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  • Hard to believe it's been 11 years. I can still replay the day quite vividly. I found this issue of TIME magazine when I went through my storage unit recently. Still looks unreal sometimes…

    During my travels, I occasionally meet those who worked out that I was one of the four million others that were in Manhattan that day. "What was it like?" I’m asked.

    "I was very fortunate. I lived and worked Midtown. I don't really have a story to tell, and I still don’t quite have the right words to tell you how it felt.”

    Indeed, my story is but a blip in the sea of sadness that took over the lives of many that day. I heard and knew of many, but those are not for me to tell. But I bet everyone on Manhattan that day will remember theirs just as well as I do.

    8:50am, Sept 11, 2001 – My first studio in New York, just by the Empire State Building, running late for work as usual…

    I thought I heard wrong, but as I approached the TV, there it was, a plane in lodged into the North Tower. It seemed surreal that could happen. I froze in front of the screen for a moment, then routine kicked in, and I got ready for work.

    Ran into an acquaintance in the elevator. "Did you see what happened? How could a plane run into a building like that?" I said. "That's no accident. Trust me," she remarked. We parted ways, I ducked into the subway.

    Three stops later I was at work. As I passed through the doors into the office, I learned about the second plane. Folks were huddling in the conference room to watch the news. I called my parents. It was only 6am on the West Coast when I woke them, "Dad, you'll see this in the news very shortly, don't panic. I am ok. The twin towers just got hit. I'm at the office and many blocks away. You might not be able to reach me later with everyone using the phone lines, tell mom that I’ll be ok."

    The phone lines were jammed shortly after, but thanks to the internet and BBS, I knew that all my friends were ok.

    I hustled to the conference room to join everyone else as we watched the day unfold. One of our colleagues, a volunteer EMT, dashed out to join the crew working at Ground Zero. I suspect most of the city, like our office was at a standstill. Later, we started seeing the crowd walking up Fifth Avenue. Folks were covered in dust, faces blank and just walking forward, one foot after the other.

    Later that afternoon, I walked home against the flow of folks heading uptown. I met a friend in the area for a while, we did not want to be alone.

    The next day, the city, myself included went back to work. Sometimes, when you are not ready to feel what’s going on yet, keeping the old routine worked best. But it wasn’t quite the same routine.

    Streets were blocked off below 14th, there was a bomb scare at the Empire Street building the day after. My friends had gathered at my place after work. We came down 25th flights of stairs when the alarm came on. When the first officer we saw in the lobby ordered, “don’t walk, run!”, we did. Having dashed down 34th Street, we found ourselves at Penn Station and not sure where to go next. That night, those of us who dwelled in Manhattan stayed with our friends in Brooklyn and Queens, getting further away seemed like a better idea.

    In those first few days, the city smelled like a steel plant (the combination of molten steel and ash). You could see the dust cloud downtown, and feel the residual heat.

    For weeks and months following, there would be sudden closing of subway lines, more evacuation of buildings…

    I still can’t quite tell you how I felt and how I feel now. But even though those days kind of felt like a haze, going through the motions, I know I’ll remember it.
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