Thursday, September 11, 2014

Remembering 9/11/01 from Midtown...............

As a reminder, the figures are not accurate. They were taken from radio broadcasts and papers as things were happening. I did not edit this piece as they were log entries into a now defunct message board to which I once belonged. I had a lot of friends on the board and posted regularly to let them know I was alright.

Day 1, 
7 weeks ago, I worked on liberty street 4 blocks from the Trade Center. Then, I was transferred up town to 299 Park Avenue. Worried, I called my colleagues in my old building. It was evacuated because they could not run any systems due to the dust & dirt in the air. Visibility was only 3 feet & several bodies were lying in the plaza. Uptown, we went into our highest alert stage & basically shut the building down, only allowing those who are regarded as essential into the building.
The entire episode is surreal. In the morning, crossing the Hudson on a ferry, the twin towers were in full view. On the way home 14 hours later, there were no twin towers & a huge plume of black smoke. I walked all the way across Manhattan to the 34th street piers stopping at Madison Avenue where I looked south and got a good view of the huge smoke plume. I turned and plodded on. We got to the ferry terminal and I hopped on board a Circle Line boat headed to Weehawken where I had parked my car. On the way home, I experienced something that seemed like it came straight out of a horror movie. There was a huge illuminated sign on the Turnpike that said.”All bridges and tunnels into Manhattan closed until further notice due to terrorist activity.” This morning on the way in smoke was still billowing from the site. Last night a third building 7 World Trade collapsed. Bottom line casualties are 200 fire fighters, 35 cops, about 8 to 10,000 people in the trade center. Population was estimated to be 20,000 at the time of the attack.
We should strike quick & hard, teach those b@stard$ that they can't take us down. Yesterday I had to rally the troops & keep them going. They wanted to go home. Kept them working, & show those terrorists that your routine will go on inspite of their attacks.
Coast Guard did a great job. They commandeered all boats, tugs, barges & fireboats. Turned them into ferries to get people out of Manhattan. It was literally a second Dunkirk, except for the Outbound upper level of the GW bridge, all other bridges & tunnels were closed.

Day 2
..... has come & gone. The last piece of the twin towers collapsed about 5:30 today. Earlier in the day, about 1 O'clock the wind shifted. It had been blowing out to sea. Smoke is now coming out of the south covering Manhattan with a brownish haze & awful stench. We had to close our outside air dampers the smell was so bad.
The city is  quiet, some bridges & tunnels will reopen tomorrow. Last night it was so quiet we heard a cricket on Park Avenue. I am in because I am considered essential to run the business. If you are not essential they don't want you here. Parked the car in Weehawken & took the ferry across. The city is like a ghost town; a lot of people are traumatized by what happened. I continue to push the staff. I don't want them to think about it. Cut back on the  radios or TV. Dwelling on the matter won't help them.
The city is closed down on the East side from 34th street to the battery & on the west side from 42nd Street to the battery. 7th avenue is reserved for ambulances. I see NYC police cars, State Troopers, the Army National Guard &  Coasties all around me. We have left over free food & juice from lunch. The cafeteria gave meals to those of us who are staying in the city, seeing it through these terrible hours. We called the police & asked them if they wanted the food. They came with a van bringing the food downtown for the rescuers/searchers.

Day 3
 .....As I crossed the Hudson this morning, I looked at where the twin towers once were, smoke still billowing upwards from fires still burning. It was an odd feeling but as the smoke rose & was penetrated by the sunlight, it turned into a beautiful rose-colored layer underneath a sky blue as can be with no clouds.
The GW Bridge & the Lincoln tunnel are now open. The NY Waterway Ferries are running, but the Staten Island Ferry is still being used to carry supplies & rescuers to the site. People are coming back into the city in an attempt to show the terrorists that life will go on. Walking down the street toward my building I was struck by the silence & watched people for a moment. Everyone had a grim look on their face, no smiles, & no chatter, just set jaws.
I queued up at the steps to get in the building showing my ID card & presenting my brief case for a search. After that the day went all to hell. A friend told me that a mutual friend of ours was missing. He had just been promoted to Chief Engineer in the Twin towers. His office was on the 86th floor. Nothing was heard of him.
I went to my office dumbstruck. Shortly thereafter  the 29th floor was evacuating! A strobe light from the Class E (Fire Alarm) had turned on. They all panicked & self evacuated. We got them back in the building. Later, I received another call that the entire building was evacuating. No announcements had been made, we received no bomb threats. Everyone was so on edge. A rumor was started  that in a building south of us there was  a bomb. Before you knew it there were thousands of people in the streets from 4 buildings all evacuated by rumor & fear.

We called up corp. hdqrtrs & asked for direction. The reply was let everybody go home. Then we found out that we have to have a vacant floor ready by Monday for a firm that lost all of its office space in the Trade Center.
The people in this country are really generous. There were fire engines here from Chicago & Flint Michigan; these guys were here on their own time to help with the rescue efforts. There are over 300 police, firemen & EMS techs missing. People are already donating to widows & orphan's funds for each group. So many people are donating blood that they are being turned away. They have enough for now. It is going to be this kind of spirit & teamwork that will eventually bring those murdering cowards down on their knees. All day I was too busy to think about my dead friend. I went home and spent a sleepless night thinking about Charlie.

Day 4
....Once more I cross the Hudson River. Today is different, It is raining hard, the sky line has been erased by low lying fog, but you can still see that unmistakable plume of white smoke rising from the ashes of the World Trade Center. The sky is gray the river choppy. Somehow I feel like I'm crossing the River Styx into a land of death & destruction, not knowing what will happen today.

We will be working all weekend to have a space ready for folks who were in the WTC. Havoc reigns, we don't let any vendor in the building unless previously approved by the tenant. We canceled some preventive maintenance on electrical switches over the weekend, again because all resources are directed toward providing a new home for these homeless firms.

As of today, the official count of missing is 4,717. The city has ordered 30,000 body bags for anticipated 10,000 deaths, the remaining bags being for body parts. The search is hampered by the wet weather. Incredibly two of the searchers are building engineers that survived the collapse & have now gone back to search for their colleagues. People in this city just will not give up. New Yorkers are an incredibly resilient group of people as are the hundreds of rescuers that have come from out of state. We will not surrender to terrorist activity, that much is certain.

As I waited for the Ferry, I noted three Coast Guard Cutters in the river. The river is closed because the President was at Jacob Javits Center. The dispatcher finally made an announcement “There will be no ferries, buses or traffic until further notice, what else can I say.” As aggravated as everyone was, we all had a good laugh. Then everyone sobered up because the biggest hospital ship I ever saw slowly guided by, the Comfort was a majestic sight, pure white with three red crosses painted on her immense hull. Of course everyone knew what she was here for & we all fell silent watching her glide past us to her berth further up river.  Every so often a group of rescue workers would show up to take the Ferry home. As we were stuck there so were they. It gave us a chance to show our appreciation & whenever a group of them passed through, we stood up & just clapped. What else could you do? Then finally the President left & we caught the ferry to Lincoln Harbor to be on our way home.

Day 5
......  We are all set to move in one of the survivor companies tomorrow & the other two on Tuesday. We have to keep pushing on but it’s hard. The Fire Department gave battlefield promotions to 168 men to insure that things keep going. Con Edison has had 1900 men going around the clock to make sure everyone's work place is habitable tomorrow. They tested the stock market systems & they all worked.
Right now the missing total keeps rising. At last count it was 5,097. No one has been found alive since Wednesday. I had to turn off the radio after awhile. How many memorial services, funerals & updates do you have to absorb before you go nuts.

It’s been a couple of days since I had a chance to jot down anything. We have been very busy setting up a couple of floors for former tenants of the trade center. I have made frequent trips to the floors handing out my business cards telling them to call facilities if they need the slightest thing etc. They are supposed to finish moving in next week after which we will conduct fire safety drills, bomb scare lectures, evacuation drills, etc.
The mood of the city is somber but determined. People are  subdued. Not much honking of horns or cursing at wayward cabdrivers is happening. People seem to be extraordinarily polite to one another. I went to my refrigerant reclamation class last Tuesday at the Union hall. The week prior to the tragedy, jocularity abounded. Everyone came in this past Tuesday, not a word was spoken. Local 94 set up a widows & orphans fund for the 4 engineers killed; one was my friend that I told you about earlier. Our instructor had to go to a memorial service for his brother in law killed on the 104th floor.
As of now 6,333 are missing, the total is still climbing. The other day, rescuers opened up a void & found several people arms linked in a circle, all dead. They say they are removing 4,000 body parts daily. They have two refrigerated tractor-trailers hauling them from the sites to morgues for ID purposes.
A smoky haze hanging over lower Manhattan has replaced the billowing smoke plume. Every day, we manage to trudge back & forth to work. The stock exchange is up & running. Kudos to Con Edison for that. That in it was a victory, forget market performance. Heroics of all kinds happen daily here just to keep the city going. Those terrorists think they are tough? They have not felt the wrath of a pissed off New Yorker yet!!

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