Saturday, September 10, 2011
A friend and colleague migrated to the United States with her family on March of 2001. She was in New York on September 11, 2001 at our company's New York office during the terrorist attacks. The office had a view of the WTC towers. Here's her recollection of the events that day in an email she shared with our group of friends a few days after the terrorist attacks.
Thank you for all your notes of concern and good wishes for my and my family's safety. I appreciate them all, especially as the situation here is growing more and more uncertain everyday with the Taliban and the US exchanging threats of war. I was half expecting something to actually happen last Tuesday, it being a week after. Without meaning to, I took exactly the same train I took last week, and was in my seat in the office at roughly the same time as last week. I couldn't help it, but I kept looking out of the window, over where the World Trade Center used to stand. This incident has really made a huge impact on my sense of security.
It was eerie how, from talking with friends and colleagues here, many seemed to have had some sort of premonition of what was to unfold that day. In my case, I was thinking of bombs as I rode the elevator to my office at 8:15 that morning. I was thinking how easy it was to bring a bomb and detonate it in our building as the security is really lax. I was also thinking what
it must be like if a bomb did go off - what mayhem would we experience. My sister, on the other hand, was feeling things have been unusually quiet these past months on the newsfront and wondered what big event would happen soon. Another friend was thinking about Iraq and how they might retaliate against the US given that the news that have been hugging the limelight at
that time was that a US spy plane had apparently been shot down by Iraq.
My day started our normal enough. I was plowing through my emails and reading through the headlines of the Philippine Star and the Inquirer when suddenly a colleague who sits nearby jumped up and announced that there was an explosion at the WTC. As his announcement was not loud enough nor did it sound panicky enough to me, I didn't even bother to react. I remember thinking it might have been just false alarm or maybe just a small accident.
I couldn't remember how it actually happened that I looked out of the window, but I did and what I saw gave me the goose bumps. There was a huge hole on one of the WTC towers, and so much smoke was coming out of the building. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Then someone said that a
plane had apparently hit the WTC. I remember thinking, what a terrible accident - and to think it was a very clear day. I called my sister immediately - she was at home that time - and asked her to switch on the TV as there's been an explosion at the WTC. Then I went back to the window and just gaped at the billowing smoke coming out of the WTC tower, still trying to make sense of how an accident like that could have happened. And then someone said that it's a terrorist attack. I dismissed that comment maybe because I didn't want to believe it.
As things started to settle down and I went back to my seat intending to work, I heard moans and groans from everyone in the office. I stood up and saw this huge ball of fire that seemed to come out of the second tower. I rushed to the window and just gaped, horrified at how a second accident like that could happen. Call me stupid but I was still not prepared to think it
was a terrorist attack. Then someone started to narrate how he saw this plane go straight into the second tower with no hesitation. He noted how the plane was not even wobbling as if there was something wrong with it. That's when I accepted the fact that this was indeed a terrorist attack.
I was on the phone with my sister every few minutes, checking in to let her know how I'm doing, at the same time trying to learn from her what is being reported in the news. It was from her that I learned a few minutes after that second plane rammed into #2 WTC that the pentagon has also been hit. Everyone else in the office was either talking on the phone with someone else or simply watching the WTC.
And then, as things started settling down again, another horrified moan came from the people near the window watching the towers. When I turned to look, I saw #2 WTC was crumbling down. Some people had started to cry, I simply stared in shock as I kept on muttering to myself "Oh my God!".
As the shock wore off a little, many of us wondered whether there was a bomb that exploded apart from the plane crash. We were too confident that the WTC could withstand such an impact. And as we were milling around discussing, #1 WTC exploded and crumbled too. I ran to the window saying
"Oh my God!" out loud and trembling with fear. This time, I could not help the tears that came and I called my sister. Then I called the train service to check if there were still outbound trains to
We couldn't do anything the rest of that morning except to watch the news - a manager here managed to get hold of a TV and installed it in his office. I would sit in my chair, call my sister, pace around, talk to my colleagues, watch the news. By lunch time, we decided to go to church and while walking on 5th avenue, you could see the white smoke covering the skyline of
downtown Manhattan. When we got back from church, someone from the office said that they had opened up train service and I hurriedly went with someone in the office to the train station to see if we could catch a train to
The streets were packed with people walking, and the train station was so full of people and police. We managed to get on a train that was so full there were people standing in almost all free space inside. When the train finally crossed the stateline to Connecticut, I was a little bit relieved. It must have been the shock but my head was aching, and I could not sleep in
the the train. Everyone in the train just looked so sad.
As a footnote, I felt the power of the internet that day. Only a few minutes after that first plane hit tower #1 and we were still unsure what exactly happened, ABC news already had a picture and a story on its Home page.
And a final footnote, there was something the priest said in that mass I attended that fateful Tuesday that has stayed with me. He said there is no sadder person in this entire universe than God himself. He who made all things in His image must be weeping at seeing what we are doing to