trade towers

The towers of the World Trade Center in New York City smolder before collapsing on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, after being hit by hijacked jetliners. (NEW YORK TIMES FILE PHOTO)

'Chance and a matter of hours'

On Sept. 11, 2001, I left Boston's Logan Airport on the 7:30 a.m. Delta shuttle to New York to attend a meeting a few blocks from the World Trade Center. The flight arrived at 8:35 a.m. and I took a bus to Grand Central.

When I boarded, the driver said there was a fire at the World Trade Center. I could see the tower burning on the way to the city. A short distance from the Midtown Tunnel the bus was stopped in traffic.

i watched as the tower collapsed. The huge cloud of dust and smoke rose into the sky. I realized that thousands of people were dying and injured before my eyes.

Sept. 11 has changed my life. I cried for a week after the 11th. I remember saying to two young New York City policemen that I was sorry about their guys. My eyes welled in tears and I turned away. One of the policemen patted my shoulder as he passed by.

My job in labor relations required frequent air travel, and on subsequent trips in October and November, airport security became a hassle. I retired in July 2002 and have spent time with my family.

What I witnessed and how I felt at the time is insignificant compared to the horrors experienced by those at the scene. I realized that by chance and a matter of hours I would have been in that horrendous scene.

— Al Frizelle, Eaton Center

A beautiful, cloudless, brilliant blue sky

I was at work in an office building near Times Square. The sky was a beautiful, cloudless brilliant blue. (I still sometimes call that color “9/11 blue”) I remember my boss yelling to us that her husband just called and saw a plane fly into the World Trade Center.

It took a few minutes for that to register. Then someone turned on the TV, and we watched the horror unfold. One of the most terrifying moments was when we watched the second plane fly into the second tower, and since the TV antennae was on top of the building, the screen went blank. Our source of information had been cut off, and we had no idea what was going on.

I lived in Brooklyn and going home was not a possibility, so I went to a friend’s house further uptown. The streets were filled with people walking as fast as they could, all in the same direction, no one speaking. We were all too afraid to stop for anything.

I spent an uneasy day with my friend, who was anxiously awaiting her husband’s return from near the site. He returned later in the day, covered in dust. The subways were opened up in the evening with free fares and I was finally able to return home. Once again, the trip was in silence. I got home and the sun was setting. The clear blue sky was filled with debris, twisting and sparkling in the sunlight as it fell to the already littered ground. I will never forget that image.

When I finally was safe in my apartment with the windows sealed shut against the dust, the reality sunk in. The hours filled with calls to family, reassuring that I was fine, but then hearing the voices of friends who had near misses. Friends who watched people jump, friends who sobbed that even though I currently claimed that I didn’t know anyone who perished, that by morning I probably would. (and I did)

The next day I went to stay at another friend’s house who lived on Long Island. I got up at the crack of dawn and walked the nearly empty streets to the railway station. I remember cars stopping to ask me if I was alright, which in New York City is unheard of. Everything was so quiet.

I was lucky compared to many of my friends. Friends who lived closer and were displaced for months, friends who were broken in spirt, friends who had family who were first responders and who never returned home. One of my friends worked on the top floor of one of the towers. She had an appointment that morning and she was the only one in her office who survived.

I also remember the memorial that was made — two beacon lights which lit up the sky in an attempt to replace the towers.

— Mary DiNucci, Fryeburg, Maine

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