Thursday, September 11, 2008

Soldiers of Peace

Seven years ago today, I climbed aboard the New York commuter train from Princeton at 6:30 am to head to work.  The day was was brilliantly crisp and clear. Unusually so. I was on the east side of the train as it chugged into the Elizabeth area approaching Newark. The NY Skyline was so extraordinarily visible this day, and I found myself I looking at it in a way I hadn't for some time.  And there they stood -- the Twin Towers -- magnificently impressive viewed at even 20 miles away. 

The view was breathtaking that morning and had nothing happened that day, I would still recall the crystal clear presentation the skyline made that day.

There were people sitting on this same train going to work in the City and even some in the Trade Center.  They would arrive there by 8:30 am via the Path line. Just in time.  Some of them -- several who embarked in Princeton with me -- would not return to their cars that night -- or any other time. We knew who they were later because their photos were put up in the Princeton train station by family members.

Shortly after 9 am that day, one of my writers excitedly spread the news that a "small plane" had flown into the WTC tower. That was the first report.   By 10:30 that morning, both Towers were gone, the Pentagon was similarly attacked and another commercial airplane went down in rural Pennsylvania. No one really knew what was happening but it was clear that we were under attack.  We in Newark who worked in tall buildings there were given the word to go home.

Getting home would not be easy this day. 

Some walked, some ran, some jumped, some cried and some just phoned home. Some for the last time. A few panicked but the majority of people did not. They did what they had to do to make the best of a bad situation.  Some firemen and police put their lives on the line to rescue people, and some gave their lives in the attempt.

And many others died that day in the city. Over 2,700 in all.  They unexpectedly went to war that morning armed only with briefcases, purses, laptop computers, and Palm Pilots.  Many, if not all, had just enjoyed the Labor Day weekend, or were thinking about the kid or grandkid going to school for the first time that day. Some were worried about the big project at work, and maybe even some started thinking about the coming holiday season. No one was prepared for how ugly it would become.  

Anyone in the NYC area who was there that day and survived has his or her own story.  And anyone who endured some of the worst have scars that they will carry with them forever.   And even those of us who were not called upon to do the extraordinary will remember that day.

We were all soldiers of peace in this undeclared war.

What really makes me upset still about this war is that the main protagonist still lives on and is still at war with us.  If there is one major failing of our government during the past 8 years, it has to be that Bin Laden is still at large. It is a promise unkept and IMHO other sins of our government pales in comparison. I can only hope the next administration doesn't rest until this madman is brought to justice.  

Until then, I still go to work armed only with a briefcase and a Blackberry.

Do you have any stories to share about 9/11?  Enter comments below!  


  1. Great piece, Dad. Very powerful. The only small story I have is about two FBI agents, who I knew in Los Angeles and were also on a flight during that time from Newark to Los Angeles. I can't remember how they got the word about the incident, but they had probably heard from the pilot. As events were relayed to the pilots and then to these two agents, they FBI grew frustrated, as they were thousands of miles in the air and on a similar sister flight to the fated one that left Newark earlier that day, as there was nothing they could do. A few weeks later, one of them volunteered at the largest crime scene the US has ever had. He relayed a few thoughts about how horrible it was sorting through the debris, but how he could not imagine being any other place, other than there.

  2. Thanks for the comment. We should not forget that this enemy has sworn our destruction and considers all of us -- women, children, men young and old -- combatants.

  3. I was at work that day in Wilmington, Delaware, working for a company based in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The company had been trying to break into new markets, and had set up an office in the Trade Center with about 5 sales staff. It happened that this day was the quarterly sales meeting in Allentown, so our office in the trade center was empty. Most of us didn't know we had an office in NYC, but were nonetheless relieved that our coworkers were not there.

    After hearing news of the attack on the first tower, a television was set up in our break room. We crowded in to see what was happening, and witnessed both towers collapsing and live footage of people hurrying from the scene.

    One of my co-workers was dating a woman whose mother worked in the trade center. She had left the building after the first attack, but indicated she'd be staying to help, as she was a nurse. I never heard what happened to her.