I remember every detail as if it were yesterday. At 8:30 that morning, I was in the office of one of my customers in Hauppauge. On one of the desks, there was a small TV with the news playing. Then, someone said, “You have to see this.”
I walked over to where the TV was and started to watch. I saw the first plane hit the North Tower. I watched for a few minutes while the newscaster speculated on whether it had been a small private plane. I kept watching, almost unable to turn away, and a few minutes later the South Tower was hit by another plane. At that point, it was clear this was no accident. This was deliberate.
I got in my car and started to drive home, listening intently to the news on the car radio. I knew instinctively that I would make no sales that day and that it didn’t matter. Something far more important was going on, I just didn’t appreciate what it all meant.
Actually, I was supposed to be in lower Manhattan that morning. A customer had called me the day before, on Monday, and asked me to stop by to talk about an upcoming construction project. At the time, I didn’t have many customers in Manhattan, so I rarely went there. Since I didn’t have many appointments on Monday afternoon, I had a choice. I could go there on Monday or first thing Tuesday morning.
For some reason, I remembered my mom’s admonition to “never put off till tomorrow, what you can do today.” That decided it. I went to see the customer Monday afternoon.
If I had waited until Tuesday morning, I would have been two blocks away when the planes hit the towers. I would have been one of the hundreds of people fleeing that awful gray cloud of pulverized concrete and ash that swept through lower Manhattan like a desert sand storm, burying everything in its wake.
I was very lucky. Over the next several days, I watched the numerous replays of the two crashes on TV and saw the pictures of people jumping from the towers to escape the flames. The magnitude of the tragedy continued to build as we learned how many firefighters and police officers had died while trying to save people trapped on the upper floors.
For days and weeks and months afterwards, we watched as the site was combed for any sign of survivors. As we all know now, there were none. As we all know now, ground zero was a toxic place that would kill many of the people working there with cancers and other diseases.
The world, our world, changed dramatically on 9/11. What was lost as much as the thousands of lives, was our sense of security and our innocence. It’s been 15 years since September 11, 2001. Someday, history will judge what we learned from this tragedy. The possibility
of new tragedies is never far from the minds of all who witnessed what happened that day.