On 9/11, I was in midtown Manhattan. When the first plane hit, word got around the office primarily via word of mouth – so no one really understood immediately what was really going on. My co-workers and I went down to the lobby of the office building, where NBC had a small ground floor studio with TV-lined walls. We were all standing there, stunned…and watched as a second plane hit tower 2. At that moment – we all knew we were under attack. Trains were shut down at this point, so the only way to get anywhere was by walking. Masses of humanity made their way to the bridges on foot, me being one of them. As I walked over the 59th street bridge on my way to Jackson Heights, Queens (where my in-laws were watching my daughter), fighter jets flew directly overhead every 1-2 minutes – the sheer noise broke windows on York Ave. apartment buildings.
In the weeks that followed, the memorial services began. Every day it seemed like we were going to a different church to pay our respect to people we knew from prior positions at different firms, people at broker-dealers that we transacted with daily, and classmates from my old high school. On the island that I was born & raised (City Island, in the Bronx) – MANY of our neighbors were cops and firemen – three of them were lost that day.
One thing came out of all of that, though: never in my life have I experienced the level of strangers helping strangers than right after 9/11. People tripped and fell as they crossed the 59th street bridge due to the sheer noise and fear…and strangers would immediately help them up and ask if they were ok. People shared water and Gatorade as we migrated eastward. People leaned on each other in the days after 9/11, and they did so willingly.
The tougher things get, the stronger we all respond. That’s really the long-term take-away from this, 19 years later.