11 years ago today I was standing in the basement of the 1 World Trade Center; quickly
being rushed out to street level to come to terms with the devastation upon us.
I have just gone back to the basics and in the process of simplifying many things about my business. How appropriate that this first blog post personally reflects on the very moment in time where I was traumatically reminded that life is too short. You have to live for today, do what you love, work hard, play hard; and enjoy all that life offers you. 9-11-2001; a time for me that is reflected on each and every day since. My decision to finally turn my passions and skills into a photography business arose. I am extremely happy that I made that decision for myself, my family and every wonderful client. Capturing milestone moments in people’s lives is a very self rewarding experience. It is a way to help people experience joy, reflection and amazing documented moments in their lives.In a way, utilizing a creative eye for the nostalgic unforgettable moments is a similar message to this past point in time - Never Forget | Keep Loved Ones Alive Every Day | Move Forward.
Here is my personal 9-11-01 experience that many of you have continually asked me to report year after year. Remembering Giovanna Gambale, a wonderful friend over many life experiences who still guides me today!
Outside Directly Across The Street
Reflection on September 11, 2001
Written on September 14, 2001
Well it was very sad, tragic, and mysterious, but I was directly across the street standing in front of the Millennium Hotel; something I am still trying to get over and it is going to take a while.
I was running late this day because I had to drop off my car for service in midtown Manhattan. My normal route to work from Brooklyn involves taking the X28 express bus to the World Trade Center (in front of Century 21). I then walk across the street. go into the 4WTC, and proceed down to the mall area. I make my way to Cornucopia (usually around 8:45 AM) to grab a protein shake, and I then walk into the lobby of 2WTC to go back outside, walk across the street, and up the escalator inside the West Side Highway overpass bridge, taking me into the lobby of 1 World Financial Center.
On this day, I was taking the E train into the 5WTC. We arrived at approximately 8:45AM. I was trying to get inside the Trade Center mall area to grab breakfast and get to work, but we were being told we could not enter, and were immediately pushed as a group up the Church Street and Rector Street stairwell exit (someone people mentioned that they heard someone say a man got shot). As I was halfway up the stairs, a police officer was screaming, “Excuse me, clear the way,” as he was escorting another officer who had a jacket covering his right shoulder (looked like he got shot). Getting closer to street level, I saw people pointing and looking up, screaming and crying. As I got all the way upstairs, I saw 1WTC on fire, with a huge hole on the right side of the building, and it was truly shocking. I didn’t know what to do, so I found a spot directly on the corner of the Millennium Hotel (approx 25 feet from the front of 4WTC, 5 WTC and the WTC atrium area), and all I could do was stare at the building.
Trying to listen to what had happened, I overhead someone say that a small jet hit the building. I could not comprehend this, nor would I believe it. After a few minutes, I witnessed people taking their lives from upper floors (75+) of 1 WTC. These people chose to leap out of windows and plummet to their death, rather than being trapped and burning to death and I can’t say that I blame them. I had to see at least 25-30 people jump. It seemed like this was going on for an hour in length; however, the reality was more like 5-10 minutes. It was a truly grueling and traumatizing experience for me and will take some time to get over. One lasting image in my mind was 4 people holding hands all the way down (From where I was, I never saw these people hit the ground – I thank god for that!)
A while later the 2nd plane hits the 2WTC, another awful experience. I don’t know if the other people around me saw this the way I did (and I am extremely curious to find out exactly how they saw everything and how they are dealing with it), but the 2nd plane was not seen until it hit the 2 WTC. Basically, there was so much black smoke, smog and fire filling the air, and there was so much noise and commotion, than this 2nd plane could not be seen and was barely heard. All I truly remember is taking focus off of 1 WTC to glance over at 2WTC. The plane just seemed to appear, just become visible a few inches away from the building. I watch it on TV and say to myself, this is not how it happened and it definitely did not look this way. The plane was tremendous! (767 I think), and I saw it from the bottom, tilting to the left. Again, it just appeared from the smoky air, and within a second, it hit the 2WTC and caused a ferocious explosion.
This impact sent everyone around me in frenzy. I did not move. I was too shocked and I do not know why, but I did not want to run away; I wanted to stay and watch it. That lasted for all of 5 seconds (which felt more like 5 minutes) because pieces of the building and debris started falling and I had to get out of the way, so I ran down the Millennium Hotel block (Jay street?). People were running so hard and so fast that they literally were running out of their shoes. I eventually ended up, thankfully and surprisingly unharmed, down near J&R Music World and Pace University.
This was only a few blocks, but I had to turn around and look at these buildings and experience the fear I had run away from. The site of these 2 buildings, landmarks, on fire and in shambles was really painful to see. I was terrified at this point. After about 15 minutes, I finally ran into someone I knew from my company and we spoke about what we had experienced. He left to go home, I stayed and watched. A few minutes later, I walked towards the courthouse and sat down in amazement in the park area. While I started talking to people, I heard, then turned around and saw the 2WTC falling and ran away again from falling debris. Standing in front of the park, I was blocked from immediately being hit by traveling debris, but had I not run, it would only be a matter of time until it made its way in my direction. As I turned around, all I could see was the antenna of one of the trade centers, and finally, I looked away and walked for a while. I had seen enough.
I ended up in a bar on Broadway and Houston Street. I wanted to get as far away as possible, but I also wanted to get in front of a TV to see what the hell just took place. It was about 10:30AM at this point, because as I went into the bar and sat down, they were showing the 2WTC beginning to fall. I sat down, watched the TV, and drank about 8 shots of Southern Comfort with others people I met. Finally, I got my first cell phone connection dialed out to my mother to let her know I was safe.
While most people tried leaving the city ASAP, it didn’t mater to me. I ended up traveling to different bars and locations to stay updated, and remain drunk. It wasn’t until 8:00PM, that I finally needed to go home, back to Brooklyn. Thankfully, the F train was running again, so I went down into the W4th Street station, jumped on the train, and went home.
Throughout that day, and for the next few days, one thing was on my mind – Why? Was I supposed to be in this building at the time, and why was I supposed to witness this. There may very well be no answer to this. Thinking long hard about this, whether I was on time going to work taking my normal route, or whether I was late from dropping off my car, I still would not have been in the building where I would be harmed. Had I been on time, I would have been in the 2WTC lobby, just about to walk out and cross the street. I would have probably seen and/or heard the 1st plane hit and ran back down Liberty Street rather than running up the escalator into 1 World Financial Center. Had this happened, I believe I would have ended up in close to the same exact spot I was because I would have wanted to watch what was taking place.
So basically, the question is, why was I supposed to be 25 feet away from the buildings, watching this major catastrophe? If I was truly not supposed to be there on this day, then why wasn’t I left in midtown, so I could not witness this tragedy in a front row seat? Again, one will never know why they were where they were on this day. I can just be thankful that I was unharmed.
On my way to CIBC World Markets, 1 World Financial Center