Thank you, it is an honor to be here today, to pay tribute to all of those who were impacted on 911.
I don’t stand here before you as an eyewitness, nor was I at Ground Zero or involved in the rescue on 9/11. I am here to provide you stories of that day, of family members, the lucky ones. I stand here first as a proud American and secondly a New Yorker and to urge everyone here and everywhere, to never forget what happened on September 11, 2001.
This was not just an attack on NYC with the World Trade Centers, Washington DC and the Pentagon or those brave souls on Flight 93. It was about an attack on our country our Nation and our beliefs. I can’t speak nor would I ever try to reflect what the first responders, the survivors, or to what the families experienced that day and every day thereafter, but as an outsider looking in, an individual, an American.
September 11, 2001, I remember that day, as clear as today. The sky was completely blue, not a cloud to be found, ~low 70’s a beautiful, picture perfect day. I dropped my children off at daycare, I went to my office and prepared to what would be a typical day, grabbed a cup of coffee, walked around saying hello and settled myself in to start my day. I recall hearing a lot of activity (chatter) just not normal. I went outside my office, asking what’s going on and those words “a plane has crashed into the world trade center”. We assembled into a conference room, turned on the news and sat, speechless, and there it was the North Tower, with smoke billowing out, the live pictures of the unfolding scene were horrific, then at 9:03 the second plane crashed into Tower 2, the screaming within the room was piercing. The minutes after were motionless, and the horror continued for hours after, with the collapsing of the towers, the plane crashing into the Pentagon, and then followed by the plane crashing in Shanksville, PA.
Two of my family members in NYC were witness to the horrific event and my husband provided support.
At that time, my husband, Frank, worked at Westchester Country Department of Emergency Services and the Fire Training Center. That morning, he was instructed by the Commissioner, to secure the lot and evacuated the training center, he asked why and all he was told was that a plane hit the WTC. The following days and weeks my husband lived at the Fire Training Center and continued to prepare the site with food, clothing and the setting up of cots, hundreds of cots. The site became a hub, a hub for Mutual aide. Rescue trucks were lined up and down the streets and continued arriving for weeks. These rescue squads were coming from all over the country, nationwide, cities and towns that he never heard of were on site, all waiting for their call to head to NY and give support to our city. Frank remained at the fire training center for over 2 weeks, only to come home a couple of times to rest give us kisses and to hurry back down. He recalls, people from all over were coming to the Fire Training Center; dropping off food, he distinctly remembers a woman coming to the center and pulling out of her car trays and trays of cookies to show her appreciated and support.
A thank you wall was created, for all the cards being mailed and dropped off and cars would drive by beeping their horns as a way of saying “Thank you”. To all of these rescue workers.
Then there was my father-in-law who was working in the city, the garment district. As the tragedy continued, transportation in the city was ceased, cell service was down, and he found himself stranded and walked from the west side to the east side. For the love of God and luck he found a cab on a corner heading home to the Bronx, the cabbie agreed to take him out of the city and picking up others as they drove north. He recalls driving and looking back over to the Manhattan bridge and seeing hundreds of people walking, escaping the unbelievable.
Mine and Michelle’s, Uncle Raymond, tells us of his story. As a craftsmen he was completing a carpentry project at a law firm at Battery Park. He tells me it was his best work ever. Battery Park is at the tip of Manhattan, the location of the WTC. After evacuating the building, my uncle walked uptown about 5 blocks, but needed to turn around, as there was debris everywhere preventing him from moving
further north. Within moments he recalls the tower beginning to collapse, he tells me the story with such great emotions of how he was next to a woman with a child in a carriage, he pulled her and the child and they seeked cover under a concrete bench. The gigantic ball of bellowing ash and smoke passed by and over them, after they emerged from under the bench, they stood in shock, disbelief but confusion on where to go what to do and what the hell was happening. They parted ways and my uncle tells me he has no idea of her name or which direction she went. My uncle again tried to walk uptown, to the east, back west and ended up at the marine, where he saw the boats. The boats were loading people on and racing them uptown to Chelsea Piers and back down again to rescue the stranded. My uncle got on the “Beast” the Beast is one of the cigarette boats, a speed boat with painted fangs, that is used for tourist to admire the NY skyline along the Hudson river. My uncle boarded the boat and headed up the river, he recalls looking back and no longer seeing the massive skyscrapers, it was un-comprehendible. After being dropped off at the pier, It took him a couple of hours to walk to Grand Central, he admits he stopped in a pub for a beer just to get his mental bearing. The train ride home was solace and motionless. My uncle uses the word surreal, as he said it 2-3 times when describing the day and just shaking his head. It was just surreal!!!!
As days moved on, my place of business remained closed, looking for a way to support, I merely signed up for blood donations, all thinking blood would become sneeded, only to find out that the blood was not needed because of all the lives lost. I found myself glued to the TV still in shock that this could happen to our beautiful country and our people. I kept our girls’ home to give that feeling of comfort. Sunday Mass was an assembly of standing room only; we all came together seeking solace, support, and prayer. I assume this was the scene across America.
A few weeks later, I went to a meeting in our NYC office, when I got off the train and walked through Grand Central, passing soldiers with machine guns standing guard and protecting our city and our major transportation hub and a hub where on an average day over 700,000 people, pass through each day. While taking in this new strange activity, I was stopped in my tracks by the meg shift walls of
hope. Posters and pictures, hundreds, thousands of photographs of loved one missing. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers’ sons, daughters.
All Missing. I just stood in awe and shocked, the overwhelming emotions that went through me was something indescribable.
What I also remember was, everywhere became a lock down and security was intense no matter where we went. Bridges backed up with traffic with the new in-depth truck inspections, our reservoir, and dams, that supplies water to NYC, which were once convenient roads, were barricaded and again the military stood guard to protect the water supply. Still too this day there are dams/roadways are closed from crossing over.
After that tragic day, America became stronger, we came together as one Nation, it did not matter of our backgrounds, religion, political status, color, nationality, or race. People were kinder to each other, people wanted to help in any way possible. Unity was our greatest strength. But we knew our country would never be the same again.
Now 20 years later, the anniversary of the most horrific tragedy in our country, we stand together and give a moment of silence to the 2977 souls lost. However, the death toll continues with hundreds of individuals dying since 2001 from the toxic asbestos in the buildings. The (3) hours on 9/11, that changed our country forever, we need to educate our children and younger generations and having events like this one today is what needs to continue. I also encourage you to visit our beautiful city and take the time to visit the 911 Memorial and Museum it tells the story through media, narratives, and collections of actual and personal artifacts.
This moment in history needs to be taught and shared with the young now and future generations. The story of the day when America was attacked and when 2977 souls were killed and over 6000 injured by only (19) terrorist.
Today and every day is a Proud day to be an American, never forget September 11, 2001.