New York, NY|
September 11, 2001
It seemed like an ordinary day at the start. I woke up at 6 AM in my
hotel room in Tribeca, where I was staying during a client engagement
for my company. It was oddly dark outside for the hour, but it
quickly brightened up as the day started. Turns out my hotel window
doesn't let in much light. After completing my morning routine, I
left the hotel for work. I packed my camera in my knapsack because I
didn't want to chance leaving it in the hotel room.
I took the 1 train from Chambers St. down to Rector Street, in New
York's financial district. At the corner by the subway exit is a
take-out food market where I picked up my morning coffee and a bagel
(salt bagel with cream cheese). From there it's a two block walk to
the office, which was empty when I arrived there well before the
office opened. Without a key to get in, I had to wait in the hallway
for a while before anybody showed up. Fortunately, the other floor
tenant had just moved out but left their Wall Street Journal
subscription running, so I had some reading material to pass the time.
At around 8:30, one of the denizens of the local office
arrived and opened the office up.
While discussing some aspect of the engagement we would begin at 10
AM, another coworker came in and asked "did you guys hear a noise?" It
was about 8:45. I hadn't heard anything, but others had.
"One of the World Trade Center buildings is engulfed in flames."
Curious, we all went outside to take a look. Although the building is
only 3 blocks away from WTC, the office faces away from it. As I was
maneuvering for a better view, I heard a jet plane fly overhead and
crash. When I looked again, the second tower was also in flames,
maybe 2/3 the way up. Just at this time, the sky began showering
debris from the first [actually the second --PFM 9/9/11] crash.
Not knowing what was going on, I hurried
back to the office just to get out of the way. We quickly determined
that the engagement was not going to happen today, then shut down the
office due to the emerging threat against the financial district.
I walked over to a location that had a better view of the skyscrapers
and took a number of pictures. While I briefly considered the
possibility that the building might fall, it didn't look like they were
going anywhere, so I stopped and watched for five minutes or so. I
picked up a piece of debris--it was a 1998 memo to Frank Rabinowitz
given to him by a coworker. Hopefully Frank found a better place to
work sometime in the past three years.
When the crowds and the frenzy began getting too intense for me, I
decided to return to my hotel room and took a roundabout path getting
there. As I walked away, I saw the faces of the thousands of people I
shared the streets with, and many of them were crying--the rest were
watching in shock, horror, and disbelief. Without doubt, many of
these people knew others who worked inside the twin towers, and others
were just scared by the unfolding tragedy. I was on the verge of
tears a couple of times as well.
I was happy to reach my hotel room: it was an opportunity to calm
down, change into comfortable clothes, and watch the TV to find out
what was going on. While in the room, I heard what sounded like
another jet flying overhead. Aside from experiencing a brief moment
of panic, I didn't give any more thought to the noise. I then called
a friend to let him know that I was safe: it turned out that he had no
idea what was going on, and we both looked at the TV only to discover
that 2 WTC (one of the towers) had collapsed. Shortly after this and
after talking to my friend, the hotel's management evacuated the
hotel. I packed my essentials into my knapsack and left the building,
when I discovered that everything outside was coated in 1/8" (2mm) of
coarse dust from the building's collapse. Deciding I would go to my
friend Jack's office in midtown, I began walking up West Broadway for a few
blocks and stopping to take pictures every so often.
While walking up the street and away from the World Trade Center, I
heard what sounded like an avalanche, then ran for cover. A few
seconds later, I decided that I was safe and peeked back out from the
side of the building I was standing in. Where 1 WTC (the remaining
tower) stood a few seconds ago [photo at left], there was a cloud of
dust and smoke [photo at right]. In the course of a few seconds, what
was once the tallest building in the world was reduced to rubble.
Within another few seconds, a billowing cloud of dust hurdled down the
street towards me. I ran away from it, but realizing that I was no
match for its speed, I turned onto a side street and again headed for
cover. A few minutes later, I came back out: the cloud had stopped a
block or two behind me. From that point on, I was safe from any
I have more photos. Click Here
to see them.
March 19, 2002
I visited lower Manhattan two weeks after the attacks. One night I
had to write about what I saw and what I felt, but I haven't published
it until now. Please read the story of my return.
Copyright ©2001,2002 by
Patrick Madden, all rights reserved.