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Huck's Report from Manhattan
self | September 12, 2001 | Huck

Posted on 09/12/2001 7:52:57 AM PDT by Huck


I am setting down my recollections, in detail, of this day. This is not to aggrandize in any way anything I went through. I was blessed today. My day was easy. There are thousands of people whose experience was so much more severe and harrowing than mine. For many, the suffering has just begun. All I did was escape without a scratch. So please don’t take my account as any big deal.

I am hesitant to even express my experiences, because I don’t want to make a big deal out of what was—as you will see—a lucky day for me. However, I do so because I want to remember what happened to me, and because I understand that it is of interest to people what a witness observed, and also it is interesting to people what went through a person’s mind, how did they deal with the events as they unfolded. So I will put it down to words and share it. You will see that I had a momentary brush with what occurred, and was then swept away by the events of the day, at a fairly safe distance, though we had no way of knowing that at the time. So,please,take this story for what it is: a dramatic recounting of what I experienced, as I experienced it, expressed for whatever benefit may be derived from it.

My report

A beautful day

Today began like any other day. Actually, it was a beautiful day. Clear blue skies, cool crisp air. My favorite kind of day. After I got off the train, I took the ferry from Hoboken, NJ to World Financial Center (which as I write—the day after—is on fire). I crossed the walkway over West St., cut through WTC 6, walked across the plaza by the Globe fountain which sits between the Twin Towers, and crossed Church St. This is my daily route. It is so well timed that I often pass by the same people at the same place on the same street.

A diagram of my route past the WTC: The X is where I was when the first plane hit

The first plane hits

As I crossed Church St., directly across the street from the twin towers, I heard a whistling sound overhead, like the sound Wile E. Coyote makes when he falls several thousand feet. Then a boom. I turned to look, and saw smoke, flames, and lots and lots of paper flying from one of the towers of the World Trade Center. I and others around looked up, puzzled. What the heck is that? Some speculated aloud that it was some sort of election day stunt. It was primary day today in the New York mayoral race. There are so many nutty things that go on in New York, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. And even being right there, it was difficult to see what exactly had just happened.

My daily walk to work

I thought it might have been a helicopter crash. I waited and watched as the debris and paper came falling down. I grabbed a piece of paper that fell, and saw that it was something from some business within the building. This was not good. I decided to get to my building quickly. I followed my normal route, up a block from Church St., then down past Federal Hall (where General Washington was inaugurated President), past the New York Stock Exchange (quickly and with anxiety), and down to Water St., to my building.

I got to the 51st floor, and went to the window and saw the Tower burning. Good God. It was horrifying. I went to my office and called my wife. While I was on the phone, I logged on to Free Republic. I had time to post one message, saying that I had been there and seen the explosion. While I was on the phone with my wife, my co-worker came to my office hysterically saying that a jetliner had hit the other tower.

“Honey, I have to go”, I told my wife, and hung up.

I was told that the building was being evacuated. I exited the building and reported to the designated location. We have these emergency cards which specify where to go in the event of an evacuation (life in the big city, I guess). Lo and behold, no one—not a soul—from my floor showed up at the location. So I ran down to South Street Seaport and bought a disposable camera. Snapped pictures of the damage and headed back to my building.

The first tower collapses

I got back to my building and asked a security guard what was going on. He said there was no formal evacuation, people were “just leaving.” So I went back up to the 51st floor. There I found my boss, and soon thereafter we heard that a tower had collapsed. The building was now being evacuated. So my boss and I exited the building. Everywhere we saw hysterical women crying and hyperventillating.

When my boss and I got out of the building, the situation had deteriorated since I had come back from the seaport. The ash and debris and smoke from the collapse of the first tower deluged the whole financial district in a blizzard of soot and smoke. The air was foul. We were being pelted with ash and airborne particles.

The Exodus from Manhattan

What was our plan? I suggested we head for Battery Park. Not much of a plan, but I said we could go down to the edge of the water, sit down, and see what happens. Along the way, we passed a donut cart. I purchased two orange juices, an iced tea, and a cola (that’s all he had) and stowed them in my backpack. We then saw a policeman directing people towards the Staten Island Ferry, at the southern most tip of Manhattan island. We went that way.

In fact, we ended up following the multitudes towards and ultimately over the Brooklyn Bridge. At this time, as far as any of us knew, the city was under attack. We had no way of knowing if there would be more attacks, or where they would be. So our primary objective was to get out of Manhattan, and the Brooklyn Bridge was the closest outlet. And besides, who’s going to mess with Brooklyn?

The Brooklyn Bridge viewed from Brooklyn

So we walked onto the bridge. At this point, ash and soot was raining down on us. People had shirts over their faces. Women cried. We heard a jet plane go overhead. Because of the smoke we couldn’t see it. No one knew if it was friend or foe. Time stood still. It flew by. We exhaled.

A third of the way across the bridge, we looked back at the one tower standing there, as the smoke cleared to bring it into view. One tower. It was so strange. So odd. Then we heard a rumble, we saw glass shatter in all directions from the remaining tower, and we saw it go down in smoke. Women screamed and wailed. It was the most shocking, stunning thing I have ever seen in my life. Horrible. All at once, the brain struggled to comprehend the destruction of a building which had seemed as permanent as a mountain, and the awful loss of life which went with it.

As we walked, I imagined the bridge itself being hit. I imagined what, if anything, I could do to survive such an event. Should I fall to the water? Could I hang on? Probably in denial, I imagined myself at the ready to grab on tight if the bridge got hit.

When we got to the other side, to Brooklyn, we stopped at the Duane Reed drug store. We bought water and Snickers bars. We then went to the Marriot hotel down the block, to see if there were any rooms. I wanted to get a room, because a) we didn’t know if we would get out of the city tonight, b) they had showers and we were covered with dust and soot c) they had phones, and d) they had TVs. So we went to the hotel, and found out they had no rooms. We located a big TV screen in a conference room showing the CNN broadcast. We sat and watched, getting for the first time information about what had taken place. Crossing the bridge, we had heard a lot of things, and didn’t know what to believe. Someone had said the White House had been hit.

We waited on line to use the payphones. Neither of us could get through to our wives. My boss reached a neighbor, who we gave the phone numbers of our wives, so that they could be told we were OK.

After washing the ash out of our hair and eyes in the Men’s room, we went to Junior’s on Flatbush Ave. Junior’s is famous for its cheescake. Bill Clinton has been there. His picture is on the wall. My boss used to live in Brooklyn and likes this place. We went to the bar and ordered beer. We watched the local tv news and talked with some locals. I went out on the street and bought a little am/fm radio for 10 bucks. News.

In the thick of the smoke, when we evacuated, we had taken the closest route out of Manhattan. But now we were in Brooklyn, marooned, with access to Manhattan closed. I didn’t want to let that be, partly because I didn’t want to spend the night on the streets of Brooklyn, and partly because I know from experience that if you keep moving, keep busy, you delay any breakdowns or emotional releases. I wanted to put that off until I got home. But after talking with a few cops, it became clear we weren’t getting out of Brooklyn any time soon. It was around 1pm.

Talking with the locals in Al Sharpton Country

So we went back to Junior’s and had lunch. By this time, I was ordering my beers two at a time.

“I’ll have a turkey club sandwich and two Heinekens.”

This place is in the heart of Al Sharpton country. On the street there were posters of Reverend Al endorsing this or that candidate. The restaurant patrons were mostly local blacks. While we ate and drank, we met and talked with 4 or 5 black women about the events of the day.

There was one woman who cried as she spoke about the attack. She said that the people in the towers were at work early, many of them just like her, trying to pay their bills. They were innocent people. She said she loves America. She said America provides opportunity for all. She said forget about black American, Jewish American, Irish American, we are Americans. She said she has no sympathy whatever for Arabs. They hate our country. She spoke of seeing the Palestinian children on tv, celebrating. She said she wanted the USA to blow them all to hell. The other women agreed.

Another woman came over, put her hand on my shoulder, and spoke to me and my boss, and the two women who had joined our table. She told us that she has been to several countries in South America, Central America, and Europe. She said she loves America. America is the best country. The world hates us because we have the strongest economy, the best infrastructure, the most powerful military. She spoke of her desire to see vengeance done. The others agreed.

The next woman made some disparaging remarks about President Bush, expressing a basic lack of faith in his abilities. I spoke to the women, on this point. I asked the women to do me a favor, and simply give the President a chance. They said they understood what I was saying. I can only hope that someday in the future, even after this disaster has begun to fade, that my friends from this day will remember our conversation, and be inclined to simply give the President, and therefore the Republican party, a chance.

Getting Home

My boss and I finished our beers and sandwiches, and left the restaurant. We spent the next hour looking for a way out of the city. For a while it didn’t look like we’d get back to Jersey. The trains and subways and bridges were limited to outbound traffic only. Finally, we were told the A train was running into Manhattan. I had heard on the radio that ferries were running from Battery Park, and trains were running from Penn Station. We got on the A train and decided to go to Penn Station. From there, I got on a train to Newark. I then walked across town to the other train line, where I called my wife and told her I was in New Jersey.

When I got to my train stop, there was a local detective on the platform. He was asking if anyone was coming from the “trade zone”. I said I was. He asked if I had been close to the action. I told him I had been across the street when the first plane hit. He asked if I was exposed to ash and dust. I said yes, when we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, we were covered with it. He said he wanted my contact information, which I provided. He asked if I had been “decontaminated.” I said no. He instructed me to go home, put my clothes in a bag, and wash up, including a thorough wash of my nasal cavaties. Which I did. I was too tired and dazed to inquire with the cop. I don’t know if this was a precaution taken by the local police, or if it was a state initiative. I assume it is a precaution. He said a prosecutor would eventually be in touch with me.

Safely Home

When I got home, I showered, then I hugged and kissed my wife. Then I answered all the “Are you OK?” emails and phone messages and Free Republic inquiries. When I was sufficiently drunk, I passed out.

What I went through today was easy. All I did was escape without a scratch. My thoughts and prayers are with the wounded, the dead and the suffering, and the tribute belongs to the heros.

TOPICS: News/Current Events; Your Opinion/Questions
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To: Huck
Waiting for pictures. Good account. From the video it looked like the entire plane went into the building like knife in warm butter. Did you feel any jolt? Somebody said on TV that they felt a heat wave as the gasoline exploded.
21 posted on 09/12/2001 8:25:53 AM PDT by annalex
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To: Huck
Thanks for the up close and personal report. I kept looking for you here after your first post yesterday and was alarmed when you did not come back to Free Republic. Welcome home!
22 posted on 09/12/2001 8:26:32 AM PDT by PoisedWoman
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To: Huck
It's so good to know you're OK, Huck. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and observations about these horrific events. best, bb.
23 posted on 09/12/2001 8:28:55 AM PDT by betty boop
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To: Question_Assumptions
Were you in front on the building with the big red cube (with the hole in it) out front on Broadway?

Yes. I didn't see anyone jump/fall, but spoke to many who did.

24 posted on 09/12/2001 8:29:52 AM PDT by Huck
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To: Huck
Thank you, Huck, and God bless you.

I've been to the WTC many times, and stayed in the Vista International (before the '93 bombing) in 3 WTC. (After that we stayed in a Marriott down the street.)

I have friends/coworkers in 2 & 5 World Trade. We're still waiting for word on most of them.

25 posted on 09/12/2001 8:41:17 AM PDT by BlessedBeGod
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To: Huck
Excellent, first hand account. Thanks for the post.
26 posted on 09/12/2001 8:45:27 AM PDT by ethical
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To: Huck
Glad to learn that you're OK, Huck. Look forward to your pics. Send a flag when you post 'em.
27 posted on 09/12/2001 8:49:15 AM PDT by Dukie
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To: Huck
Glad to hear you're ok! We were all worried.

For anyone interested, here's the post from yesterday: FReeper Huck Not Heard From - Was Very Close to WTC in Last Post .
28 posted on 09/12/2001 9:47:26 AM PDT by Gelato
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To: Huck
Unforgettable report. Delighted to hear you're OK.
29 posted on 09/12/2001 10:03:58 AM PDT by Romulus
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To: Huck
As I said last night, we were all concerned and your post last night was a relief. I learned that my brother was a few blocks away from the WTC last night which was a surprise as he lives in the SF Bay area.

The scale of the WTC and what used to be its massive buildings comes through in your account. You were right there, below, but off angle to the impacted portion of the building and yet the scale, angle of view and distance involved prevented you from observing the full import of the first crash.

I, and others, had similar experiences in our observations as to how men and women reacted differently in a general sense. It reminded me of the T. Sowell classification of Constrained and Unconstrained Visions held by all mankind from A Conflict of Visions. Once mindfull of that I was a little more tolerant to the variety of response.

My step-daughter was in DC, had her office shut down and then had to battle her way home past the Pentagon side of the Potomac. Up to a few months ago she lived within blocks of that building. She was stressed by the events and lo and behold voicing comments about the last eight years' legacy tying into our current and future situation. My eldest son, a high school teacher, spent the day with kids impacted by these events as well. He was shaken. Our younger citizens are now becoming aware of the true import of us oldtimers' cautions and warnings in a way that only a very few insightful yougsters, such as yourself, were able to invision pre-disaster.

Its also interesting to note the Burkian, little platoon of family, neighborhood, workplace, and community are the units that we respond with and bond to in all significant events. Economic class, race, ethnic origins, and politics all fall away as we deal with real life. If we could just retain that awareness subsiquently as we revert to our normal lives and resume our societal interactions, rather than picking up the Enlightenment/Marxist masks how better off we'd be.

You were indeed blessed and like all such moments, the future is so much more filled with awe.

30 posted on 09/12/2001 10:32:46 AM PDT by KC Burke
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To: Huck
God Bless you Huck....glad you are safe. My cousin was on the first floor of the WTC when it got hit, he got away with only a head injury. His story was similar to yours. Good folks keep their head about themselves.
31 posted on 09/12/2001 10:49:55 AM PDT by vetvetdoug
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To: Huck
Thank you for sharing your day with us. I'm glad you are safe and sound, Huck.
32 posted on 09/12/2001 6:47:40 PM PDT by Fred Mertz
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To: Huck, Aloha Ronnie, ChaseR, Goldlucky, buchanan mama, Landru, onyx, Mercuria
Huck, your story is fantastic in it's detail. Reading it is like being right there on the street with you, thank you. It really means a lot to hear what happened. We just can't imagine the reality of this event and it's affect on the individual. What we see is a building collapsing, what you saw was a people attacked.

God Bless and thanks again for your report.

33 posted on 09/12/2001 6:48:31 PM PDT by reformjoy
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To: Huck
You're a good writer. I'm proud to be posting on the same site.
34 posted on 09/12/2001 7:06:49 PM PDT by bleudevil
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To: Huck
wow. stunning.

I'm grateful you're OK...

Your story about these gals in Brooklyn & the conversation which followed?
I'm wondering, hoping even that this disaster has done something thought impossible; brought us tightly together.

The madmen will take no comfort knowing they've accomplished something as miraculous as that.

35 posted on 09/12/2001 7:08:33 PM PDT by Landru
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Comment #36 Removed by Moderator

To: reformjoy/DLfromthedesert
Thanks for the bump, Joy.

DL? Check it out...

37 posted on 09/12/2001 7:11:57 PM PDT by Landru
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To: Huck
We were wondering about you and hoping you were ok, especially after the towers collapsed. Whew. Glad you're ok.
38 posted on 09/12/2001 7:18:58 PM PDT by Osinski
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To: Huck
Glad yer back safe and sound. What a day. I read your story to the folks here. Really brought it home for them.


39 posted on 09/12/2001 7:33:59 PM PDT by amom
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To: Landru
Thanks. I just found out my brother-in-law, who was in New York for a conference, and is a physician, is busy rescuing people from the rubble.
40 posted on 09/12/2001 8:29:34 PM PDT by DLfromthedesert
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