I was at work in HSBC on 40th & 5th in Manhattan. I can’t remember how I was feeling before the events but I do know that it was a beautiful September morning and I remember thinking to myself as I walked from Grand Central to the office that this would be a great day to be off work.
I worked on the Trading Desk on the trading floor which is a massive room with a couple of hundred people all busying away on the phones, at their computers or chatting to one another…there is a constant buzz of noise all day long. At some stage in the morning one of the guys from the FX desk stood up & shouted ‘a plane just hit the World Trade Center’ – nobody really took too much notice, people assumed it was a small aircraft that had unfortunately gone off course. Trading floors are full of guys who’ve been around a long time & it takes a lot to rattle them so even news of a plane hitting the Twin Towers wouldn’t shake them if they were in the middle of a deal – they’ve seen it all before & have a ‘been there, done that attitude’ – in the nicest possible way.
There are several TVs hanging from the ceiling all across the floor and suddenly the news came across that the towers were hit and now there was a visual – we could see the smoke coming from one of the towers and it began to dawn on people that this might not be an accident. I sat back to back with a trader named Richie whom I used to jokingly call Dickie Rock as he was in a band so I said ‘What are we going to do Dickie’, he looked back at me & said ‘I don’t know Janey, I just don’t know’.
Gradually the tough exterior of the trading floor started to melt away & people kind of went into panic mode….one of the female traders (who had a reputation of being hard as nails) just kind of lost it, her nephew was working in the towers & her sister worked near by. She tried to call them but couldn’t get through so she just left. Others grabbed their coats & bags & left too.
By now the second tower had been hit & there was just a sense of sheer panic around. I’m from Limerick & have a very worried Irish mother so I rang her straight away to say I was ok. My niece Jordan was watching a Barney video so Mam hadn’t seen the news yet so she kind of didn’t know or understand what I was saying when I said I was ok, that a plane had hit the towers but we were grand, not to worry. I got slightly impatient with her because she seemed unusually calm but afterwards I knew that you had to see it to believe it – after all none of us believed there was any danger until it came on CNN.
At this stage I didn’t know what to do. My friend Breda from Cork was also working in HSBC on the trading floor so I went over to her & asked what we should do. She said we’d just wait & see, not knowing either but we decided that whatever happened we’d stick together. The funny thing was, as NY was under attack, the towers were crumbling, people were dying a few blocks away from us we carried on working. We just didn’t know what to do or what was going on but we did know that there were deadlines to be met, trades to be entered & confirmed and we just carried on with our daily job,knowing that in the grand scheme of things nobody really cared about what happend to the trades but I feel that we just wanted continuity or stability or sameness or something – all the while growing increasingly more scared & unsure of what could happen to us & fellow New Yorkers (which we all were because we worked in & loved the city that never sleeps)
By now our bosses had told us that we could leave if we wanted to. Breda & I figured Grand Central would be a zoo with people scrambling to get out of the city so we decided to wait a while. The office became the complete opposite to the usual hive of activity. There was silence for a lot of the time with the remaining people just kind of shell shocked looking, watching tv, saying they hoped all the people they knew were ok. Almost everyone knew someone, the financial industry is really small & people come across the same people time and again. Then our boss told us to move away from the window, there was a van downstairs that the cops were treating as suspicious – they were already on high alert & everything was a potential threat. I kind of began to get really freaked at that stage & wanted to go home. I think it was around 4pm when Breda & I finally left the building & we couldn’t believe it when we actually caught a train straight away. It was packed & we had to stand but we were happy to be on the way out of the city.
I lived on my own so I went home & switched on the tv & just sat there glued to it. My mother rang me again & this time she was in a total frenzy, she just wanted me to come home. She said all of my relatives had been in touch & everyone was thinking of me, which was lovely to hear. I didn’t really want to be on my own so when my friend Noeleen rang to say herself & her husband Brian were going for a drink I gladly met them in our local. Once again there was a sea of shocked looking people in the bar, the majority of whom were from Ireland & who had adopted the wonderful New York as their home. People were just saying ‘I can’t believe it’. This was something I heard & probably said myself over & over. The tv was on & there was full coverage of everything that was happening in Manhattan.
George Bush came on the news to address the nation & there was silence in the bar. I think people were just waiting for someone to tell us that it was all going to be ok. After an hour or so I went home, this time just wanting to be on my own to try to process the events of the day. I sat watching tv and eventually cried myself to sleep on the couch as I watched the images for the first time that we have now all seen a thousand times.
I didn’t go to work the next day but on Thursday & Friday I went to the Disaster Recovery Site in New Jersey to ensure the systems were up & running for my desk should there be a need to close our Manhattan offices – nobody knew what was ahead & people were planning for worse case scenarios. It was eerie out there as the office is directly across from the WTC site so I could see the smoke billowing up into the air and the reality of it all, the NY skyline altered forever, the city a changed place, the people forever different was beginning to sink in.
Everything changed from that day on. The people I worked with were all effected in one way or another.
3 of them lost a brother each, most of them lost a friend or two and it was so sad to hear the personal stories of each of the people who perished, brothers, fathers, uncles, sisters, cousins, friends – they were not just part of a number,one of the 2,300 who had died, they were all someone who had a life & lots to give & it was all taken away from them by evil men who attacked their country, their city, their workplace, their families.
I attended 2 memorial services & for weeks afterwards people were coming into work in their funeral garb to attend a service & sometimes 2 a day. Our Thursday nights out stopped for a long time afterwards & I remember the first Thursday we all went out we were still numb but someone said something funny & we
laughed & then people felt guilty for laughing but gradually we relaxed & started having some fun & enjoying ourselves again – never for one second forgetting what had happened.
You never forget how you felt or the looks on peoples faces that day & the many days, weeks & months to follow.
This tragedy took its toll on everyone but New Yorkers (true or adopted) all came together & gradually built the city back to being the best city in the world.
I’ve since moved back to Limerick but will always cherish my time in New York.
“I was living & working in London at the time and was out on a construction job. The day itself was quite a strange eerie one and I kept feeling that something was not quite right. At about noon I spoke with my staff and gave them all the rest of the day off because I felt that I needed to get home and this was before anything had happened. When I got into my house I switched on my TV and tuned into Sky news and within minutes the first plane hit the Towers. Initially I felt Anger that soon turned to sorrow but within hours this turned to massive pride when we started to receive back the stories of great sarcrafices that the Emergency services and the public were making. It fills me with great pride to this day that a big part of this was carried out by bands of Irish Police & Firemen that have for Centuries served the USA with great Honour, Heroism and pride.”
“I was just getting into bed with my 18mth old daughter for a nap when my older brother rang me to see if I was watching the news, I told him I was getting into bed and he insisted I go turn on the news, I ran immediately down stairs and met my mother grey with shock watching the news. what I watched that day will live with me for the rest of my life. my father is a retired Dublin firefighter and watching the FDNY firefighters risking all for others safety hit home the risk of their jobs. i have nothing but respect for all the people who died that day trying to help out innocent victims of such a horrible hateful crime and i hope that neither myself nor my children never have to endure such horror again.”
RIP all the victims of 9/11 2001 and god bless all their families xxxx.
Orla Rep. Of Ireland.