Moving to NY weeks before Sept 11

by Christine on September 12th, 2010

filed under Christine's Life Updates

Just three weeks before September 11th, 2001 I moved to New York from my hometown in Illinois. I moved out to New York to go to graduate school. I got a full scholarship + teaching assistant (TA) position worth $30k a year, and it was an ivy-league quality school, so I was pretty stoked. I was basically getting paid to go to school. It was the beginning of a whole new chapter in my life.

My TA position landed me as an editor at the Writing Center. On the morning of September 11th, I woke up in my teeny tiny little studio apartment and used AOL dial-up to check my email. When I logged in, I saw photos and an announcement about the plane flying into Tower 1.  I shrugged, thought to myself, “Crazy terrorist crap happening yet again. What a violent world we live in,” then continued on my way to check my email. I showered, got dressed, and went to work on campus.

When I got to campus, several people came in to say, “Did you hear about the plane?” Yes I had, whatever…just a bunch of moron terrorists. The Center was pretty quiet, so I used the computer to log in again. I saw the notification about the 2nd plane hitting Tower 2.  That’s the first point when I thought, “Huh. Maybe this is worse than I thought.”

But then I remember the secretary of the department coming into the center. She had tears running down her face. “My husband left home at 4 a.m. to do business out of town. He had work in the World Trade Center today. I can’t get a hold of him!”  I felt her panic.

A student called on the phone. “I’m from NYC,” the student explained. “My dad works in the World Trade Center. I have to cancel my appointment, I”m sorry. I’m trying to find my dad.”

Two hours later the President of the school closed campus. I walked down to the campus center to find a HUGE crowd of students grouped around the one TV in the lounge.  It was dead silent. Most were looking stoically at the TV, but a lot of the students had tears running down their faces. I heard a few people murmur about the people they knew that worked in the World Trade Center or at the Pentagon or somewhere in Pennsylvania.

My school wasn’t in NYC, but it seemed like everywhere I turned, someone knew someone that had a link to the WTC.

It took me several hours to really understand the gravity of the situation and to understand that the attack happened on our soil. But there’s always been a big part of my brain that wonders why this particular terrorist attack has had such gravity and world-wide impact when there is fighting in the middle east every day, innocent people dying, but that news doesn’t rock everyone’s world the way that September 11th did.  What about Rwanda? Darfur? Burundi? Most people haven’t even HEARD about the genocide that happened in these locations. Shouldn’t we mourn all innocent people that die from terrorism and hate? Isn’t this a global world, where everyone is our brothers and sisters? I never really understood why September 11th was more tragic that other terrorist events, but that’s just me.

Later, when I worked for the architectural firm, I was so excited to get work on the World Trade Center/Freedom Tower reconstruction project. (The work involved doing the interior design of 24 floors of Building #4, where the Port Authority’s offices will be located.) It was one of my proudest work moments.  The client invited me down to NYC one time to get a personal, behind-the-scenes tour of the “bathtub” that was the pit of the two towers.  It was really awesome to see all the reconstruction work.

(That staircase in the 2nd to last picture…that’s costing them $3 million to leave in place and work completely around. It will be one of the focal points in the September 11 museum.)

September 11th is one of those moments in history where you’ll always remember where you were, how you heard, and how you felt. What are your memories of September 11th?

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  • Patrick

    You have some unique memories & experiences from 9/11 and your later work related to the site.

    I wrote of my memories in remembering the events if that day on my blog yesterday…

    Hope you are having a good weekend, Never Forget!

  • islandbandit

    I had gotten to work early (before the whole drama started unfolding) and my mother called me to tell me about the first plane hitting. The straw market here had burned to the ground the week before and I’d covered the story. she said ‘you think you had a fire last week, turn on the tv.’ we were on the phone when the second plane hit and it became obvious that this was not a tragic accident. we didn’t have a tv in the office, but eventually i was able to get onto bbc or cnn online… the internet was completely clogged. as soon as others got into the office, a colleague and i walked across the street to a client’s shop – satellite dish company – and were watching when the plane went into the pentagon. i remember going home for lunch just so i could watch. i think i watched for days straight. until i just had to turn it off because i was getting so depressed. i cried for days straight. especially when i had to drop my parents off at the airport to head over to europe. it was one of the first flights going out a few days after september 11 and it was awful leaving them.
    i hear what you’re saying about why does this particular tragedy affect us all in ways that others don’t. i didn’t know anyone who died on september 11, 2001, but i can relate to the people who did die and to their families and friends left to mourn in a way i just can’t relate to the people in places life darfur and rwanda. does that make my level of sensitivity towards one over another right? probably not. but it is what it is.

  • Shane G.

    I was at the gym that day, and I had just finished my cardio and changed shirts for my weight lifting. I came down the stairs just in time to watch the second plane hit. I immediately called it terrorism. I finished my workout with glances at the tv. I went home to get ready for bed as I worked nights. I slept a few hours but got up to check out the news and was glued the rest of the day. Work that night was just a blur, I recall worrying about more attacks and wondering how we were gonna react to this.

  • Lesia

    Sounded like your memories of 9-11 will remain with you FOREVER. I agree with your comment about the other people who are dieing yet we don’t remember them. ((sad)).