9/11: The terror I witnessed

I wrote this at midnight last night and wrote it down forgetting to post it. I hope it moves you as it did me just remembering, not the lives we lost but the lives that were impacted by them being on this earth for a short time…


To write about 9/11 should be written by someone who was there, and I was. 

September 11, 2001 started out as probably the most beautiful day in NY for the second week of September that I can remember. There were no clouds in the sky, no usual humidity, and I honestly had no complaints walking to the train that day.

I lived in Allendale, NJ and was a the usual commuter to Manhattan. I worked at EXPO Design Center as a whole house designer. I had to be in at 8 am.

I said goodbye to my twins who were 7 years old and we’re just starting 2nd grade. I quickly made sure my kids in HS were all set with their lunches. As usual my oldest son, who never did a lick of homework, had a full backpack of books. I was always afraid to open his backpack, today was no exception, “Sean what are you eating today?” In his usual eye rolling act, he said, “I’ll grub” and with that he left. My other 2 girls managed to eat ‘something’, but I didn’t make it? I just sighed, kissed my husband and twins goodbye and walked briskly to the train.

It was a typical train ride, listening to my CD’s, and reading. I had my routine. Others read their newspapers, and I couldn’t care less about them. I could never figure out how to open them without getting ink on my fingers, nor folding it the right way? So a book was always easier. 

After getting off the train in Hoboken, NJ, I took my train to 33rd street. What I never realized at that moment were the thousands of commuters getting on the train to the World Trade Center, and what commuters actually came home that night.

I took the subway to 14th street, opened the gates to the store and was there promptly at 8 am. I was the most consensus employee and started working immediately. It was no different than any other day.

The store didn’t open until 9 am, I was thankful for the peace and quiet. I promised the manager I would come in every day first so that no one had to worry about opening since I had to leave exactly at 5 pm in order to make my train home.

We were located on 14th Street and Park Ave. 14th Street was always noted for its outdoor markets. Vendors from nearly every state that had farm fresh food. I loved this area.

September 11th was going to be a good day. I finished my designs for the bathroom and kitchen I was working on, and was looking at a huge commission. I had all my appointments scheduled for the final checks and my commission check in the next 2 weeks. 

For some reason I happened to look at my watch and noticed it was 8:50 am, I remember saying, “Oh crap I have to open in ten minutes!” At the same time as I was looking at my watch, I noticed people were frantically running towards the lower east side. 14th Street was about a 30 minute walk or more to the World Trade Center. I was a little more than just wondering what was going on. The typical New Yorker in me wants to look but at the same time ignore as well.

I unlocked the door and everyone was screaming pointing to the World Trade Center, “They’re trying to kill us, we’re going to die!” I was dumbfounded. What was going on? I didn’t have a radio and at that time, no smart phone. I looked outside and all I saw was smoke coming in the east direction, not a lot, so I just thought someone was over reacting.

I grabbed someone and said, “What’s going on?” With tears in their eyes they said, “An airplane has hit One World Trade!” Holy shit was all I remember thinking. I didn’t know at the time it was a terrorist act. I thought a plane hit the trade center by accident.

My manager rushed in, late as usual, and said, “Donna we have to get a radio in here, both World Trade One and Two have been hit and they’re sure it’s a terroristic attack!” At that time it was 9:05 am. I was beyond scared. My kids know I’m in the city, my co worker husband works there, and my twins best friends dad works there. I started shaking violently. David told me to sit and calm down, and wait to see what happens.

One by one everyone came in to work looking horrified, pale and were crying. Then in a split second they were hysterical. I knew I had to pray. I got into a corner and just like I would at church, started praying out loud. Then a small miracle happened, one by one grabbed my hand, lifted their hand to heaven and I prayed, “God, I ask you right now, that you give safety to the ones in the towers, I ask for peace with the families, and may your presence be with them.” The tears were rolling down my face, but I had peace in my heart.

I can’t tell you in detail what happened from there. I did hear my daughter had a friend whose brother was on the plane that was hijacked. He was one of many who knew they were going to die, so they overtook the hijackers and the plane crashed in Pennsylvania. They put their lives on the line to make sure the plane didn’t hit the next target.

I remember hearing another plane hit the pentagon. It was one, “Oh my God,” after another. Yet the one thing I do remember that will never leave my memory, was seeing those 2 beautiful larger than life buildings, crumbling to the ground, like a deck of cards. That will never leave my memory.

The rest was a blur. I heard my friends husband died in the tower. He had called her saying he was trying to get out and that he loved her, then the call was lost. I also heard my twins friends father also called his wife with the same results.

The day wasn’t over but I had to call my family with a lot of tears on the other end. I told them we closed the store none of us were staying, but I didn’t know when I would be home. All the trains to NJ were not running due to that day.

We were told we had to take a ferry to NJ and from there we were on our own. I managed to call my husband and somehow I was able to get the Ferry to Hoboken, NJ.

Mike was there to pick me up. When I saw him all I did was cry and looked at the now fallen towers with smoke everywhere in sight. We didn’t get home until midnight. I didn’t see anything on TV until the next day and many weeks after that which were replayed over and over.

The horror I saw was enough to remember a lifetime, but the one thing I just can’t forget to this day, was a single Asian man standing outside his window on the 50th floor, not wanting to die in flames so he jumped. That image, the towers falling, and knowing the ones lost, will be in my memory for the rest of my life. 

As I write, it’s September 11, 2015. The tears still flow each year. I still listen to the names each year. I still bow my head when I the bells toll at 8:46 and 9:02. and again when the towers fell. What I don’t do is watch the news from the many years ago and what happened that day. When someone goes through experiences like this, it’s hard to watch the despair, the trauma, and the lives needlessly lost in all the attacks. 

What I lovingly remember was hugging and kissing my kids with so much love. I wasn’t even close to loosing my life, but when you witness such horrible attacks, your family is your life.

The saddest thing in the weeks to come were noticing how the trains were empty and the people that sat in those seats would never again see their families.

God Bless America..and may this never happen to us again…



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