A Tearful Remembrance of 911 by A New Yorker

Syeda Jebeen Sabira Shah, New York City

19 years ago today around this time, 9:00 am, I was just arriving at work in my then office across from the Empire State building.  Already knew on the train that it was the last stop. But didn’t know why.  Then at about 9:05am a colleague who had her radio on told me there was a plane crash at the World Trade Center.  We both thought must be some small private planes.  Then after a while when she said there was another crash, I told her, don’t think these are accidents.  We all were asked to gather at the President CEO’s room to watch the TV.  And were told not to blame anyone for these events, for we didn’t know.

And that very moment the 2nd tower had collapsed, I got a call from my younger brother Syed Miran Shah in Mumbai, who was just leaving his CNN office in the evening and happened to see on their big screen a plane crashing into the WTC.  He called me immediately, I said we are ok. After sometime will go home.

Then I used the office phone with permission, to call my sister-in-law in London, who was in panicked state, as she was watching live on TV various planes flying around. She asked me to get away from the office and go home.  I asked her to call everyone back home to tell them that we are fine. Those were the 2 last calls I had.  For about 5 days there were no phone service. No TV, only 1 channel was running.

Manhattan was totally cut-off from the rest of the city, and the country. Most of my colleagues had decided to leave immediately.  There was no train, no buses only the deafening sounds of sirens of the emergency vehicles going downtown. Now that I think about it, who knows how many of them survived the day or not.  My home was across the East river, usually, 15 minutes by car, or about half an hour by the subway train.
I waited to leave together with two other people going in that general direction, but very far from each other’s destinations.  Decided to check the subway first.  Luckily for us 3, a train was just going to start with very limited service.  The 34th Street Herald Square station was jampacked. Somehow we managed to find our way to the edge of the platform.  My kind and concerned American colleague pulled me back saying, never know there could be crazy people who might push you onto the track.  The train arrived, we managed to get inside.  And it moved slower than a Bullock cart. But at least we were on our way home.  And finally we got home. Thousands of people didn’t make it back home that day, nor ever.  And the world as we all knew it, changed forever!

The impact of the tragic events of that fateful morning on 9/11 was felt around the globe, changing peoples’ lives forever in many places, many countries, and mostly of innocent people, civilians, babies and children. The ominous wave of destruction and suffering still going on to this day.

On a top floor office a young enthusiastic man from UK was appearing for his job interview, and the same morning his only sister was working as a stewardess on one of the hijacked planes that hit the WTCs that day.  Imagine, the plight of their parents in the UK.

Another sister visiting her brother’s office, there are so many such stories, so many we would never even know, because not everyone tells their daily plans to others.

Always let someone know where you are going.  Our late mother always used to tell us, when we were young, even if you go to Hell, just inform us, so we don’t have to worry.  How right she was!
Don’t put aside to tell something nice to somebody for a later date.  That later date may never come.
Live every moment, every day.  They add up to make our lives.

Let us all have happy, healthy and above all peaceful lives.

NB:  And did I say that I mourned for 2-3 months as if I had lost a close family member.  The WTCs were a part of our existence for years!  Apart from seeing them from various places of the City,  we used to visit that area almost every weekend.  And sit by the water fountain under the shadows of the two skyscrapers.  Not anymore!


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