Written by Ed Griffin
On the 15th anniversary of 9-11, most of us know where we were and how we heard of the initial attacks on the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in lower Manhattan.
It is approximately 7 miles from Jersey City, New Jersey to the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. In fact, you can look directly across the Hudson River and have a beautiful view of the World Trade Center.
At 8 AM, my US Air Flight landed at Newark Airport, I was headed to a hotel in Jersey City for a meeting with our supplier New Balance. I have flown in and out of New York City and the major airports that serve it hundreds of times. The familiar landmark, the Twin Towers was always my visual marker for being back in the city and on this morning with a beautiful blue sky, dotted by just a few thin clouds, it was an impressive sight. Little did I know that in less than two and a half hours, the Towers who symbolized New York City would fall, killing over 2,600 people and injuring thousands. Later we would learn of the others who died at the Pentagon and in the crash of a hijacked plane in Pennsylvania.
Arriving at the hotel by 8:30 AM, I joined a few of the other early arrivals as we chatted in the lobby, with a large television playing in the background.
Soon the breaking news came over the television newscast that a plane had hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The view of the camera was from long range and it appeared that the plane was quite small, maybe even a private aircraft. Many of us went outside to view what was happening and saw smoke billowing from the tower, covering much of the remaining upper floors.
Our meeting was scheduled to start at 9 AM and not knowing the severity of what was happening, we went back in the hotel to the meeting room and the meeting started. There was a lot of talk about the plane hitting the Tower just before everyone in the room introduced themselves. A hotel staff member came in a few short minutes later and delivered the news, a second plane had hit the South Tower.
Meeting organizers paused the meeting to assess the situation and many of us went to the television or back outside to view what was happening. The reality of this being done on purpose was setting in, yet there was so little information and speculation was everywhere. There was smoke in the distance and sirens blaring everywhere.
In a span of just 29 minutes, both the North and then the South Towers collapsed. New Balance officials gathered us together, asked for a moment of silence and cancelled the meeting. The NB staff was as stunned as everyone else but had the task of trying to figure out how to get people home. The FAA grounded or stopped any flight coming into or leaving from the United States, so getting everyone out of
New Jersey was difficult. The Newark Airport had been closed, so airport car rentals were not an option and all tunnels and bridges into New York City were closed.
Our Syracuse based New Balance Sales Rep, Bill Strife, had driven to the meeting the previous day and was able to offer me a ride back to Syracuse. As we left Jersey City and drove by Newark Airport, barriers were installed on all exit ramps to the airport. All overhead road signs and temporary road signs throughout New Jersey and into Pennsylvania read “All Access to New York City is closed including all bridges and tunnels”. For the first hour of our drive, a steady stream of emergency vehicles headed south as we booked it north and we rode in stunned silence listening to the radio commentators struggling to make any sense of the situation with very limited information.
My car was parked in the parking garage of the Syracuse Airport. As we arrived we were greeted by planes of all makes and sizes grounded on the tarmac and for the first time that I could remember the sound of silence. No engine noises or baggage handling carts or any of the other sounds that you hear so often at an airport.
We had arrived home to be with our families, something that meant so much to us because so many others would not come home this day.
I wrote this account of 9-11 for my daughter Erin, who was 5 years old at the time. Now a junior in college, the news stories of the 9-11 anniversary had her thinking about this tragic day. This past Saturday evening she texted her Mom and admitted that she really had no memories of the fateful day. She asked lots of questions and learned that at 5 years old, we had made a choice to shield her from much of the information because to us, the fear created by knowing what happened was worse than not knowing.
Shortly after opening, my family visited the 9-11 Memorial in New York City, just before the accompanying museum had opened. Someday I hope you can visit with your family. It is emotional, awe inspiring and seeing the names of all who died in the three attacks plus those who also died in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings will bring tears to your eyes.
Bruce Springsteen’s 12th studio album was titled “The Rising” and was released in 2002. Some of the songs on the album were written before 9-11 while many others came after and exude themes and the artists’ thoughts from this tragic part of American History. The song “Into the Fire” is particularly moving.
If you have made it this far in this unusually long blog, I appreciate your attention and hope that we never have to go through another day in our nation like this again.