Open Thread

Open Thread Update: September 11, 2001

Last time I shared my 9/11 experience, what I saw and what it felt like. I was not alone.

Maria R recalls what it was like to live and work near the Towers. I can only imagine what she was feeling when she had to evacuate.

And one of our Senior Athletes, Prof. P. J Gammarano, describes a narrow escape and mourns the loss of one of his students.

Some people say it’s time to stop the ceremonies and move on.

I don’t agree.

9/11 was an act of unprecedented horror in our nation’s history and thousands of people died.  It changed thousands of lives forever. It changed how we travel, our security, and our view of the world, privacy, and each other.  People are still dying because of it. And as long as that lasts, we should remember. I know I will.

Do you feel the same?  Or do you think it’s time to move on?  Let us know in the comments.

Previous Column:

I was a Public Relations Consultant, and my anchor  client had a press conference scheduled for that morning. I’d spent weeks and weeks on it.  Logistics, and writing, news alerts, handling the press list  I got the call at 8:30 in the morning from a friend that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. Our TV was broken and my husband and I figured it was some little prop plane. We remembered when a helicopter flew into the Pan Am building. These thing happen and I shrugged and thought “there goes the press conference.”

Nightmare Details 

Then the nightmare details began to accumulate. I got another call about the second plane. We turned on the radio and heard the nonstop reports.  It was like Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast.  Only it was real.

Every new detail brought its own special horror, racheting up the fear. A plane hit the Pentagon. A plane downed in a field in Pennsylvania. All the planes in the sky now flying missiles, aimed at…what? Everyone I knew calculated the odds.  We lived near Gracie Mansion – could they try to get the Mayor?  The Stock Exchange?

What about the bridges?

For me the worst part, the event that certified for me that we were off our moorings, was when the radio reported that the first Tower fell.

That was inconceivable. I was the press representative for the World Trade Center at one time; I was so proud. I had watched those magnificent buildings go up, a challenge to the world, a brash challenge from America in general and New York in particular.  (In the 90’s there was an informal ad campaign heralded by the Daily News: ‘My City Can Kick Your City’s Ass.’)

When I looked out the windows when I lived in Brooklyn, I could see those two shining tall Twins, reflecting the morning sun, silhouetted at night. I took the Windows on the World wine course. My husband and I took out of town guests there for dinner; I still have the photos.

When the second tower fell, I took out my rolodex and found the business cards of my former clients and wondered if they were alive. Every breeze brought the acrid smell of burnt rubber and chemicals that made our eyes water and our lungs burn. I looked south from the street and saw the long, unending plume of smoke, saw the steady trickle that grew by the hour, of  stunned people, covered in dust, staggering home.

The Nightmare Aftermath

The aftermath, those terrible days that followed. I grew to hate the sound of bagpipes, which signalled another funeral of a policeman – 71 in all.  Every church lined up for funerals of firemen – 343 of them, including my cousin’s husband.  His shift had just ended, and instead of going home, he went to the Towers. The newspapers full of obituaries day after day.  The hopeful flyers outside of bus shelters and hospitals.  “Have you seen my son. My husband. My sister. My wife. My mother. My dad.”

I know NYC rallied in the following days and weeks. So many people tried to donate blood they were turned away.  Floods of union tradesmen – carpenters and ironworkers, electricians, contractors, men with equipment and men with their bare hands – came to the Pile to help and stayed for weeks.  Many of them now have cancers and lung diseases from the smoke they inhaled day after day. We are still living with the impact of that awful day when the world changed.

That’s my 9/11 story. What’s yours?.

Virge Randall is Senior Planet’s Managing Editor. She is also a freelance culture reporter who seeks out hidden gems and unsung (or undersung) treasures for Straus Newspapers; her blog “Don’t Get Me Started” puts a quirky new spin on Old School New York City. Send  Open Thread suggestions to


9 responses to “Open Thread Update: September 11, 2001

  1. I witnessed and I survived. I live still in Lower Manhattan and I am a volunteer at the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum. And, yes those exposed to the dust cloud on and after September 11, 2001 continue to get sick and many to die. Although terrorists attacked us in the mid-Atlantic states, this attack was against all Americans and it can never be forgotten. A day of Help & Kindness to recall the best behavior of people on 9/11 could be held on future Anniversary days so youth can know.

  2. My feeling is that, terrible as 9/11 was, the prolonged suffering we endured through the lockdown of 2020 (and into 2021 for some of us) and the incredible loss of life due to COVID-19 has been so much worse. This has reached into every state, every city, every neighborhood…or has it? Don’t we all know someone who has lost someone to it? Shouldn’t that be our focus now?

  3. Hi- To your follow-up question about remembering the day or not, this is arguably as important as Pearl Harbor Day.

    Those not DIRECTLY affected by 9-11-2001 multiple-site disasterous events may think it didn’t affect them individually, but it did resonate an impact in some way to every USA citizen.

    Same logic w/all of WW2, where everyone in our nation was impacted by
    despotic&murderous actions happening overseas&rapidly expanding–but 4our USA intervention. Future genretations need to know

  4. Just like December 7th, we have to remember the attack on September 11th. I was working on Wall St. while the WTC was being built in the early 1970’s. I was working in N.Bergen, NJ doing a Disaster Recovery test on September 11th. Someone told me that a plane crashed into them. I thought it must have been a small plane. When the second plane hit, I knew it was an attack. We had a building in WFC and it was hit by debris when the towers came down. It hurts whenever I see the attacks.

  5. I was a financial analyst/city managerial employee working at 180 Water Street when the towers were hit. I would have been in the first towerwhen it was hit (#5) that morning if it weren’t for the fact that I decided to come in early to prepare for a presentation I was scheduled to give. Rudolph Giuliani sent all of us back into the toxic zone a mere 6 days after the attack on the proviso that the area was safe. All of us began running symptoms. I have since been diagnosed as a World Trade C

  6. I lived and worked pretty close to to the Twin Towers. I could see them every day, it was a view I took for granted. Our building was evacuated and once outside, we were directed to “walk north”. The throngs of people walking, without really knowing what was happening, the stories I heard afterwards from stranded co-workers, is something that I will always remember.
    My prayers for strength and comfort to all who in one way or another, were closely affected by this.

    Maria R.

  7. Thanks for sharing your story.
    As author of LinkedIn article “Alternate Universes Happen”, I got to write that article yrs later– & to write this anecdote–& live more life each day that would’ve ended at the base of Tower1– if I had left my house 10 sec sooner on 9-11-01.
    8:45am was usual time for a steady stream from the 8:05 Expr Bus to drop off passengers; I missed it all by 10 seconds.
    Sadly, one of my Kingsborough students who was Marriott housekeeping staff was killed on the ground.

    1. I remember on that day I was off from my job and I was cleaning the house. I was listening to the radio when one of them mentioned that an airplane crash in one of the towels as soon as I turned the TV I saw the second plane hit the other towel I was in shock I couldn’t believe what had happening in those sad moments on that terrible day. I never will forget that day of sorrow and sadness.

    2. And, PJ, I arrived early that day, placing me in my South Tower office facing north. Hearing the explosion and seeing the fireball filling my entire view sent me ordering other early birds on my floor to leave. Many lives lost and saved by random factors. Be your best self every day, it can be your last.

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