I think most people remember where they were on that day fifteen years ago. I was on the roof of a twenty story building down in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I remember a lot of things about that day and the weeks and months that followed but a few things stand out in my mind more than others.
I remember how when the South Tower collapsed everyone just sort of stood there confused about what was happening, then there was just this big cloud of dust that was like a cloud in our minds obscuring the unimaginable. However, when the dust settled and revealed the tower was gone, what had happened began to slowly register our brains so that when the North Tower finally collapsed we all knew and understood full well what was happening.
When it did we all screamed and I think it was the most terrible scream I have ever heard. It was the scream of millions of people crying out from the rooftops and sidewalks in unison. It was a scream that was louder than the sound of millions of pounds of concrete and steel
and people collapsing as they smashed into a pile of rubble shaking the ground and filling the air with billowing clouds of dust and smoke. I'm not sure but I don't think that scream was something that came through on the TV for those who were watching.
I remember afterwards, when there was nothing left to see and most of the dust cloud had drifted over Brooklyn
, we left the rooftop and went back down into the apartment and watched the TV. My friend's roommate was asking if we should go and give blood. I remember telling her I didn't think they needed any of our blood since there were probably few survivors.
As if the day itself wasn't bad enough, I remember how lower Manhattan smelled like the burning of computers
, fax machines, and dead people for months afterwards. It was a sickly and pervasive smell. If you haven't smelled that smell before it's a smell that lingers. I remember one night late in October a friend and I thought we would go to a park and throw a frisbee around just to get out of the apartment and go do something. It wasn't any fun. The smell ruined it. I think we went and got drunk instead.
Years have passed since then but the memories remain. I have a friend who painted an old set of sails
with the stars and stripes. He puts them on his boat
and goes out every year to lay a wreath in the waters off North Cove Marina at the base of the World Finacial Center. I am not with him today, but like him my thoughts are with the people who died as well as with the people who did what they could on that day to help those who needed it.
Some of those people participated in a massive evacuation of more than 500,000 people from lower Manhattan that was conducted by various ferries, tugs, tour boats, and commercial
vessels under the direction of the USCG. It was an evacuation by sea that was greater than that of Dunkirk during World War II. Here is a video about that evacuation.