EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s been 20 years, and we haven’t forgotten. For the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the Richmond Times-Dispatch asked readers to share their memories of that fateful day. Here are their responses ...
‘I remember ...’
I remember getting on my Long Island Railroad 7:22 a.m. express train to begin my Tuesday morning commute to New York City on a perfect early fall day.
I remember riding the No. 1 train, stopping at Courtland Street at 8:45. A man with a brief case in hand walked into mayhem. I think of that guy sometimes.
I remember getting off the No. 1 train at the next stop, Rector Street, to enter my building. It’s pushing 9 a.m. I never got there.
I remember a woman came walking down Greenwich Street gasping “there are body parts all over the street.”
I remember at that moment the second jet roared over my right shoulder crashing high into the World Trade Center.
I remember running as fast as I could, people bouncing off both my shoulders.
I remember hearing the deafening sirens of police cars and fire engines coming from Brooklyn wheeling full speed toward danger.
I remember walking on Canal Street, looking over my left shoulder and seeing the second tower bend and collapse; a young lady sobbed.
I remember walking with firemen each morning after heading to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for daily funerals of their brothers.
I remember flashbacks. I remember Stuart Taub saying “there now is no redline.”
I remember “love of country” united us.
I remember thinking for the unforeseeable future my children would see the city through the painful lens of 9/11.
I remember moving my family to Richmond one year later. We never looked back.
But I remember.
James Trotta, 58
‘I won’t forget the miracles of that day’
I was working for the New York City Housing Authority, was late and not happy about it. The delay was enough for me to miss my train and get on a later one.
“Due to an earlier incident this train will be bypassing the Fulton Street station.”
Those irritating words that came over the PA system were actually beneficial. The walk from that station would have put me right in front of the World Trade Center where, according to news reports, glass, metal and debris rained down.
Hurrying out at the next station I ran into people looking up in the sky. Curious, I looked up, too. Then I saw it, first one fiery tower came into view, then the other tower aflame, black smoke billowing.
With a sick feeling in the gut, I turned toward the Brooklyn Bridge like many did that day. About halfway over the bridge a sound like a prolonged whoosh and a thump was heard. The whole line of pedestrians halted and turned around. From Manhattan, there was a swirling tan-colored cloud; one of the towers had fallen.
I won’t forget the miracles of that day: My delay which probably saved my life; the experience of my supervisor, who kept getting sicker every time she attempted to go to work; my co-worker’s iron stopped working, delaying her; and other stories from that day.
In crisis, New York became “the home of the brave” as they helped and comforted one another.
James Grizzle, 52
Trying to find a way home
Working in Manhattan on 9/11, I was in a morning planning session. Midway through we learned of a plane hitting the towers. We looked at each other quizzically. Upon hearing that another had hit, we immediately adjourned.
Not having television monitors we weren’t privy to event coverage so were reliant on radio accounts. News of the events in D.C. and Pennsylvania increased anxiety as the complete extent of acts were not fully understood. Concerns abounded that Grand Central Station, located directly underneath our office, could be targeted. All morning security had directed us to remain in place but around noon we were advised to leave.
We split into groups. Some, who lived in the city walked home, those from Queens, ventured across the bridge and others considered options including buying bikes to get to parts north of the city. My group started downtown intent on checking New Jersey-bound trains. They were not running. Word that ferries were running also proved false.
Meanwhile, fighter jets continued buzzing above juxtaposed against the blue sky. Traffic slowed to a trickle. People, who had been at Ground Zero, began to appear having ventured north. Many in business suits, but all completely covered in white soot.
Trains began running early evening. The entrance point in New Jersey is located across lower Manhattan where the towers once stood. Emerging from the tunnel the train was eerily silent. The smoldering towers billowed black smoke visible over our shoulders.
It was a moment that I’ll never forget.
Jeff Skoog, 62
‘Surrounded with unforgettable, selfless love’
My husband and I were in Nairobi, Kenya, at a University of the Nations conference. On the last day of the conference, Sept. 11, 2001, we began to receive the unbelievable news, along with conference attendees from all over the world.
As we watched one shocking replay after another on the small TV screen, the prayers and comfort began pouring in. This flood of sympathy culminated with our hostess waking us up early that Friday morning to hustle us to a memorial prayer service at Nairobi Pentecostal Church. There, along with many foreign diplomats and dignitaries, we listened to the kind and comforting words of the pastor and, then, His Excellency the President of Kenya.
In a strange country, surrounded by people we had only just met and unable to contact our family members, we could have felt alone and terrified. Instead, we were surrounded with unforgettable, selfless love and comfort.
In the horror of 9/11, we will always treasure that memory of brotherhood and friendship.
Kathy Mast, 65