Tom Burton (our CEO) and I were in New York City working for the Bank of New York when the attack came. I'm going to be attaching some notes, pictures, and comments so that I can communicate with more people than I would be able to in a normal situation.
Sunday, 9-Sept, PM - Both Tom and I checked into the Marriott World Trade Center on Sunday night. The rooms were priced far too high for a tiny room, but hey, this is New York. We came into different airports, and agreed to meet at 7:30am on Monday for breakfast.
Monday, 10-Sept AM - Tom Burton walked over to the CA building (to the SouthEast) to do a couple presentations that morning, and I walked to New York Bank at 101 Barclay Street for work. On the way, I noticed a big police presence around the towers that wasn't there the when we there during the last week of August (staying in the black-glass Millenium Hilton). The roads around the towers were cordoned off, police cars were on all sides of the plaza, and all the entrances had the security wedges up. I thought it was "curious", but didn't think much about it at the time... Things were pretty mellow by the end of the day, and some of the security had left by then (I didn't leave work until about 8pm).
Tuesday morning - We had a lot to do and thankfully got an early start. As we were walking to work, we noticed what a beautiful day it was, and Tom mentioned that we should go up to the observation deck on WTC2. I suggested that evening was a better time, as I had my new digital camera in the hotel room, and we should get some georgous sunset pictures. Sitting in our little office in the middle of the building (aka "no windows"), I heard the first plane fly over, followed by a big whoomp. What an eerie sound...
My first thought was that some military jock had just broken the sound barrier over the city, and was going to be in BIG trouble. Since we didn't really know what happened, so we looked out one of the window over the West Side Highway and saw everybody on the ground looking up at the WTC. Not to mention all of the cabs coming south on the highway were doing U-Turns where-ever they were and hauling butt back to the north.
We then went to the south side of the building, looked up, and saw a gaping hole in the side of WTC 1. Not knowing it was a plane, everybody was speculating about what caused it. We weren't sure if it was a bomb, or exactly what happened, but the whole top of the structure looked on fire, with debris raining down. Security told us to "remain in the building" due to falling debris.
Tom and I decided to go up to the 16 floor cafateria to get a better view, right down the west side of WTC7. While we were watching the fire burn, the second plane hit the south tower. We didn't see the plane, but we saw the fireball come out of the north-east side of tower 2. We could see many people waving out windows above the flames of tower 1, presumably trying to get the attention of the firefighters. Unfortunately, we saw quite a few fall as well. Security was still telling us to remain in the building, and to be honest, it seemed like the smart thing to do at the time.
A short while later, the second tower collapsed. Have you ever thrown a rock in a very still pond and watched the ripples? Imagine that ripple effect on a vertical plane, and seeing those ripples (from the shock wave) travelling down the 40 story high vertical wall of WTC7. I never want to see something like that again. Immediately behind the shock wave was the debris cloud. At this point, security came on the intercom, and said something like "evacuate and move north as quickly as possible..." No kidding.
The evacuation was pretty orderly... We headed north up to the public school (a block north of the Bank), and turned to watch what was happening. There are no words that describe seeing the north tower drop on itself, with the ABC News antenna standing vertically the whole way down. Staggering is about as close as I can get. Most of the people around us stood in utter disbelief as the debris cloud boiled closer. About a block away is when everybody started to realize that the cloud might just reach us, so we headed to the north. On the left is a picture of our hotel just before it bacame a non-hotel. Our rooms were near the bottom-center of this picture.
[Editors Update - 14-November-2001] I found a bunch of pictures taken by somebody who was allowed back down to 101 Barclay and took some pictures of the building we were in.
We walked from downtown up to 49th Street and 9th Avenue (just over 4 miles north of the Bank) where would meet Ric and Laura Basanese. On the way north, you couldn't help turning around in disbelief, staring at the smoke plumes. We were able to get the cell phones to connect a couple of times to let people know we were alright, and asked them to pass the word for us, as we didn't know how reliable cell-service would be the remainder of the day.
At 49th St and 9th Avenue, it was wonderful to run into people we knew, and also to know that we had a plan for at least a little while. We headed to friends of theirs at 96th Street (caught a bus for part of that trek), where we stayed for the next few hours, waiting for the trains to start running again. I really appreciate their hospitality, and we'll have to do something nice for them...
At about 6pm, we caught a train up to Mamaroneck, NY, where Ric and Laura live (about 25 miles north-east of downtown). Needless to say, it was a pretty restless night of sleep...
Wednesday - Well, I guess we needed some new clothes. We drove up to the Westchester Mall and bought about three days worth of clothes, hopefully enough to get us by for a while. We spent a little time on conference calls trying to figure out what was going on with everybody. In the afternoon, we went for a walk on (what an ironically beautiful day), which really helped us clear our heads. After that, dinner and drinks, and off to our new apartment (a HUGE thank you goes to Avalon Willow for letting us stay in an empty, but furnished unit).
Thursday - More work, trying to figure out what was happening at the Bank, as well as the other accounts I'm responsible for. Just trying to keep people going at a reasonable pace was the goal, since everybody was obviously pre-occupied with what was happening. I tried to make contact with family and friends to let them know that we really were safe, feeling OK, and that we had no idea how we were going to get home.
Friday - Well, they caught three more terrorists at Kennedy airport this morning... This pretty much clenched our decision to drive back to the west and figure out what to do from there. I used my "frequent renter clout" at Hertz to get them to pull a car out of the garage for us (it was in for a lube and oil change, but I really didn't care...) At this point, we were just happy to be doing something, although picking up the car at the airport was a little interesting. There was a police roadblock outside the airport. After explaining what we were there for, they let Laura drive us in, but not to the terminal. We had to stop about 150 yards short of the terminal, jump out of the car and run through the rain to get there. Laura was not allowed to turn off the car, or stop other than long enough to give us a hug goodbye. We're going to have to put up with some intrusion into what had become a complacent travel mentality for quite a while...
For the story on the trip home, follow the link below.
Thanks to everybody for the kind words while we went through this. It really helped "bring me back to reality". I'm writing this update in Santa Barbara , trying to figure out what I need to do back at home when I get back in a week or two. It'll be nice to have some quiet time to myself when that happens.
Take care, and keep in touch!