I was working a block from Grand Central in Midtown for a finance firm on September 11, 2001. We had two employees downtown on the New York Stock Exchange. Our staff all had family and friends working downtown as well. When the planes hit, my first order of business as an HR employee was to make sure that everyone either downtown or not present at the office was accounted for and safe. It was tall order of business with the phone lines jammed.
As the aftermath of the attacks that just occurred unfolded, I remember James, an employee, who wanted to go downtown to find his brother. I had to look him in the eye to tell him that him going would add to the fears of his mother who already knew that one of her sons was in danger. I also remember our receptionist Sandy bursting into tears of relief when her son was able to finally reach her letting us know he was ok.
Two hours after the planes hit, the building’s security manager announced over the intercom to evacuate due to bomb threats called into Grand Central Station just a block away. Upon evacuating, I was relieved to find my sister waiting for me at the bottom of the fire escape stairwell. My sister and I were unable to get home since the trains were not running. We walked to my boss’s apartment and watched the news on television in disbelief.
In the evening, I was able to get a subway ride home to Brooklyn. As the train came out from underground to cross the Manhattan Bridge over the East River, the few of us passengers on board all stood and went to the windows to look at the now permanently changed skyline still fuming with smoke.
Two days later I returned to work in a city that had completely changed. Military soldiers with machine guns lined the street in Times Square as I walked to my office. We were evacuated again that day due to more bomb threats at Grand Central. Subways were shut down again. In 2000 I worked in the South Tower as a temp and I was supposed to fly out of Newark airport, where Flight 93 departed from, on September 12th and I can’t help thinking how lucky I was and still am.