Editor’s note: After the September 11th attacks, I sent out a request in our eNewsletter. Here’s what it said:
"I haven’t been able to get away from the news for the past week, and I’m sure most of you feel the same way. Wherever you were, whatever you were doing, you’ll probably remember the specifics for a long time. But memories deteriorate.
While I often find myself begging (almost) for more contributions, this request is of a different nature. Please take a few minutes to reflect on the past week and write down your experiences. I want to know where you were, how you reacted, what you saw, what you didn’t see.
I want to know how this has affected people. I will try to find a way to share it with everyone; or no one, if you prefer."
What I received soon thereafter surprised me. I not only received more contributions than I expected, but I found myself coming to terms with things through the reactions of those who wrote back.
I encourage you to read each and every response, for they represent a fraction of what I received. Please remember that these are uncensored responses that might offend you. Read and digest. Perhaps it will help you too.
– Michael Browne, October 2001
Greenwich Village, NY
I’m a 21-year old senior at New York University. I have tried not to think too much about the events of 9.11 but I figured that it would be therapeutic for me to write my thoughts down rather than obsessing over the fact that there is nothing that I can do to help.
Normally I would have left at around 7:30 to begin my morning ride up to the northern tip of the island and back again. However, the night before I had decided that I should take it easy (having just come off of a bike-less vacation) and take my short route around the south tip of Manhattan. For that ride, usually about 45 min., I would leave my apartment at around 8-8:30.
I awoke in the morning at 8 and was preparing for my ride when a sudden feeling of nausea stopped me. I decided to stay at home and rest-up. I was in my apartment when I heard the first plane thunder by. I felt the apartment shake and then I heard the impact. However, since the World Trade Center is about a mile from my apartment I assumed that the sound could be attributed to a car crash on 7th Ave.
At 9:00 I decided to turn on the television.
That was when I saw the flames. I hastily threw on some clothes and a hat and ran to the corner of 6th Ave. and Bleeker St., an intersection that until recently had a fabulous view of the Twin Towers. There I gazed in horror at the sight of the Towers on fire.
It is impossible to convey the emotions I felt as I stared at the horror unfolding before my very eyes. It was like something out of a movie and it still doesn’t seem real, more like a bad dream or a fading memory from a mid ‘90s end-of-the-world movie.
I watched as the South Tower collapsed and prayed for the lives of those inside. I watched as the North Tower collapsed in a billowing cloud of smoke and debris. All of those around me screamed and began to cry. People were trying desperately to use their cell phones, but none of our phones would work. Then, I watched as the exodus from the south began. Lawyers, offices workers, repairmen… every soul that was in lower Manhattan came walking up Sixth Ave.
Then the cars. Police cruisers and diplomatic cars all rushing forward covered in so much gray dust that as they passed you, you would swear that they were on fire. The next few days were spent in a lock-down. I could travel no further south than my street and none of my friends could come down to visit from north of 14th St. I have never seen my neighborhood, which is usually bustling with tourists year round, so quiet.
The only people around were those that lived there and a small army of police officers, firemen, and M.P.’s. As I sat waiting for them to request civilian help, my girlfriend Beth made cupcakes and bag lunches for the firemen and police officers.
For three days I walked around with my construction boots in case they needed reinforcements at what had by then come to be known as "Ground-Zero." It was then that I realized that if hadn’t gotten ill that morning I very well might have been resting on the steps of the World Trade Center at a quarter to 9 drinking from my Camelback. I’m still waiting to help out at the site, and I’ve started riding again on my uptown route, but the way is blocked on the West Side Highway by news crews from across the country, a Red Cross station and a row of refrigerator trucks.
Fortunately, everyone that I know who worked either at or around the World Trade Center is safe, but I still pray for all of those who lost a loved one on 9.11.
Thank you for asking for all of us to share in this way. It really has helped me think things through. I also would like to thank you for putting out your fine publication. It was there for me when I needed something to escape from the world for a little while.