The WTC Tragedy 1st Hand.
Andy's Blog Entries

On September 11th, 2001 I went to work as usual at the Woolworth Building, two blocks from the World Trade Center. It was a beautiful day, warm with a clear blue sky. I got to work around 8:30 a.m., sat down at my desk and turned on my computer. Then I heard a loud bang.

tuesday, september 11

oh my god! I'm NOT kidding!!!!
A plane just ran into the World Trade Center!!!
I was just turning on my computer at work in the Woolworth building when we heard this enormous explosion. No-one could tell what it was. Someone looked out the window and saw a gaping hole in the side of the WTC with black smoke billowing out. There may have been jumpers trying to get out of the fires. There's flames, smoke, the air is filled with debris: office stuff, papers, wall stuff .... We thought it was a bomb. But the TV says it was a plane. Maybe a 737.
Oh, My God !!! THERE's PEOPLE!!! people jumping out to escape the flames and falling hundred and hundreds of feet!!!!!! This is unbearable!!! shocking. terrifying....
posted by Andy H. 9/11/2001 09:02:17 AM

I am at paul's house now. I walked all the way back from downtwon. I don't know how I can type this. it was absolutely indescribable. I was watching, we were watching the first WTC building, watching the people fall and the flames burn when I saw a plane, a passenger size plane, come out of the sky, arc around and crash DIRECTLY into the other tower!! It left a huge hole and smoke and flames. People in the office were shouting and crying. Someone yelled GET OUT and we all walked the stairs down to the ground. The streeets were crazy. People wandering around, dazed, crying, freaked out.
We gathered on Park Row on teh East side of City Hall towatch the towers. Peoplle were in shock. After a while of speculating and staring, we saw oone of the towers collapse heard the boom and a HUGE HUGE HUGE ball of smoke billowed out. People started running away. People were almost trampled as the the police tried to wrangle people out ofthe area. I walked and walked and everybody just kept walking. the streets are filled with dazd people. Its insane. Horrible. Unthinkable. Then as I was walking, finally I stopped and turned around on Mercer near the Angelika and we saw the other Tower go.
I don't know what to say. I really dont. this is beyond description. beyond words.

posted by Andy H. 9/11/2001 10:48:50 AM

First off -
I'm at Paul's computer so I can't really check my e-mail.
I'll answer e-mails when I get home.

Secondly -
Check on these blogs for additional perspectives and links:

So, its later this afternoon. We've been watching the coverage all morning and afternoon. Phone calling friends. Touching base. Trying to make sure everyone's okay, letting everyone know that I'm okay. Its been an exhausting, emotional day.
I think I'm still in shock.
I can't get the pictures out of my mind: watching people leap to their deaths, choosing between being immolated alive or crushed by falling. I saw one woman, and I know it's impossible, but I could have sworn I heard her scream. Its something you can't imagine. I never thought I could imagine.
Everytime I see that footage of that plane hitting the second tower, I twitch.
The thing is that as we looked out the windows of the office, trying to comprehend how a plane could possibly run into the World Trade Center, we just thought it was a horrible, horrible accident. But watching that other plane come in defied belief. And then it just crashed right in. Fire. Smoke. Horror.
There really aren't words.
I can't find the words.
Not now.
Maybe later.
But not now.

posted by Andy H. 9/11/2001 03:42:31 PM

wednesday, september 12

Alisa Solomon in the Village Voice on yesterday. Well written.
The city was eerily beautiful last night: silent, sombre, introspective.
I'll try and write a full account of yesterday and post it here.
Another image that sticks with me - after the "ka-floom" of the explosion and the ball of fire, the smoke billowed out with literally tons of pieces of paper: office papers, stationery, memos, the mundane documents that people use every day, that they were holding in their hands when the planes hit. And the sky was filled with paper like confetti, like a tickertape parade, like snow - the sunlight shimmering off of millions of pieces of white paper in a clear blue sky.
then we left the building.
posted by Andy H. 9/12/2001 09:40:10 AM

First and foremost I want to thank everyone for their kind and concerned phone calls and e-mails.
It's wonderful to hear from so many of you. Thanks and thanks again.

Secondly: I don't know why, but on the "L" Train back to brooklyn, I had a small panic attack. It makes no sense. But I was afraid of being trapped. That's never happened before. I need to get back into the city, back with people I know. I'm just catching up on e-mails and phone calls to make sure everyone's okay. Paul says that he hears that St. Vincent's is taking volunteers. We're going to go look into it. I'll post here as things develop, when possible.

Thirdly: A note on NYC
I hope that when this is all over New Yorkers can remember the way that they came together and united in the face of tragedy. The people I have met on the street, in the stores, everywhere, have risen to a level of compassion and decency that no-one would expect from a New Yorker. People have been demonstrating their better sides, putting their personal concerns on the backburner in order to reach out to those in need. And its possibly the only glimmer of hope in this horrible situation.
And I would never have thought I would say this sort of thing, but God bless all the rescue workers, firefighters, policemen and everyone else. Prayers and thoughts to the victims and survivors.

I'll be trying to write up a well-written account of yesterday and posting it when I can.

posted by Andy H. 9/12/2001 01:46:11 PM


So, Paul went to St. Vincent's ahead of me. I talked to him and he said that they were turning people away b/c they had too many volunteers. They said come back Friday.
We heard a rumor that Javits Center was accepting volunteers, so we walked up there. They said that they had too many civilians and unless you had "search and rescue" certification, medical it would be better to come back later. I'm going to try to go first thing Thursday morning.

I'm home now. And alone for basically the first time since the whole thing started. I was home alone a little this afternoon, as you can see from my previous posts, but I was so busy catching up on phone calls and e-mails and getting ready to go back out that I didn't have time to sit and just BE with myself.

I didn't blog this before because I didn't know how it would sound, but there was one thing that happened that really frightened me. I was standing on Park Row, watching the wall of soot, dust and debris approach. Everyone turned to run away, like in a disaster movie. I tried to walk, not run, but it was hard to keep it together as the crowd surged. This woman next to me fell down and people started to run over her. I reached to help her up, I lifted her as another man, I think someone who knew her, turned around and grabbed her on the other side, and between us we lifted her up until she was standing and he put his arm around her - they started running and got swallowed up in the crowd.

I've got to admit that as I wandered uptown I was dazed - I just wandered in between cars, in the middle of the street, staring into car windows as they stared back at us - the witnesses- stream by them. I wondered if they could see in my eyes what I had been seeing.

I don't like to sound melodramatic. I don't want to sound like I'm weak or trying to .... I don't know. I don't know .... All day I've been surrounded by people and I feel like I'm behind a six-inch thick wall of plexiglass. I listen. I nod. I shake my head. But I'm not really there. I feel like I should be over this already, but I feel like its just starting. It doesn't go away. I keep seeing it all again and again. Every loud noise sounds like that "ka-fwump" and makes me jump. I feel like its sinking in, and just when I think I'm dealing with it, I start to fall apart. I keep watching the people around me as they laugh and joke and banter and I try to participate but I feel like screaming. I feel like they just don't get it. Its different when you see it with your own two eyes. When you hear the "ka-fwump".

I've talked to tons of people. Thank god for friends who will let me tell this story over and over and over again. It feels like I have to tell it over and over again to get it out. And while I'm sure there will come a time when I won't have to tell the story anymore, I'm not sure that I'll ever get it out of me.
posted by Andy H. 9/12/2001 11:45:28 PM

thursday, september 13

The best of intentions, as they say ....
I haven't made it to the Javits Center (obviously).
I was awake until 3:30 a.m. watching ABC on Channel 25 because its one of three channels I can get.
I was up again at 6:30 a.m.
And as I was trying to get dressed I realized I just couldn't make it.
A little later I went up to Bedford to get some coffee and ran into one of my co-workers that I hadn't seen since we left the building.
We hugged and swapped stories, talked for awhile, planned to try and touch base later.
He, like myself, was still in a state of shock.
I came back to my house, sat down and was overwhelmed by exhaustion.
I think I've just been running in overdrive (emotionally and physically) for the past two days and it finally caught up with me.
The TV news is frustrating and emotionally taxing.
The CEO of Cantor-Fitzgerald was interviewed and it was heart-wrenching.
I want to turn it off, but I can't.
posted by Andy H. 9/13/2001 02:36:37 PM
I finally got too restless at home and set out to just take a walk around the block.
I ended up walking into Manhattan.
I walked across the Williamsburg Bridge.
From the middle of the bridge I faced south and turned to face North. All of Manhattan, the East River, Long Island City and North Brooklyn was covered in the haze of dust, smoke and soot.
As I came down from the bridge I saw this guy in a motorized wheelchair driving down the middle of the roadway out of Manhattan towards Brooklyn. Surreal.
I started walking along Delancey. The streets were empty of cars except emergency vehicles and trucks.
The people who live in the neighborhood were just milling about.
I walked west into Soho. It was a ghost town. A few people walking around, a few stores open, their proprietors sitting in their doorways just sort of staring or talking to neighbors.
I kept looking south, looking for the WTC like a phantom limb. The skyline is so alien without it. Its disorienting.
As I continued to walk west, the smoke and soot got worse. My throat got dry and burn-y. My eyes itched.
I walked north, finally, on West Broadway, past the police barricade on Houston street and up to Washington Square Park. People have made a makeshift memorial around the Arch there.
People were standing in and along fifth avenue, staring through the Arch and the smokey sky, looking at where the towers once were.
Like I've said before, the city is eerily silent and calm.
More later.
posted by Andy H. 9/13/2001 05:28:38 PM
friday, september 14
Sorry, I had to disable the comments. Something on the re-blogger server made it work slow and was messing up the pageload.
Watching the TV now, Bernie Kerik telling about all the people who are running scams: thefts, impostors as victims/volunteers, telemarketing companies scamming the elderly for "donations". That's fucking sick. It makes me furious.
Last night we finally turned the TV off. Paul invited some friends over for dinner. We just sat, ate, talked: without the tv. While things weren't normal again, it was good to have a break from the constant stress and just try and act normally.
That's the thing. Normal is going to be a long time coming. And I think normal is going to be different than it was before. Eventually there won't be people on the street crying and dazed. Eventually everyone will be able to go home to their apartments. Eventually the trains will run regularly again, the bridges will be totally open and life will return to something resembling normal. But its not going to be quite the same. I think people will be aware of how vulnerable we are and how tenuous normalcy is.
I'm babbling.
its hard to focus when the tv is on.
I'm just glad that I'm starting to feel a little better rested, a little better, a little less skittish.
More later.
posted by Andy H. 9/14/2001 10:31:49 AM

"The World Trade Center should, because of its importance, become a living representation of man's belief in humanity, his need for individual dignity, his belief in the cooperation of men, and through this cooperation his ability to find greatness."

- Minoru Yamasaki, Architect of WTC

The people who attacked the WTC, attacked that philosophy.

This is an overview of the history of the WTC.
This and this are bios of the architect.


Last night at dinner, Paul's friend Elise (who's an architect) told us about how she worked with (and I think studied with) one of the architects who worked on WTC and how he explained the core structure and all the things that were associated with it. How they took into consideration so many ways of possible terrorist attack. She talked to some people last night from that company. Apparently their offices are (were?) right across the street. When the first plane crashed, the people at the MTA called a structural engineer from the architecture firm who had worked on the WTC project from the beginning. He rode up to the MTA, two floors below the crash, to assess the situation. He went down to report back, and then went back up because he was so confident in the structural integrity of the building. And the thing is, he had every reason to be. Apparently, they fully expected that if a plane crashed into the building, it would go straight through. They never thought, had no way of knowing, about the heat of the explosion and the jet fuel.

This is an interview with one of the other World Trade Center architects, and this
is a simple, but effective demonstration of how it happened.
posted by Andy H. 9/14/2001 02:16:14 PM

saturday, september 15

Well, I've finally gotten to the end of an exhausting day helping Paul's friend Elite get some stuff (medicine, glasses, clothes) out of her apartment. Her building is on the corner of Greenwich and Rector, about two blocks south of Ground Zero. Getting there was crazy. It was like this complicated board game where, if at any point you made a wrong move or a wrong decision, you would get sent back to the beginning to start over.
(n.b. if you don't know the geography of new york, you might want to look at a map to get a sense of how much of the city we covered today)
The day started with me leaving Paul's house at 9:30 a.m. to meet elite at 10 a.m. at 6th Ave. and 21st St. We had been told that access to Battery Park City and parts below was being managed at Pier 40 (W. Houston Street and the West Side Highway). Well, when we got there, it was strictly Pet Rescue, and they told us that no-one was getting access to their homes, except to rescue pets. They gave us wrong phone numbers to call and lots of other misinformation, til finally we decided to just head east and keep trying to work our way in.
Eventually we got through the first checkpoint at Canal St. and 6th Ave. We walked down 6th to Greenwich. The streets were pretty much empty except for utility and construction vehicles. Looking down Greenwich you could see the burning rubble and those bent walls from the outer facing of the WTC. At Leonard it looked like it would be tough to get through, so we veered east to Broadway. Took Broadway down to Duane where the National Guard moved us even more eastward. After a brief stop at Centre and Duane we moved east to Pearl, and then down through Lower Chinatown to the South Street Seaport. At the South Street Seaport I stopped to use the facilities there and I overhead this conversation between some cops at the urinals:

"What do we gotta do next, Sarge?"
"I just got word we gotta inspect all the rooftops in our zones."
"What for?"
"Body parts. Airplane parts. They're not sure what we'll find."

We kept going down South Street until we got almost to the heliport where there was another checkpoint. After presenting i.d. and proof of residence, we continued around. One of the checkpoint people had said that we had to get on the Staten Island Ferry and they would ferry you around the island to the piers at Battery Park City. That was not true. When we got the Staten Island ferry terminal, they told us that if we got on the ferry we would end up in (duh!) Staten Island. And we wouldn't be able to get back. Then they told us there was no way into Battery Park City or the surrounding area. Luckily, we ignored what they said and kept going. We walked north to see how far we could go. We saw a group of people in the distance holding up pieces of cardboard. As we approached the Bowling Green subway stop, we could see that the signs people had were addresses. We found out that people were grouping by building, and then being escorted into the buildings by the National Guard. It was now 2 p.m.
We waited and waited and waited until Elite's building was called at about 3:30 p.m. Then we got into groups of twenty and were escorted by National Guardsmen to the building. Walking from Bowling up to Greenwich and Rector was, to overuse a phrase, surreal. In the not-too-distant distance you could see the same pile of smoking rubble and twisted metal. The streets were covered in ash and soot. The air was thick with it, like fog.
We waited outside the building until our floor was called. My mouth dried out with soot and fine dust, my skin felt like it was covered in a thin layer of grime. All you could hear was the sound of jackhammers and cranes and workmen shouting to each other. When Elite's floor was called, we walked into the lobby and signed in: name, apartment number, number of people. And then, escorted by building maintentance people, we walked up the stairways and through the darkened hallways lit only by our flashlights. Once on our floors, we had five minutes to grab what we needed and wait for the maintenance person to return to the apartment to pick us up. And then back down the dark hallways and stairways to the lobby, where we signed out and waited for the rest of the tenants to return to the lobby and to be escorted back to the Bowling Green as a group.
While we were waiting someone called down from the other end of the hall, "People in the streets are running away. Something's happening! Evacuate the building!!" People were shouting "Grab your things" or "Leave your things". Everybody was trying to get out the one operational revolving door and the regular door next to it. They were all jammed up and pushing and shoving when I saw that there was a door in between the two revolving doors with the bottom pane of glass broken out, and told Elite to go through. We both crawled through, grabbed her stuff and started running. We stopped for a second to look up at Ground Zero. It looked like there was a lot more smoke, but we couldn't tell if anything had really changed. Still, when you see a whole bunch of cops and rescue workers running away from something, well, you tend to run too. We didn't stop til we got back to the Bowling Green subway stop. It turns out that the train was in operation, so we took it up to Union Square and walked to the apartment where Elite is staying. It was about 6:30 p.m.
Now I'm home and I just want to take a shower and go to bed.
Enough already.
posted by Andy H. 9/15/2001 10:20:49 PM s