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May 2008

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The Night the Lights Went Out in Manhattan (UPDATE)

I was driving into downtown New Orleans and was a bit behind schedule, yet the rest of my routine was the same. Listening to Wolfgang on the KUMX 1067.7 fm morning show, Rod was on vacation, I heard it for the first time. At first I thought that he was referring to the World Trade Center building in New Orleans, and that it wasnt all that serious because there was no terror in his voice. I quickly thought to myself that I now had a great excuse for being so late to work. Then I heard him mention New York City and the second tower and something about it "not being an accident". I switched the dial to other stations and couldnt get away from it. All I heard were accounts of people jumping from buildings, thousands perished, and it being far worse than that of Pearl Harbor. My eyes filled with tears as I thought about my friend Chris who works for the New York Stock Exchange. Never having been to NY, I did not know if the exchange was located in one of the WTC buildings, but that was my first thought.

All day Tuesday and Wednesday I tried to contact Chris at his suburban New York apartment as well as on his cell phone and could not get through. The lines were jammed. Finally about 4pm on Wednesday afternoon I heard his voice. It was his machine. I left a message hoping he could hear the fear of the unknown in my tone and return my call. Thursday morning I tried again and again. Busy. Then once more, I heard a ring from the other end of the phone and his voice. This time it wasnt his machine. It was him. We said our tearful hellos and he told me that he had received my message and tried to call, but had problems getting through as well. He then went on to describe his own experience of the day America was attacked by an enemy not yet known.

His story was much like the ones I had heard of New Yorkers being interviewed by reporters and giving their accounts of the events that unfolded. The exchange is located approximately one block from the WTC. He and his co-workers witnessed the first explosion as chaos and panic havocked on the streets below. With his back turned to the window that gave a perfect view of the twin towers and his eyes glued to the television, he saw the second plane approaching the south tower. At that moment, he and his office companions turned around and watched the most devastating tragedy ever known to this country. The second explosion was a lot worse than the first. When the plane hit the second tower, I felt it go into my back and come out of my chest. My whole building shook as did the ground beneath it, he told me. His building was then evacuated as he and a few others were contemplating just walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. Everyone knows someone in either the Bronx or Queens, so we were going to head in that direction in order to just get off of the island. And the buildings came down. Cher, words cannot describe what I saw. I could tell you that it was devastating and unbelievable and scary, but that just wouldnt even come close.

In the massive crowd, he lost the crew with which he was traveling. Clothes dingy, dirty, and covered with dusty pall, he headed toward Penn Station. I just wanted to go home, he said to me as he tried to hold back tears. I still have so many friends that I havent spoken to. I dont know if theyre dead or alive. I must have talked to so many people. Its frightening to sit on the phone day and night checking to see if your friends and family are alive. We all know someone who was in those buildings or may have been in those buildings. I, for one, know many.

I am due to make my very first trip to New York this New Years. Am I afraid? Hell yeah. And, Im upset for more reasons than the obvious. I will never get to see New York as she was. With her skyline permanently disabled and a scar placed on her face, there is a sudden awkwardness about heran ambient stupor. I hate that. I hate that Ive missed out on the city that at one time never slept. Tonight she snores.


crying. . .

That was a beautifully written entry. I'm very happy that your friend is safe...and I hope that there is nothing but good news about the loved ones he has not yet located.
I will keep them in my prayers.