My 9/11: Everyone has a unique “where were you?” story – here’s mine.

irmagerdGreetings from a cold and rainy Atlanta! Yes, we normally post new content on Tuesdays but here I am today on Monday, September 11th for 2 very important reasons:

First, my home office may not have power tomorrow since Hurricane Irma is expected to impact the Metro ATL as well this evening (my thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has been impacted by these storms…hmm, it looks like I may have to reconsider my trip to Miami early next month depending on how this all plays out).

It will most likely “just” be a tropical storm by the time it hits this area but 60 mph winds are still nothing to shake a stick at (actually, what is something you shake a stick at? A pet dog perhaps? Remind me to look up the origin of this dumb phrase later mmkay? Thanks). Besides, considering that Georgia drivers appear to be absolutely clueless once even a single drop of rain falls from the sky, imagine what they’ll do in a torrential downpour? I’m not going anywhere near I-85 in that mess!

9-11-Never-ForgetThe second and most important reason however, is because today commemorates the horrific attacks that occurred in New York City on September 11th, 2001. It appears that the amount of specials and news segments dedicated to reflecting on this tragic event decreases with each passing year. It still surprises me that this day hasn’t been made a national holiday by now but at least the proper amount of ceremonies and media coverage in past years have made this oversight a bit easier to digest.

This year however, with 2 major weather events impacting the nation, plus the return of football, the media coverage for September 11th has seemingly been placed on the backburner. Of course, I’m hopeful that I’m completely wrong about this. Perhaps I’ll see a ton of social media posts and news coverage throughout the day..

Actually, one of the highlights of this past week was when my 22-year-old co-worker Aspen reminded everyone that September 11 would be this Monday. Obviously, I already knew, but I had no idea that she did. Especially since she was 7 and lived in Alabama at the time of the attacks. As someone who worked on Wall Street (New York City) during this event and knows hundreds of people who were personally affected by this tragedy, it was a proud moment realizing that younger generations hadn’t forgotten either.

193143877_640-e1410418843273She was surprised to learn that I used to commute into the World Trade Center each morning and that my brother also worked at the Pentagon at that time. I’ve briefly mentioned this in several social media status updates throughout the years but there are only so many details that I can provide in 140 characters. Everyone who lived through this tragedy has their own unique “where were you on 9/11” story though so with that said, here’s mine:

My story actually begins on September 10th when I was still living in Eatontown, NJ. I was entered in this competition for the International Modelling and Talent Agency Showcase that was coming up in a few months (I won 8 trophies by the way, holla at ya boy…😉). Since I was performing an original song as a part of the competition, I needed to have my background music edited down to the proper length.

The music studio that I worked with was 30 minutes north of my apartment in Iselin, NJ. The owner, Dan, agreed to squeeze in an appointment for me on September 11, but we were supposed to touch base on the 10th because he wasn’t sure if he’d have time in the morning or the evening since it was last minute.

pathMy regular job at the time was as a Legal Assistant for Goldman Sachs in New York City. Each morning, I’d commute to Newark where I’d take the PATH train into The World Trade Center. I’d usually arrive around 8:40 – 8:45 (American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North tower at 8:46), hang out in the lobby talking to friends and grabbing a muffin or a bagel before walking around the corner to my office.

My plan was to simply work a half day at the office depending on the time that Dan gave me. If he offered a night slot, I’d work the morning and if he offered a morning slot, I’d head to NY afterwards.

I called Dan and left at least 4 messages on the night of the 10th so that I could plan my morning but I never got an answer. When we discussed this later the next day, he actually said that he called me back and left me a voicemail saying that my appointment time was for that night. Perhaps it was divine intervention but I never got that message.

tumblr_nbqt0sGARM1qjkry1o1_500If I had, I would have been on my regular commute that would have placed me in the lobby of The World Trade Center at the exact time the attacks began. I’d imagine that I would have gotten out of the building since I would have been in the lobby, but I definitely would have been directly in the path of destruction that followed.

Since I never got the message, I woke up rather annoyed on September 11th. I checked my email and attempted to call Dan again, but I still got no response.

I still got dressed for work but I didn’t want to get on the train (check out more of my NJ Transit train stories here and here), only to find out that I had to come back to New Jersey if my appointment was in the morning. As the minutes ticked away, I grew more and more frustrated because if the appointment was at night, I was wasting time and money standing around waiting for him to let me know.

I stood at the train station prepared to either get on or head to the studio, literally calling Dan over and over again hoping for an answer. Finally, after my regular train (and the one after it) passed me by, I knew that I would already be late to work that morning so I decided to run some errands while I waited for his return call.

fortmonmouth_sd-dly2Since I was in a full suit, I first drove home to change since it was pretty warm outside that day. Besides, I knew there was a strong chance that I may have ended up being off for the entire day so I decided to make the most of it since it was rare for me to be home on a weekday. My bank, which was located on the local military base at Fort Monmouth, didn’t open until 8:30 so I grabbed some breakfast and mailed a letter before heading to the credit union.

When I got inside, the line was abnormally long already so I was growing even more annoyed with the day. I tried calling Dan several more times while standing in line.  I hated my time being wasted and at this point, it was already 8:45 so I was missing out on hanging with my friends before work which was one of the highlights of most days.

9e46d842ded621c6909247e93d7b06ecAs I was leaving Dan yet another frustrated voicemail message, one of the bank tellers said that a plane had flown into The World Trade Center. Of course, I was distracted with my “problems” and this was before smart phones existed so I didn’t fully grasp how big of a deal this was at the time. Actually, nobody did. The bank teller only heard it on the radio and the rest of us had even less information than she did.

Like many others, I assumed that a tiny plane accidentally clipped the building with it’s wing or something. The guy in line behind me even joked that the pilot must have been drunk and would probably be arrested. He figured it was a blimp or a little crop-duster type plane with a single pilot or something…especially in downtown Manhattan. I too figured it was just a minor accident that I’d see on the news and Letterman would make fun of later. I didn’t think that it was a major issue so I just deposited my check and headed back to my truck.

mind-blowingMy next stop was to the barber shop a few minutes away (yes people, I had hair back then lol). Since I was practicing for that showcase, I listened to my background track during the entire ride over, so I never turned on the radio.

As I walked into the barber shop, I tried calling Dan one more time before sitting in the chair. Still no answer, but as I stared at the television screen while leaving yet another message, I saw what I thought was an amazing movie preview.

Independence Day (the original, with Will Smith that is) was one of my favorite movies and during that film, there are various images of national landmarks being destroyed by aliens. So as I hung up my phone and the barber cleaned his clippers, I watched as smoke poured out of the North Tower. It still hadn’t hit me that what I was watching was real until someone turned up the volume and I heard famed news anchor Tom Brokaw’s voice. I literally remember thinking how realistic the graphics were for this film and wow, they even got Tom Brokaw to make an appearance?

liveAfter this “preview image” kept going for over a minute, I finally noticed the graphic that said “live” in the corner of the screen and it dawned upon me that this was no movie.

That’s when reality hit me like a bucket of ice cold water to the face. I literally should have been there and many of my friends were possibly inside of that building. Some even worked there!

I still thought that it was merely an accident, albeit, a much larger one than I had realized, but everything was going to be okay in the end. That’s until I noticed a second plane fly onto the screen and strike the south tower as well. If you’ve watched any of the specials, you too have seen this horrifying image. I’ll never forget seeing it live though. I still get chills thinking about it because it was at that moment I knew that we were under attack and that my friends and co-workers were in danger and there was nothing that I could do to help them.

cedric-the-entertainer-2
Barbershop

The barber shop that I went to was similar to the one depicted in the Ice Cube movies. A bunch of loud black dudes talking smack to each other all day so the fact that you could literally hear a pin drop for several moments added even more weight to what we were witnessing.

To make matters worse, nobody knew exactly how many more planes there were…or where they were headed. As mentioned, I lived around the corner from a military base only a state away. Literally every loud noise that I heard for the following week made me jumpy.

When I got home from the barber shop, I watched as smoke continued to pour out of the buildings. I knew that people were suffering inside but I still held out hope they would all be rescued. I also held out hope that the towers could be salvaged since they were such an iconic centerpiece of the New York Skyline. I absolutely loved staring up at those gigantic towers each and every day heading to work and they always served as my landmark to get back home.

ny_neverforget_911_1xAs I struggled to digest the already horrific images on my screen, I was jolted with another shocking dose of reality as a report came in that yet another plane had now struck The Pentagon. My brother was a military officer at The Pentagon in 2001 so needless to say, my concern had now turned into terror.

It turns out that he was actually on a trip with his boss to New Jersey, but I had no idea and the phone lines were understandably jammed that day so not hearing from him or any of my friends for several hours was nerve wrecking. My parents also had a similar issue since they couldn’t get in touch with either one of us.

Like many others, I spent the next several hours glued to the television. I watched as many of the people who were trapped inside of the burning towers were forced to make the ultimate decision. I watched the brave Fire, Police and rescue teams as the rushed toward the Towers and did all that they could to save as many lives as possible. And I remember the horrific images of the buildings ultimately collapsing.

untitledSeveral broadcast antennas were on top of the towers so when they collapsed, there was an eerie silence across many airwaves. Those networks who were able to continue broadcasting showed the sea of humanity attempting to escape the area but with all bridges and tunnels closed, this was easier said than done for most.

I again felt guilty for being at home while my friends were going through all of this. Several of them never went back to New York again after that day. One of the office buildings for Goldman Sachs also collapsed during the aftermath of the attacks so I was off from work for a little over a week. Upon returning, I’ll also never forget what I saw.

For starters, my commute was completely different because my last stop used to literally be the World Trade Center so instead, I now had to go all the way to Penn Station which was over 40 blocks north of my destination and take a subway downtown. Of course, Penn Station is an iconic landmark too, so upon arrival, we were now greeted by military officers with large machine guns and full riot gear.

NeverForgetMany of the commuters also wore masks because as you got closer to downtown, the air became thick and chalky with debris and the horrific stench that still lingered in the air.

The worse part of my new commute were the 2 blocks that I had to walk past where the Towers once stood.

I’ll never forget the bent steel, the ash and debris filled streets with armed troops on every corner. I’ll never forget the thousands of handmade signs made by family members looking for their loved ones or the abandoned cars that sat for weeks waiting for their owners to return. I’ll also never forget the smells, sounds and lack thereof as the empty streets of New York stood eerily silent as people struggled to cope.

Many people struggle to even remember what they did yesterday but those of us who lived through 9/11 can tell you exactly where they were that morning. The world truly changed that day and we’ve been at war ever since.

Instead of focusing on the hate however I choose to focus on the love, triumph and resolve that we demonstrated during those subsequent weeks.

NeverForget2While I may have painted an ugly scene with my descriptions earlier, this was also one of the most beautiful times to be alive as well. Why? Because for several weeks we weren’t fighting about race, religion, gender or politics. Everyone genuinely cared about each other and we were truly united.

The tragic destruction of those building walls helped to temporarily destroy the walls and division that we’ve all put up.  As I stated last post, it’s unfortunate that it usually takes a major tragedy for us to come together as one but these moments demonstrate that we are more than capable of doing so.

This is why I’ll never forget the lives that were lost that day and neither should you. #neverforget

Last August I was finally able to visit One World Trade Center and the adjoining museum for the very first time since it was rebuilt. Here are some of the photos taken during the aftermath of the attacks all the way through to the triumphant return of this incredible structure that I took last year.  Aside from One World Trade Center, there’s an entire park highlighted by 2 reflection pools in the footprint of the original towers honoring those who’s lives came to a tragic end in 2001.

14258345_10154288057715041_1846545768100186566_o
From then until now…

Had I not been late to work on 9/11/01 who knows how things would have turned out for me…same for my brother who happened to not be inside of his usual office in the Pentagon. While I count my blessings, so many others were not as fortunate that day.

The new World Trade Center is an amazingly beautiful tribute to the innocent lives that were lost and to the brave men and women who risked everything to help those in need.

mfmToday’s fitness tip comes directly from the lesson that can be learned from this amazing piece of architecture. You see, this structure is much more than simple brick and mortar.

Instead, it represents everything that I love about New York City and serves as a great metaphor for life in general. We may get knocked down but we always come back stronger…

Do you have a fitness question you’d like answered or an accomplishment you’d like to share?  Tell us about it in the comments below

Today’s Soundtrack

I’m Real (Remix) – Jennifer Lopez featuring Ja Rule (the number one song on 9/11/01)

Come Together – The Beatles

Stronger – Kanye West

Heal the World – Michael Jackson

Do you have another song that fits today’s theme? Or a song that we should just check out in general because it’s that awesome? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Okay everyone, hopefully you enjoyed today’s post. I know that it was a little different than the norm but hey, I’m diverse like that lol don’t worry though, more crazy jokes are on the way. In fact, I covered an amazing throwback 90’s concert this past weekend that I’m looking forward to telling you about next post! 

Today was too important of a day for me to overlook though, especially as someone who was personally affected by this tragedy.

I once had someone ask me why we should reflect on such a horrible tragedy each year but the innocent victims, heroes and survivors of that event deserve to be recognized. It was also such a monumental event that literally changed the world. Besides, as the old saying goes, “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

“Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana

Oh yeah, and speaking of old sayings, about that whole “shake a stick” thing? It’s actually quite boring so instead of wasting space here, I’m going to end this and go “shake a fork” at some leftover pasta instead.

For those of you who are still feeling the effects from the severe weather out there or are currently in it’s path, again my thoughts and prayers are with you. Stay safe out there everyone!

Anyway, before I sign off, don’t forget to like and share this page.  Also drop a comment below, I’d love to hear your 9/11 stories as well!  

Until next time, May the fork be with you…

-Darrell

Never Forget.

9-11

26 thoughts on “My 9/11: Everyone has a unique “where were you?” story – here’s mine.

  1. Beautiful story. I have heard several similar to yours. All pull strings from my heart. Many of my friends work at Port Authority, some had business travel plans, they had the day off or switched their flight for reasons only they know. My one GF said” I just didn’t feel comfortable that morning”.
    She switched her flight……enough said.
    Many cars remained in transit parking lots for weeks, collecting daily “check” marks for each day that they remained there, not moved. These were the cars of those who commuted from Jersey to Manhattan each working day of the week. After several weeks, those cars that remained were removed as their owners were not coming back. I am crying now thinking about that day and the many days that followed. Forget? Never.
    Our American flag hangs proudly by our front door EVERYDAY and will always hang.
    Sending much love to all, stay close to each other and pray for those in need.
    ❤️🇺🇸🙏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow that is amazing that your GF’s gut had her switch flights. These stories always amaze me so thank you for sharing! Seeing those cars sit for days and then weeks was so depressing because you knew that it was unlikely someone would return for them. I’ll never forget that day and I’m so glad that you and many others won’t either. Thanks for sharing that with us!

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  2. beautiful story. I too, had a chance of fate cause a delay that made me early for my morning appt to do a survey of the cell antenna equipment on the Roof of the WTC. We did that roof top survey late the afternoon of the 10th instead. I am forever thankful for our decision to work a long day and advance our schedule a day ahead. My fate on the roof of the WTC? We all know that answer. God has plans for those of us he moved into a new direction that day and I continue in prayers for the families of those affected. I haven’t been back to NYC since my survey of the ATT phone building in WTC 7 that was destroyed and overlooking the callopsed buildingsa week after. We had what I call an “unwelcome” view of the clean up and search efforts. I do pray for the strength to one day visit the museums and replace the sad images with the honor and memories of the victims instead.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s incredible that you were literally on the roof of the WTC the day before! I’m thankful that you arrived a day early as well – talk about a close call! And it’s understandable that you haven’t been back after viewing the wreckage. I used to get chills walking past that twisted steel every day as I headed back to work. I agree, there are a lot of sad and depressing memories associated with that area. Seeing how far that site has come though is inspiring and the building is amazing inside. If you ever do make it back to NY, it really is a fitting tribute. Again, thank you for sharing your amazing story!.

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  3. I am glad you and your brothers daily routine was not the same that day. I was reading your story and I kept getting chills, it’s heart breaking to remember that time since so many innocent people are now gone. You’re right, many of us don’t remember what we even did a few days ago but that day will never be forgotten. As always, I was doing my make up for school (I was in HS) and my mother always had the news on and she came in my room and told me and my sister about it but we really didn’t comprehend much we were focused on just going to school etc.. until I was in English class watching the news and towers collapsed…it was reality, it was heart breaking. Beautiful post, thank you!

    #neverforget

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, it was hard to comprehend at first until you saw the images on the news or in person. Thank you for sharing your story, it’s always amazing to hear what others went through on that day as well. And yes, Never Forget!

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    1. I’m glad that you enjoyed the photos, it’s even better in person! And yes, I wasn’t thankful for being late when the day started, but definitely was after I realized what had occurred! Thanks for your comment Faith!

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  4. This post showing the new World Trade Center is such an amazing tribute honoring those who lost their lives and the families affected by the 911 tragedy. Thanks for sharing your story, time and talent in reminding us to “Never Forget.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for sharing your “heart wrenching” 911 story!!! “Divine intervention for sure concerning what happened to you on that day. Also regarding your brother. After all of your efforts to contact Dan at the Studio,” there is no doubt that God was in Charge.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your story is Powerful!!!! Thanks for helping us remember the horrific attacks that occurred on 9/11/01. You are right –this brought our people together as never before — for a period during that time, we were able to separate ourselves from hate regarding race, religion, gender, politics, etc. How soon we forget……. I will definitely share this Great post with others and hold on to the profound statement that you quoted in your fitness tip — “we may get knocked down but we always come back stronger……”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really was a great lesson that was learned through that tragedy. Hopefully people learn to come together more often, imagine all that we could accomplish as a nation! Thanks for your comment!

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  7. Love your story!

    I was actually in my 3rd story apartment, right on the landing path of the airport in Wichita KS. I was really sick that morning so I had called in to work. I woke up hearing plane after plane landing at the airport. I turned on the TV and sat there in shock… sat there for hours, watching, going through every feeling that exists. I had just returned home from a NY visit…

    I really want to visit NY and the rebuild at some point. I bet that is just as surreal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, I had never thought about how people working at or living near other airports throughout the world must have felt that day. What an amazing story! Yes, you should definitely go check out the rebuild, it really is surreal being there in person. Thanks for sharing your story Christina!

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  8. Read the whole thing while overlooking FiDi skyline through my kitchen window. Such a beautiful story and outlook of hope and unity. My dad was on a flight that morning. He never flies. He was on a business trip. Rare for him. He was flying from Newark to Pittsburg. Thankfully, my dad’s flight was not one of those that were hijacked, although it was in the air at the exact same time, and had a similar initial flight path to United Flight 93. His flight could very well have been chosen by those responsible, but it wasn’t. As someone before me commented, there’s a reason for everything. Nothing is coincidence. There’s a reason your schedule went awry that day. Makes you think about just how much the Universe/God has our backs every single day, whether we’re conscious of it or not. Thanks for sharing!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, that was a really close call for your father Tori! Especially with a similar flight path and starting point! You’re right, nothing is just coincidence. It’s always amazing hearing these stories – thank you for sharing!!

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  9. Well Done!!! Sis’ shared this with me and I am so glad she did. Thank God both of you had diversions from daily routines on 09/11. Words are insufficient to express how proud I am of you and Dwayne. May God’s blessings be with you eternally.
    Richard D

    Liked by 1 person

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