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I went to bed in my Hell’s Kitchen apartment about 6am and didn’t wake up until the phone rang at 11:30am. My wife at the time answered and, from the conversation, I could immediately tell that something terrible had happened, the extent of which I couldn’t fathom until I turned on the TV and witnessed the nightmare that had happened just three miles to the south of me. The World Trade Center had been attacked and was now gone.

The feeling of disbelief still haunts me to this day. How could something as permanent as the Twin Towers collapse? It shook me to my very core. The area of Lower Manhattan was closed for four days as was the New York Stock Exchange. Goldman’s offices were also closed. When subway service resumed on Saturday, I made my way downtown to see the destruction for myself. Upon exiting the subway the first thing that struck me was the smell. The cloying smell of burning rubble and steel but mixed with the very pungent smell of nearly 3,000 decaying bodies. A smell I will never forget.

Work resumed on Monday but nothing was ever the same again. The smell of death eventually faded but the fire burned under the rubble for 3 months and was a daily reminder of the horror that happened there. A metallic taste mixed with powered gypsum from the imploded drywall was on everyone’s tongue.

Two weeks later, while coming home on the subway at midnight from my shift, we stopped at Chambers Street Station and I felt a cold chill come over me. I looked up as saw a National Guardsman step onto the train with a very large automatic rifle and strapped with ammunition. He stood in the doorway, looked left and right, and stepped back onto the platform. The doors closed and we continued on. The new normal had begun.

I’m very proud of our country and of NYC for the resilience we showed in the aftermath of these debilitating attacks on our freedom. When I see the new World Trade Center 1 filling the skyline I become emotional. The “Freedom Tower” stands not only for the greatness of America, but it is also a headstone for the lives lost there on that fateful day.

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