World Trade Center
New York, NY
September 11, 2001
Patrick Madden

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 further danger.

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.