giuliani in 2004 in a studio during a media tour and he told me back then not to be surprised if nothing gets done for a while ... He actually said the powers that be don't have the nuts to make decisions regarding the memorial... He firmly believed that the tower's footprints should not be built on and they should become memorial parks. He was less enthusiastic about an ambition new complex. I agreed with him.... I even submitted a memorial design that had the footprints as fountains and a jet of water for each soul lost should be part of the fountain with an eternal flame in the center of each fountain ... Giuliani loved the idea. I also am of the camp that they should use the same reinforced / better design of the old towers and just make them taller.

    The Empire State Building, Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Center were all built during the Great Depression ... in relatively quick time. There is no reason why only ONE building (not opened yet) has been reconstructed at ground zero... there is NO reason that Nassau Cty & the ToH haven't been able to get the LHP going sooner... I just have lost faith in our government's (local, State & Federal) ability to enable our country to rebuild and innovate at the same pace our fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers' etc. had become accustomed to. For God's sake we went to the MOON in less than 10 years. We had a President that challenged us and cleared away the hurdles to focus our energy and intellectual talents to accomplish that. Some of those minds and energy was right on Long Island at Grumman.

    Now after Bush says we're going back to the Moon it is going to take 15 years from that declaration in this modern day of technology?

    Sure people died in our first attempt during a test. Those brave souls knew the risks and died heroes risking their lives. Sure it set things back ... but we didn't flinch in the face of tragedy... we moved on ... just like our forefathers had for over 190 years prior to that. Through the wars, the expansion west, innovation and invention; people died trying to invent an air plane... test pilots died getting us to the jet age. I get it ... we don't want people to die.

    However, we lost our edge because our governments hold us back from progressing forward. Meanwhile they waste billions of tax dollars for their own agendas while in the process Main Street loses jobs. It's not about Republicans or Democrats to me ... it never was. It was more about politicians with their own agendas that bug me most. They forget they work for us.

    What happened????!!!!!

    OK rant over... LOL!!! As you can see Nick ... I have a lot of pent up frustration with the LHP and WTC and then some. Sorry about that Nick.

    Now wouldn't it be a shame if this didn't post and got deleted in the process ... LOL!

  6. One last thing Nick ... LOL!! As you can see from my posts ... based on your title for this thread. I Didn't Forget ... some of the thoughts that cross my mind every day in passing.

    Keep up the great work Nick.