Sunday, September 10, 2006

September 11th, 2001 from the Brooklyn Promenade

The moment I heard the second plane hit the World Trade center I grabbed my camera and hopped on my bike from my Carroll Gardens apartment and sped to the Brooklyn Promenade. There, I, like thousands of other people, witnessed the most horrifying events I have ever seen. A few days afterwards I wrote a brief account of what I saw and posted it with the pictures on a privately hosted website. I emailed my friends and family about it, but beyond that not many people saw it.

No doubt everyone is overwhelmed with 9/11 imagery, particularly this time of year. One of the many tragedies of this day is that our democratic proccess has been completely hijacked by the events of this day. Coming conveniently two months before elections, it gives politicians easy ammunition to manipulate the emotions of the electorate. Not that politicians shouldn't be addressing it, but evidence has already shown that our ethically challenged leaders have no qualms from using September 11th to shamefully villanize political oponents.

Anyway, I could get on my soap box for ho
urs but first I would like to post the pictures I took that day with the text that originally accompanyed it. Clicking on any of the images will take you to the entire set hosted at Flickr. Here they are:

It really felt like the end of the world yesterday. It was quite a visceral experience. I felt and heard, rather than saw, the second plane hit while I stood in our backyard. The ground literally shook. I looked up and saw the already formed plume of smoke from the first attack crossing the sky. I saw someone on the roof of a building across from us on his roof so I asked him what was going on. He said a plane had hit the Trade Center. Thinking it would be a small plane in a similar accident to the Empire State Building crash, I grabbed my camera and rode my bike over to the Promenade thinking I could get some interesting pictures and still make it back in time for work.

Of course you have seen the images on TV now so you can imagine my shock when I rounded the corner of the park. It was a truly horrifying vision. The crowd was in shock, but still cordial and there was a lot of discussion going on about who had seen what. I joined several conversations with residents who had seen both planes hit.

I was there for about an hour and wanted to get in touch with my wife, who was already in the city. I decided that the fires would burn themselves out and that would be that. I was in the process of unlocking my bike when I looked up and people started screaming as tower #2 collapsed. I just dropped my bike right there and ran to the railing. Watching the building collapse was probably the most terrifying thing I have ever seen in my life. My hands were shaking and I couldn't hold the camera still enough to take pictures. Many people, including myself, started crying from the shock and the knowledge that we had just watched thousands of people die.

The resulting dust cloud from the collapse oozed out between the buildings to encompass the entire southern half of the island. It kept expanding across the water until we too were enveloped in dust, smoke and debris. People were holding their hands and their shirts over their mouths and the dust stung our eyes.

I positioned my
self near a guy with a police scanner and we stood in silence as we listened to a rescuer desperately call for help as he and the group of people he was trying to evacuate were trapped in the flaming rubble. Several people started crying as we listened to the growing desperation in his voice and the controlled determination of those trying to reach them. Their line eventually went dead although we surmised it was from interference caused by the huge amount of dust. Another call across the radio was from a fireman who had been trapped in his fire truck by flaming debris from the collapse. His Mayday cries were cut short and I don't think he made it.

Hoping it wasn't inevitable, I hung around
for the second building to fall. We waited against the railing, making small conversation. About twenty minutes later it too fell. By this time it was about 11:30 and all that was left was dust and smoke so I decided to ride back and make sure my wife was ok.

The ride back was surreal. Brooklyn Heights and Carroll Gardens had been covered by a quarter inch of white dust, as if a light snow had fallen. Streets and bridges had been closed so the traffic was very light and it was very quiet. The smell of the fire was strong in the air.

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I d
idn't talk in my original post about the crisped papers that fell like snow as the scattered debris settled. I found these two items in my backyard: an accounting sheet and a piece of stationary, both browned and crip but still very much legible. For over a year I searched the list of victms for the name on the stationary, and have been quite relieved that the name never appeared.

To see the complete set of pictures, go here: