9/11 by Michael Gitlin, Montesson, France

September 11 September 9, 2011 16:53

When the first plane hit the World Trade Center on 9/11 I was at my desk and had already gone to the cafeteria downstairs to get my breakfast in preparation for a typically quiet morning. I worked just across West Street from the Trade Center towers for an investment bank in The World Financial Center. It was well before 9am and the floor was mostly empty but some of the staff were already there and I could hear a few people talking about how a plane had hit the Trade Center.  A secretary exclaimed anxiously about how she had been around in ’93 when the bombing of the Trade Center had taken place and she was leaving work right now. My thought was “let’s not get hysterical.” The general feeling on the floor was that a private plane had accidentally struck the Trade Center Tower. From my desk I didn’t have a view of the Trade Center so I had to walk down the hall to see what was going on. I saw flames billowing out of the building, engulfing several floors and appearing to be at least 70 floors above street level. I wondered about how they were going to put out a fire like that. But this was New York and one tended to be blasé about things, another day another disaster.What I still remember about the day were the gradual ascending levels of alarm as time passed. In retrospect it seems like these things happened over hours but it was actually closer to minutes. After viewing the fire I quickly lost my appetite for breakfast and started trying to get more information about what was going on, from the radio, the internet and from my supervisors who were twenty floors above me. I called them; nothing unusual going on. After contemplating this information for a few minutes I took the elevator up to the Center they worked out of. Indeed, the burning Tower was visible directly outside the windows of the Center. The supervisor was busy pulling down the shades to block the view and thus not distract everyone there from their work. I immediately went back downstairs to my desk. A few minutes later I heard one of the Managing Directors shout that another plane had hit the Towers and that we should leave. Immediately, concern was replaced with sickening fear. The crashing planes were not accidental. Where were they coming from and how many more were there?

We headed into the stairways and walked down the 15 flights to the street. It was a beautiful day and people were milling around. Many of them looking like they were waiting for the end of the fire alarm so that they could get back to work. I looked up at the burning towers and the debris being spewed off.  And then on more careful view it became apparent that some of that debris was people. I remember spotting the neckties fluttering as the bodies fell. People were dying and things were out of control.

My first reaction beyond personal fear was fear that the attack would be manipulated for political purposes. Unfortunately this is exactly what happened. Later that day I passed long lines of New Yorkers waiting to give blood at St. Vincent’s Hospital. People wanting to help and pulling together. But this reaction was not to last. The President wanted us to go shopping and we did.

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