At this point , saying you’ll never forget 9/11 is old hat.To anyone in the US, It’s a given. Especially to those of us who were in the city at the time it happened. To say it was surreal would be an understatement. Everyone has their own story to tell where 9/11 is concerned. From a guy who was on Duane street to see the first plane hit to a guy who was fast asleep somewhere in Utah, if the topic comes up, most Americans will have something to say about it. I figure, somber as it may be, this might be an appropriate time to tell my version. It’s not a particularly exciting/harrowing version but it is a unique perspective in the sense that I was in lower Manhattan when it happened. Even just sitting here trying to sort the thoughts out is slightly difficult. Not cause I’m still rattled by it in that way but because it was such a strange day (and week that followed) that even trying to pin down ones real emotions from it isn’t that clear.
So, let’s begin with a knock on the door. I was living in the building I grew up in on Bedford Street in the west village. I had an apartment there. Next door, lived my mom (who was not in the city at that time) and one of my Nieces who was living there while she went to college uptown. At that point in my life, I wasn’t exactly too focused. I worked 3 days a week at a bakery and pretty much spent most my days hanging with friends, getting fucked up and making music. I say that more to point out that I wasn’t an early riser. If I was awake by 11 am, that was an early day for me. So, around 8:45, I was awoken by someone knocking on my door. I was dead asleep and very confused. I stumbled over to get it and it was my niece. She alerted me that a plane had hit one of the twin towers. My initial thought was “Hmm..weird…” but I was also ready to go back to sleep. It just seemed like a fluke. She was pretty freaked out though so I stayed up and we turned on the news. So, we’re there watching and something just felt off. I mean, clearly, anytime a plane flies into a building , things will feel off but as news reports began to leak out it was starting to feel like it wasn’t some fluke. It was about then that we watched as the second plane approached and slammed into the other building. Suffice to say, we were both freaked out. We both just sat there with our mouths agape watching the instant replays. As it was clear that this was not just two accidents, I hopped up and decided to run to the supermarket around the corner to get supplies in case this shit got worse. It was beautiful outside. Seriously. Not a cloud in the sky. Breezy and sunny with low humidity. Perfect. Which made the two billowing stacks clearly visible from 7th avenue even stranger to witness.
I got to the supermarket and there was a door person. Apparently, i wasn’t the only one freaking out so they had to have a door man to let one person in every time another person went out. It as like the worst nightclub ever. I forget what I bought but I’d imagine it was a bunch of water some cold cuts and some fucking oreos (like I said, I wasn’t exactly bout that healthy life back then).
I got home and my niece was wrapped up in a blanket on my couch in full zombie mode. I had forgotten that I had put my ringer on mute and that my answering machine (This was before cell phones were a given) was silenced as well. I noticed a light blinking and I had like 15 messages from different people asking if everything was okay. I made a bunch of calls, a few of which were to some friends who lived down in Tribeca, right near the WTC. Everyone was fine for the time being. Then the first tower fell. It’s weird cause, for some reason, I wasn’t shocked. It makes no sense looking back cause, why the fuck would I expect that but when it happened, I clearly remember feeling like “Yup..and now this happens…”. I couldn’t hear the tower falling but I could feel it. I was about 25-30 blocks away but there was still a slight rumble. Like a tiny earthquake. It was then that I started getting more calls and all the Tribeca people were fleeing the area. A few friends just came to my place. Then a few more. Eventually, we were like 7 deep in my crib. All sitting there in disbelief, watching the news with wide eyes. We all sat there just watching these explosion clips, over and over again. It got to the point where it just didn’t even look real. Like it was a Michael Bay movie with REALLY good special effects. The news was relentless. As new footage would be found , you’d be subjected to yet another crazy angle of the horror. I can’t even lie. I was mesmerized. To this day, I can’t take my eyes off that footage if it’s on. I don’t know if it’s just related to the initial shock or the spectacle of it all…but it’s hard to not stare at. Also, I clearly remember the turn when the news just went from showing the crashes all day to suddenly just not showing them at all. As if to say ” You good? Good…we’re moving on from that part of this…”But I digress.
Because my mom was away, I had room to house a few people. So many of the downtown folk crashed at my place for a few days. It was definitely nice to be around people, as shell shocked as we all were , cause processing this kinda thing on your own is never a good idea. Especially when all you’re doing is sitting there watching the news like you were lobotomized.
Flash forward a few hours and both towers were down. It was clear we were being attacked by someone. We had no idea if we should expect more attacks. The sounds of jets and helicopters whizzing above didn’t exactly sooth those feelings as every time I heard a low flying plane I couldn’t help but think it was another attack about to happen. Hell, even that night at 2 am, the ground rumbled and , once again, I thought a bomb had been dropped in another part of town. Turns out it as a small earthquake caused by the two buildings collapsing. Still, that shit was terrifying.
At the time, I was dating a girl. It was a weird situation as , while we were a couple, I wasn’t exactly all in. Admittedly, I was the dick in this situation but, hey, I was young. She was great but she was also younger than me and I was just not as invested as she woulda liked. I’m saying all this to simply portray that I was a shitty boyfriend at the time. So, that night, she was freaking out. We all were. But she wanted me to come stay with her. She lived at home with her mom and sister in Soho and her dad was out of town. So, they were all freaked out and wanted a man around I suppose.As if my pussy ass could save anyone but I suppose that wasn’t the point. She lived on the other side of Houston street so I wasn’t even sure I could go there. Begrudgingly, I agreed to it. Partially cause I didn’t want to leave my house but also cause I had not met her mother yet and we had been together for a decent amount of time. This was not the best way to make an introduction. But, whatever, I went. I got to Houston Street and the armed guards weren’t letting anyone through. In order for me to get over there, I had to be picked up by a resident with a legit ID, show my ID and sign a sheet of paper telling who I am and giving all my info. It was nuts considering I just wanted to cross a street. They came and got me and I was in. I met her mom and she was understandably a mess. Not only was it 9/11 but her daughter was also dating an older guy who was wearing Girbauds. That’s like a 9/11 of it’s own for any mother of a young girl (she was 19 or 20 at the time).
Now, here’s a real low point…And, I’d advise my mom/brothers/sisters/nieces/nephews (if any of you happen to be reading this)to stop reading this paragraph…seriously…Just skip it. Especially you, mom…for real.
So, after a wildly awkward meet and greet with her mom and little sister. We all went to bed. I was supposed to sleep on the couch , while my girl was supposed to go to her bedroom. Well, I did sleep on the couch but first we hung out a little in her room. I have no recollection of how it happened but the night definitely ended with a blow job. I’d like to say it was cause I was fucked in the head from the events (which I’m sure I was) and I needed soothing in my own way but I can’t help but think my youthful hormones just put the breaks on everything that was going on and I was like “Hey, head!”. The messed up thing is that we only didn’t have sex cause we had to be quiet. Ughh…the whole thing makes me cringe when I think about it now…I busted a nut on 9/11. That seems like all the evidence you’d need to get checked off as a total sociopath. But, hey, who knows…maybe that was my way of dealing with it. Regardless, not my proudest moment.
The next day, I went back to my place where we were quarantined. All lower Manhattan neighborhoods were split up and the edges were lined with armed guards. From 14th street to Houston street was where I was stranded. Obviously, everything was closed so it was good that I bought those cold cuts. Walking outside was insane. There was no one in the streets except the people who lived in the neighborhood. That might not sound to strange to some of you but , in NYC, to see that makes it feel like this huge ghost town…or detroit. It should also be noted that it’s the nicest anyone has ever been. Everyone was saying “hi” to strangers. It was friendly in a way that NYC just isn’t. But, hey, I wasn’t complaining. That whole part of NYC needed a hug at that point and friendliness to strangers was as good as it would get on a large level.
By then, the smoke of the fallen towers had turned around and started to blow our way. It was awful. We had to keep all the windows shut and some even walked around with those surgical masks on. So, we were all there in the ghost town of the west village. still glued to the tv. We decided it might be best to peel ourselves away from the news and try and do something. I don’t know how but we found out a movie theater on 13th street was showing free movies all day for anyone trapped in our sector. So, we gathered up (and called some other friends) and went to see a movie. It was Rush hour 2 and I’ll never forget it cause, there we all were, sitting in a packed movie theater of visibly shook people and one of the first scenes that happens is a huge explosion in the side of a building. All you could do was laugh at the irony of this movie being a way to escape. still, it was nice to not be watching the news and flinching at every little sound outside.
The following few days, the neighborhood lock down continued. It was awesome in a way cause all the locals just had free reign of this entire area. I went to the park and played ball like I would on any normal sunny day in the fall…choking through the thick fumes of the debris that was still swirling around all of lower Manhattan. Eventually, everyone went back home or skipped town for a little bit. The shell shock-edness of it all slowly waned but never really went away. At least not for a few months. Looking back on it, I’m definitely one of the lucky ones. No one I know died in the attack. I was surrounded by friends. I was just another person who was there to see it happen. I always imagined some dude in the middle of America who’s life totally went back to normal a day after the attacks. Sure, airports were now more annoying but, other than that, his life went on like nothing happened. I’m not even trying to make a point with that but it was just a strange reality to imagine from where I was coming from.
12 years later and I’d be lying if I said I still think about it much. Outside of looking at the newly erected “Freedom tower”, and thinking “That thing is just another target…”. Admittedly, I’m not the most sentimental person and have never found solace in dwelling on things endlessly. But still, it will forever be etched in my mind like very few things I’ve ever been witness to. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that.