Welcome to a special episode of Flash in the City detailing the
tragic circumstances around the World Trade Center disaster.
Greetings From Ground Zero
For those of you who know me or read Flash, you know how excited
I was about my recent move off Planet Dallas to the Big Apple.
A new home, a great city, a new career, and a great apartment
with views of the Hudson River, Battery Park and the World Trade
That view will never be the same, both literally and figuratively.
here for the photo gallery.
We moved into 88 Greenwich, a 38 story building located at Greenwich
and Rector, at the beginning of June. It is 3 short downtown blocks
south of the World Trade Center. Our apartment is on the 11th
floor facing the WTC. The only high-rise between us and the towers
is a 40 story office building.
The day our view changed forever began ominously. Laying in bed
half asleep after a late night of writing, we were jolted awake
by the unbelievably loud whine of jet engines, followed by a sickening
explosion we both heard and felt.
Jumping out of bed, we ran out on our terrace, convinced there
had just been a plane crash. Once outside, we were shocked to
see WTC North spewing smoke (pic).
Turning on the news, we heard initial reports that a small jet
had hit the tower. Thinking it was an accident and an isolated
incident, we made a decision that almost cost us dearly; to go
down there and take pictures.
Walking the few blocks to the scene was shocking. People were
running down our street away from the buildings (pic).
Debris was already everywhere even before the 2nd jet and the
collapses, much of it on fire (pic1)
(pic2). People were
coming out of the towers (pic),
but sadly, it didnít look to us like that many people were coming
We moved to the east side of the towers to see the damage to WTC
North. We were on Church Street right next to the towers. From
there we got our first look at the damage causing all the smoke.
At 9:01, I took this picture of WTC North on fire
you can see, WTC South was still fine.
Suddenly, there was another roar of engines, less noticeable than
earlier given the sirens and all the commotion. Then we watched
in horror as a huge jet flew into the side of WTC South right
above us and just disappeared, disintegrating into a tremendous
ball of flame.
People screamed as debris rained down on us. We dove under the
awning of the office building across the street (One Liberty Plaza)
for protection. From there, I took two pictures at 9:03 as the
explosion from the 2nd jet rocked WTC South and debris rained
down (pic1) (pic2).
Dodging falling debris, we ran home past Trinity Church, taking
these pix as we did (pic1)
(pic4). Once home,
we called our families to let them know we were okay on our home
phone since cell phones werenít working. As we called, we took
video and more photos from our terrace of the two burning buildings
At 10:00, WTC South started belching even more, darker smoke and
the flames increased. Suddenly, we heard creaking and popping.
Then, we watched in horror as the top third of the building shifted
toward us and then collapsed upon itself. A tidal wave of debris
roared toward us.
Running back into our apartment, we dove onto the bedroom floor
as debris hit the wall of windows in our living room. If youíve
seen Independence Day, the scene of the aliens blowing up New
York cannot even begin to compare to the sight and horror of the
real thing roaring at you.
Then, terrified that the collapse would trigger a domino effect
that would topple our building, we ran out through the sudden
darkness and down the emergency stairwell the 11 floors to the
lobby, leaving everything other than the cameras in our hands
What greeted us in the lobby was shocking. Smoke and ash had already
permeated the lobby (pic).
People who had been outside in the debris storm caused by the
collapse were covered in inches of ash. Despite the horror and
the fear, no one was panicking.
Not wanting to stay in the building in case of a collapse, we
decided to brave the storm outside and run for Battery Park. Walking
outside was like walking on another planet. Day had suddenly turned
to night. Ash, debris and fire rained down all around us
We ran through ash and debris a foot deep, snapping pictures blindly
as we did.
Overhead, more jet engines roared. Not knowing they were U.S.
F-16s there to prevent any more suicide attacks, we ran even faster
thinking more attacks were under way but terrified because we
had no way to know what was being attacked since we could barely
see three feet in front of us.
As we got further in time and distance from the collapse, the
storm abated and it became like being on the moon. Lauren stopped
to take this picture of me as we approached Battery Park (pic).
Once we reached the park, we were covered in ash (pic).
Breathing was extremely difficult as the air was full of smoke
and ash. But in the midst of this terrible event, we saw a sight
that amazed and heartened us; a U.S. flag flying in the middle
of the park, the sun fighting through the deadly cloud above it
The momentary peace was disrupted when another huge roar erupted.
We immediately realized that the other tower was collapsing. We
took cover as best we could as another storm of ash and debris
With the destruction of the towers, other shocked and dazed people
escaping the carnage converged on the relative safety of Battery
Park. Once there, though, we were effectively trapped. Manhattan
is an island and the disaster to the north had cut us off from
the rest of Manhattan.
The only way off was the Staten Island Ferry. But with the huge
number of people streaming in desperate to get off the island,
the number and frequency of the ferries was much too inadequate.
They did their best, though, packing people in while still being
careful to be safe so as to avoid a ferry disaster on top of everything
Then police said that the Brooklyn Bridge, closed due to the disaster,
was open for pedestrian traffic to allow evacuation. The only
problem was that this meant walking through the huge ash cloud
streaming from ground zero. Despite that, innumerable people began
the many mile smoke-filled walk to freedom.
People lined up on the pier waiting to be rescued
people, many covered in ash, waited for friends and coworkers
to hopefully join them in safety (pic).
Overhead, jet fighters patrolled the skies to prevent any more
attacks. And then the cavalry arrived; a fleet of tugboats pulled
into emergency duty coming to evacuate thousands (pic).
Lauren and I didnít leave. First, being on a ferry/tugboat or
bridge or any other potential target weíd be trapped on if anything
happened did not sound attractive after the trauma of recent events.
We preferred the relative open space and lack of high-rises Battery
Park offered, despite the ash and smoke.
Second, and most importantly, all the boats were going to Staten
Island, New Jersey or other boroughs in New York, not to northern
Manhattan. We were afraid if we got off the island, we would not
be able to get back. And we wanted to know if our building still
stood. So we stayed, hoping to be able to go back to our home.
We walked back to check on our building. Police stopped us from
going any further north than Battery Street. But as hours passed
and the smoke abated slightly, we were able to see our building
still standing. It is the light brick building behind Lauren with
the white water tower on top (pic).
The black building behind it to the left in the haze is the only
high-rise between our building and the WTC. The WTC would normally
tower above and behind our building.
With police telling us weíd not be able to go home for the foreseeable
future, we finally went to the boats. At 3:30, five and a half
hours after we braved the storm of debris from the collapse of
WTC South to reach Battery Park, we boarded a tugboat bound for
Midtown Manhattan and sailed away from the carnage. As we rounded
the tip of Manhattan and passed the Brooklyn Bridge, I took one
last picture of the forever changed skyline of Manhattan on fire
As I sit here writing this on a friendís computer in a friendís
house on Friday, three days after the horrendous event, it still
seems surreal. I saw horrible things that I will never forget:
the sight of a passenger jet flying into the side of WTC South
right above us; WTC South collapsing in front of us. Both times,
we thought we were going to die.
I will never forget the sight of police and firemen running to
the scene as they made sure we got safely away, many of them dead
now. Iíll never forget the firehouse at the corner of Greenwich
and Liberty, right across the street from the WTC. We had walked
past that firehouse innumerable times, saying hi to the firemen
sitting outside. They were the first on the scene and from what
we have heard, completely wiped out.
Terrible things. But there were just as many wonderful stories
we witnessed. Obviously, the bravery and selflessness of the police
and firemen. But the actions of the average citizen were just
as special. Once again, despite the terror and rumors, no one
panicked. Everyone joined together to help others out. Water was
given and shared. The injured were helped and evacuated. Cell
phones that got through maybe one out of a hundred attempts were
passed around so people could call loved ones. Money was passed
out so people could use the one pay phone working down there.
Iíll never forget certain people. The worker from American Park
Restaurant who kept running out with wet napkins to put over your
nose and mouth to help you breath and then returning to get more
to pass out. When they ran out of napkins, he started bringing
out tubs of ice to the parched, ash-covered survivors. He did
this for hours in the ash and smoke.
The large pregnant woman in a wheelchair who, unable to get through
the debris to safety, had been carried down to Battery Park by
two small, middle-aged women while a third grabbed the wheelchair.
When we helped get her on a tugboat, it took three men to get
The policeman who greeted us at 34th Street on the East River
where the tugboat dropped us off. When he saw me wearing the torn
remnant of my t-shirt (from tearing it to make masks to help us
breathe), he gave me his t-shirt.
The numerous people we didnít even know who upon hearing our story
offered clothes, a place to stay, etc. And, of course, the friend
who we are staying with until we can get back to our home.
The feelings are numerous and complex. Sadness at the tragedy.
Pride at the triumph of the human spirit. Guilt at thinking about
our brush with danger and worrying about our apartment when so
many people have lost so much more. It will take time to work
through them all, but I think we will all be better people because
of this reflection.
Thanks to all those who left messages and sent e-mails expressing
your concern for us. They have helped us get through this tough
time. While we still donít know when weíll be able to get back
to our apartment, or what weíll find when we get there, we are
just thankful to be alive when so many are not so lucky.
And while the view from our terrace may have changed, our opinion
of this city hasnít. It is a great place to live, with great people,
even greater than I knew just three days ago. I wouldnít want
to live anywhere else. New York City, USA.
here for the photo gallery.