In Memoriam September 11, 2001

claireplymouth z6b coastal MASeptember 9, 2011

With the tenth anniversary of the fall of the World Trade Center towers approaching, I wanted to mark the date in some way and I thought that the New England forum members might also want to participate.

I was living in the East Village in Manhattan at the time, and I was on the subway going to work in Queens when the first tower was hit. The rest of that day, and many to follow, alternated between trying to deal with the enormity of the event, but also just dealing with the practical aspects of limited transportation and communication.

These photos were taken a few months later, but I think they express some of what we New Yorkers were feeling at the time. I found it very difficult to photograph people then; it felt like a desecration.

A crowd is staring into the empty hole where the towers once stood. An overwhelming sense of loss hung over the group and seemed almost to fill the space.

New Yorkers are not used to being treated with affection by the nation at large, and the outpouring of support by the nation and the world was unexpected and very very welcome.

A lot of memories are coming back now that I thought I had put aside. I find it helps to write this, and perhaps others will feel the same about their own experiences.


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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Claire, I am amazed that 10 years ago you were living in New York City when the towers came down. You are such a fixture here, that I thought you'd been here forever and always lived in Massachusetts. I'm not sure I know anyone personally who was actually in the city at the time. It doesn't seem possible that 10 years have past. I think the country felt the tragedy as Americans, but to be a New Yorker at the time must have been such a more intense experience. Do you find you are watching many of the memorial programs on television?

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 3:37AM
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carol6ma_7ari(zones 6 & 7a)

It was a horrible time and we in the Boston area will never forget, when we go to Logan Airport to take a plane, that some of the terrorists started from here that morning. The husband of someone I know was on one of the planes. I was driving in rush hour, about 8:30 AM, when I heard a little from the radio of the car next to me, and turned on my own radio.

This may become a thread of "where were you when..?" which is a fitting way to gather the memories of an online forum.


    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 8:06AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

PM2: I was born and raised in Massachusetts, but I left after college and didn't move back until I retired. Most of that time I lived in NYC so I have dual citizenship - I identify myself both as a New Yorker and a New Englander/MA native. I don't have a working TV now, there's a good one in the cellar but it's obsolete, so I haven't been watching any memorial programs. I do listen to the radio often, and there's extensive coverage there.

I don't have stories of personal horrors, no one close to me was killed on 9/11. It was just an oppressive grind that affected our daily lives. Where I lived there was no TV reception for a while (TV and radio transmitters went down with the towers) so I was spared the dramatic visual shots.

What I saw whenever I looked south was smoke coming from an empty spot in the skyline. The smoke plume lasted for weeks and mostly was blown eastwards by the prevailing winds. I was lucky in that I didn't have the smoke coming in my apartment windows and once power was restored I got my air filter working so I don't have serious respiratory problems.

It was much quieter too, most air traffic was prohibited over the city and there was just the reassuring sound of the two jets constantly patrolling the air space, day and night. I learned later that these jets were based on Cape Cod. When I woke in the middle of the night (often) I would turn on the radio to make sure nothing bad had happened and I would listen to the jets.

On the day of 9/11, I had a morning meeting scheduled in Brooklyn so I quickly stopped in the office in Queens where someone told me that a plane had struck one of the WTC towers, but he thought that it was a small plane flown by a nut. I picked up a vehicle to go to the meeting and turned on the radio and heard the latest news as I drove to Brooklyn. As I drove westward on the Belt Parkway I could see the towers burning. Most of the people got to the meeting OK, but one consultant who lived in Manhattan wasn't there. It turned out he was all right, he just couldn't drive through lower Manhattan so he turned back. Cell phones were out so we couldn't communicate.

We held the meeting without him and I drove back to Queens to drop off the vehicle and figure out how to get home. All of the trains were running out of Manhattan to evacuate people and we were told there was no traffic allowed going back into Manhattan. I decided that they would have to run empty trains back into the City to get more people out, so I went to the station anyway, prepared to walk over the Queensboro Bridge if I could get that far, and then somehow get downtown. I did find a train going into Manhattan, and then a downtown bus, and I walked the last ten blocks or so home. I think I had to show identification to get below 14th Street.

I've written much more than I planned already, so I'll just stop here.


    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 10:41AM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

I do have a working TV - several actually - but I still will not be watching any memorial programming. The memories of watching this unfold live are still too painful and raw, and I don't need to be reminded of what happened. It's still too fresh in my mind.

It was a horrible day for this country, and an even more horrible day for those directly affected. I hope that all have been able to find some peace.


    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 12:21PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Claire, what a time of it you had getting back into the city that day. Were you by yourself or with coworkers, friends? I remember watching New Yorkers walking across the bridge into the city and it was one of those images that brought the reality home of what had happened.

I believe there were four people that I didn't know from our town who were killed in one of the towers that day. It still has a certain sense of unreality to me. Although I was home sick that week and spent hours in front of the television watching it, it's just still hard to process it. I haven't watched any of the specials on television this week either. I am sure I will before the weekend is over.

I think they are dedicating the memorial this weekend and a lot of people tried to help the families and the country to come to some peace about it by dedicating ground zero to a memorial. I am so glad that they didn't build something else there. For awhile I thought they would plan something I couldn't connect to, but waterfalls with a forest of trees and everyone's name recorded there, sounds just right to me. I heard on the news this morning that there was a committee that tried to honor everyone's requests for where their loved one's name was going to go, so they would be together with their coworkers and friends and I just found that comforting.

I also think it's good to be reminded of all the firefighters and police and people who gave up their lives to help others that day. And the passengers on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania and the difference they made. There's so much about it to feel bad about, that doesn't make much sense, but there is the good that is there in the middle of it. So when I read the slogan 'Never Forget', that's part of what I want to remember.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 2:12PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

PM2: By the time I got back to the office all of the Manhattan residents had already left, so I went back by myself. I had offers of a place to stay overnight, but I wanted to get home.

As I was walking downtown in my neighborhood, I saw many people, some of them barefoot and many covered with soot, walking up First Avenue away from the WTC. The faces were indescribable. I lived about three miles away from the WTC, so these people had been walking that far and still had maybe a half mile to go before they could get to public transportation that was running.

Some of my coworkers volunteered at the site; that was when it was still believed that there would be survivors to be found in the wreckage. I don't remember the term "Ground Zero" being used until later on.

I read somewhere then, or I heard it on the radio, that a violinist was going to the site every day to play the Chaconne of the Bach Partita no. 2 as a memorial. I downloaded a recording from iTunes and I'll play that tomorrow as a tribute.


    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 5:34PM
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I work at a college library in Rhode Island, and a co-worker called upstairs that day to say that her husband was home and 'something was happening in New York. Maybe we were being attacked'. The computers quickly filled up with students looking for news and I started setting up a few televisions for the students to watch. I remember another co-worker coming in looking absolutely stunned, and she said 'one of the towers just fell down'. 'What do you mean fell down'? 'It just collapsed'. I couldn't understand what she meant. She started to walk away and I remember saying 'But... all the people, all the firefighters...' And she just turned back and nodded yes. --And then I saw the replay of the towers coming down. Even watching it I couldn't understand. It seemed so unreal. It didn't seem possible.

What brought it all back to me was a recent piece in the local paper written by a woman who was in NYC that day. She mentioned all the people posting pictures of their missing loved ones. Desperate for any news... That really got to me back then, and still can make me cry.

September 11th is our wedding anniversary. My husband used to joke about it being "a day that will live in infamy". But he doesn't say that anymore. It became so horribly true.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 2:03PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

At first people posted photos with frantic notes saying something like this person may be wounded and can't remember their name or can't speak. The photos were placed all over in public spaces. After a while, though, the realization sunk in that the loved one wasn't going to be found, and the photos turned into memorials.

One section of the Union Square Subway Station at 14th Street became a de facto memorial. The Transit Authority set this area aside for the photos along a major corridor within the station. I often traveled this corridor and usually stopped to read some of the postings, sort of as a courtesy although it was heart-wrenching. I remembered there was talk of making the memorial permanent so I just googled and found that . I don't know if these are all of the names or just the ones that had been posted.

There were candlelight vigils all over the city after 9/11, with one large vigil in Union Square at 14th St. You could look south there and see the burning at Ground Zero. People would also leave candles at fire stations.

Another memorial of sorts for the missing is at the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island. Debris from the WTC was brought to the landfill (which had been closed earlier that year) and there was a massive sifting operation to try to recover human remains. Remains from about 300 people were identified but many more have still never been identified. Knowing that their loved one may be buried anonymously at a dump just adds to the anguish, on top of the overwhelming loss.


    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 9:14PM
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I hadn't heard of the Fresh Kills Landfill. How awful. Even the name is so disturbing. I read that it was named after the Fresh Kills estuary, but still...

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 10:40AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

I hadn't thought about the name of the landfill, leslie; I guess because I knew it beforehand as a spot near wetlands with a bird sanctuary. A lot of names in NY have Dutch roots, and 'kills' refers to riverbeds or water channels.

9/11 certainly adds a twist to that name.


    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 11:01AM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Someone sent this link to me today (9/20/11) and I feel that it is too important and memorable not to share.


Here is a link that might be useful: Boatlifters: The unknown story of 9/11

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 9:24AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Thanks, Jane; that's an astonishing story! I hadn't realized the extent of the rescue of stranded people by the boating community. Apparently the Coast Guard put out one call for all available boats to come help with the evacuation and the response was immediate, overwhelming, and enormously effective. It's being compared with the evacuation of Dunkirk during World War II, but it was larger and faster.

The collapse of the towers must have put an impassable barrier across the width of Manhattan, and the only way out would be to go south toward the water hoping to catch ferries or subways from lower Manhattan.

This is indeed a story that should be honored.


    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 10:48AM
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A friend was on vacation that week or he would have been in the right front seat of the first plane. His regular crew were not so lucky. He was questioned that day about his reason for taking that week off.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2011 at 11:18AM
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