The exhibition Ground Zero 360° allows the onlooker to experience the enduring events of September 11th and celebrate the tremendous courage and dignity of a nation under fire.
Where Were You
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 Amger 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.
two days earlier I had stood on top of the towers. i was back at home in Ireland having returned from my J1 working holiday. recuperating in front of the TV my Dad called to say that something was going on in NYC. my brother worked in the towers….but was on holiday in Croatia at the time. Like everyone, I watched in pure disbelief and horror. I don’t think anything has had the same deep impact on me as that footage and proceeding anecdotes had. It truly tested and questioned our resilience and belief in human nature. Any contribution of this magnitude in terms of a memorial is very welcomed and as they said on day one….’we will never forget’….
I had just returned home to Ireland a week after spending 2 weeks (and my 30th birthday in Las Vegas) in San Francisco…I had intended to go to New York as well while I was there but my plans didn’t work out. If my plan had worked out I would have been there when the planes hit the towers. I often wonder would what I have done if I had been there.Doesn’t really bare thinking about really. I was back in work a couple of days and when I went to turn off the TV I saw smoke billowing from the towers and was so shocked. I was glued to the television for the rest of the evening. I returned to the states and New York 2 years later and visited Ground Zero. I felt an overwhelming sadness as there was still visible signs of devastation but a hopefulness surrounding the place. I went back to New York about 3 years ago and again went back to Ground Zero. There was a total change but still had that sadness, I can’t believe it was 10 years ago!..Only seems like yesterday watching those terrible images on the television. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and everyone who perished in this atrocity….
How can I forget. Listening to it on the radio enroute to work. Im a Chicago Police Officer, I had just walked in the front door when I was told get your stuff your going downtown. By now the second tower was hit and my only thought was of my parents. I gave a quick call to my dad to let him know where I would be ” in case”, told him I loved him and would call when I could. Strange to see everyone hurrying away from downtown while we all headed in. I was deployed to the Hancock building and everything got kind of quiet, that is until the roar of two F-16’s flew by crisscross over us. I was scared then! Seeing they were the good guys made us feel better. Thank God nothing happened here that day. Despite everything going on today I can only say, I love my country, and my city. I love ecerything it stands for and would give my life if need be. God bless all the souls of that faithful day and God Bless America.
Was woken by screams on a fold out bed in my friend’s relatives front room where we were staying in Queen’s. The screams came from his Japanese wife who was woken by her relatives hours ahead in Tokyo watching t all unfold on Japanese evening news. At this stage only one plane had hit, the news reader was musing on how it might have been a cesna off course. As it was our last night in New York before heading back to Dublin I was looking a all this through very hungover eyes and trying to make sense of it when the second plane hit…followed by silence in our room and the news room as everybody tried to take in what they had just seen. Then chaos. I pulled on some shorts, ran outside into a perfect summer morning (which just added to the bizarreness) and down to the corner where I saw the buildings burning a mile away.
When the buildings fell and the rest of the dram in Pennsylvania and The Pentagon played out, I got my wits about me I tried to call home realising my folks would be worried as I was supposed to fly home that morning. However, all the phone lines were totally jammed and stayed that way for some time. We then went down to the local Internet cafe to email home and say we were ok only to find it full of 100 kids playing some online game totally oblivious to what was going on outside their door. Emails sent, we stepped back outside and…..stood numbly trying to figure what to do. I had the urge to go in to manhattan to see for myself but at that moment the police screeched up beside us with a load of school busses and pulled them across the road stopping traffic going in to the city. After that we slowly walked home which is when I saw my memorable sight. Outside a Starbucks on Northern Blvd, there was a guy sitting in beige shorts, grey t-shirt, shades, flip flops, sitting down outside sunning himself, jumbo Latte in hand, watching the footage on the news on a TV in the Starbucks window with the actual real life horror just over his right shoulder, smoke billowing thousands of feet into the air with what was thought possibly upwards of 8,000 people dead at the time….a mile down the road….sipping a latte. I don’t know if I could have framed it even if i had a camera but it was so poignant..so American.
That night I remember watching some film on TV trying to distract ourselves but not really paying attention as it lashed rain with violent thunder and lightening outside. A bizarre end to a bizarre day. We spent the next 8 days trying to get home as the airlines figured everything out. I was seeing a girl from New York then so I spent time in her neighborhood seeing the shock and sadness, the deep infectious Patriotism which i wouldnt have seen otherwise as an outsider. I remember standing at a vigil outside a garage forecourt and this guy screeching his suv to a stop, getting out caked in dirt and exhausted. He’d been on ‘the pile’ for 4 days straight and felt he needed to stop, talk, pray….he just broke down and started crying and everybody there gave him a hug. I remember being in Bayside in Queens and watching kids at the bridge with big ‘Honk if you love America’ signs, needless to say there was constant and deafening honking. I remember some 18 year old guys in a table next to us in a Diner talking about how they wanted to “get some ragheads” and feeling sad, annoyed, but not surprised. I remember the F16 jets screeching overhead keeping guard on George Bush’s visit to the rescue workers in Ground Zero and the crowds around me screaming back at the jets with every pass.
I remember when I finally got in to Manhattan on Sept 15th (I think) emerging around West 11th St where St Vincent’s Hospital is (was) and seeing the wall of photos looking for survivors. Then after scouring shops for some film for my camera I crossed Canal St where I saw the stalls selling t-shirts like ‘9-11 Twin Towers Attack – I cant believe I got out’ (another very american moment!) then I spent the following 3 hours working my way around the site block by block, seeing the empty fire houses, the exhausted rescue workers, the stream of heavy machinery in and out of Ground Zero, the smell, the National Guard like something straight out of a very familiar film, the body bags stacked in Battery Park, the office foyers with blown out glass, the dust everywhere, the little & large tributes and shrines….so many little memories.
I sometimes feel a bit odd admitting how much of an impact September 11th had on me. Not being American I feel a bit of a fraud, or even a bit childish being sucked in by Americana and TV but the fact is I was always drawn to to New York from a very young age. I wanted to go even more as I grew up, got in to music and realised how much of its history lived in New York and when I finally got there I loved it in every way I hoped I would. The Twin Towers were genuine icons to me and the many Americans I had met were some of the most positive can-do people that I’d ever come across that I felt a real sense of loss and sadness, albeit 0.01% of what a born & bred New Yorker must have felt.
I was working in Midtown Manhattan that morning on the HSBC Government Bond Trading floor at 452 5th Ave to be exact, where I had moved to a few months before from where I worked at 22 Cortlandt St., on the 21st Floor of the Century 21 Building across the street from the WTC which I could see from my desk.. On the morning of 9/11 I was sitting at my desk and I don’t know if you know how a trading floor is set up but there are rows and rows of desks with computer screens and TVs hanging form the ceilings all tuned to CNBC. Anyway a salesman sitting 2 away from me named Rich was on the phone to a trader in Cantor Fitzgearld on the 105th Floor of the WTC, Rich stood up and shouted across the Trading Floor to the other Traders “A plane has just hit the WTC”, I remember one of the traders said, “what idiot hit the WTC, it’s probably a helicopter” About a minute or so later another trader stood up and shouted “What the hell is going on? the market is going crazy” And a few secs later the live shot of the WTC with the smoke coming out of a big chunk of the side of it was on every screen on the trading floor. Everyone stood up from their desks and were staring at the TV, I called a workmate of mine in my previous workplace above the Century 21 building and asked him “what is going on down there” ” I don’t know” he replied, “All I saw was a ball of fire out the corner of my eye and then smoke, I don’t know what is happening but I have to go Breda because my daughter is calling on the other line” He later told me that they were evacuted and had to use the stairs and all he could think of as he was running down the stairs was that the towers were going to topple over and fall on top of the building that he was in. I also tried to speak to a girl from Kerry that I used to work with in that same office Ann but I can’t remember now if she took my call and said straight away that she had to go or if she even picked up my call, but when I spoke to her the next day she said, “Breda you can not even imagine what it was like, we were running up the street with a ball of smoke after us” I don’t know how long we were all looking at the TV it seemed like moments but as the presenter on CNBC, I can’t recall his name right now but he is still on CNBC, was reporting on the live shot, another plane came in from the opposite side of the building and hit the other tower. We all stood there jaws dropped not able to speak, and neither was the presenter, there was silence on the TV also as he had no idea what had just happened, I was running through in my head “that cant be a replay of the original plane hitting it as the smoke was coming out of the building when we saw that plane going in from that side and crashing” I turned to the guy next to me after about 30 secs and said ” Was tha Live or a replay?” he wasnt able to answer me as he was in shock. Finally, the presenter on CNBC spoke and said, “It seems (long pause) that another plane has just hit the WTC” or something to that effect. Our heads were reeling, it is hard to describe what happened next, we all just stood there unable to speak or comprehend what happened. I remember a few gathering up their bags and leaving, they obviously had more or a clue what was going on than I did, they headed for Grand Central and home upstate as they felt that the city was under attack and that the trains wouldn’t be running for much longer. I sat at my desk and called my husband who was woking somewhere in the city but I wasn’t sure where,it turns out he was in Long Island that day. I called my sister Theresa as I wasnt sure if she was in the city at work or at home in Yonkers, luckily she wasn’t in the city. I didn’t call my other sister Mairead as I knew she wouldn’t have been in the city. I didn’t even think about ringing back home to Ireland to let them know that we were all OK (to be honest I didn’t even think that they would have heard about it) until my Limerick friend Sinead from the Corporate Bond Trading on the other side of the floor came over and said to me, “call Ireland to let them know that you are OK”. By that time, I couldn’t get a line out all lines must have been busy which never happens, so I used my cell to call my babysitter in Yonkers and told her to call my mother and tell them that we were all OK. The majority of the traders and salespeople left but a handful of us stayed on, there were trades to confirm and settle, which proved to be very difficult as there was nobody answering our calls. At one stage we were all moved from where we sat near the windows over by the doors, which we thought at the time was silly, because if another plane hit our building it would hit us whether we were near the windows or not, but we found out a week or so later that the reason that they moved us away from the windows was because there was a van parked down below on the street at that side of the building and of course our management along with the entire city were on a heightened state of alert and thought that there could have been explosives in the van but didn’t tell us as they didn’t want us to panic. We stayed on at the office until about 3pm that day and then Sinead, my friend from Limerick,(I’m from Cork by the way) went to Grand Central expecting to wait for hours for a train if the trains were even running, but to our amazement we got our ususl Metro North train straight away up to Yonkers. That night I sat and watched the TV all night with my sister Mairead who came over to my house just to be with someone as her finance (now husband) Jimmy was a NY Police Detective in Washington Heights and had gone down to Ground Zero to help with the recovery.We watched the reports late into the night on every channel and went to bed realising that the USA had changed but not realising that the entire world was also about to change.
We didnt have work for the next 2 days but had to wait until each morning to find out if the Bond Market was reopening or not as decisions were being made day to day, I think it was Thursday when we went back. We found out that 2 of the traders had lost brothers who worked in Cantor Fitzgearld and we found out about a few other deaths of people that we would have crossed paths with in the job.The Trading business was a very different place after that day, the crazy partying on Thursady nights and the boxes of pizzas that were ordered for the entire floor on Friday morning at 10.30am all stopped. There were no more free lunches for everyone, people just seemed to stop enjoying themselves as much, and I’m not complaining about something as trivial as that, as I, amother of 2 never partook in any of the partying, I am just trying to give you a little window into some of the changes that I saw after 9/11.
5 years later we moved back to Ireland for good, I had had my 4th child on August 9th and my husband and other 3 kids had gone home in the middle of August to be in time to start their new school here, but I had to wait until I had a passport for the baby, so it was the middle of September before I was able to go, so I purposely booked my flight for Sept. 11th as I knew that the airport and flight would be extremely quiet that day, and that was a positive for me as I was travelling with a 5 wk old baby and even though I am a little superstitious I knew that if terrorist were going to attack again that the anniversary date would most unlikely day that they could try as security would be higher than on any other day.
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 immediatly 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 edure such horror again.
RIP all the victims of 9/11 2001 and god bless all their families xxxx.
Orla Rep. Of Ireland.
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.
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