On the morning of September 11th, 2001, I went to work at 1 Liberty Plaza across the street from the World Trade Center. We happened to have a global department meeting that morning, so I had passed through the transit hub at the base of the WTC earlier than usual - 7:45 instead of 8:45.
I still remember the sound of the first plane. I was in a conference room on the 12th floor facing south, so we couldn't actually see what was going on at the time. The paper and ash looked like confetti, and our first reaction was that it was some sort of ticker tape parade.
Without television or radio, we had no sense of what was going on. I called and woke my girlfriend who was living a few blocks south at the base of West St. My plan was to come down to her apartment and figure out what to do. I watched the second plane hit, and by the time I got to her building it had already been evacuated.
Standing in Battery Park, I stared at the burning towers. It was only as I watched the first tower fall that I began to understand the gravity of the situation. I simply stood there in shock with countless others as a cloud of dust and debris and God knows what else enveloped us.
I was on the FDR ramp on my way uptown and did not see the second tower fall. At this point, everything was pretty much a blur. Things hadn't quite sunk in, but all I could think about was where my girlfriend was. I finally got through to my parents on a landline. Tara was ok. She wisely ran to the ferry terminal and managed to get on the last ferry off of Manhattan and was making her way to a friend's apartment in Jersey City.
All trains leaving the city were closed, so I eventually ended up at Chris' apartment, a good friend who I worked with and who left the office with me. We eventually met my father for dinner who was still in his office a few blocks away coordinating things. I don't remember what I ate or what was said that night. The only thing I really remember was how grateful I was to be sitting with my father and a few close friends, knowing my mother and sister and girlfriend were all safe.
The greatest gift was waking up on my birthday the next morning at home with those I love and learning that none of my family and friends had been taken. There were 2,749 other families that were not so lucky, and my heart goes out to each and every one.
We were waiting to check our bags on Monday at 8:46 as the announcement asked for a moment of silence. It was very surreal. Five years later, I still don't fully understand the impact that day had on my life. I don't know that I ever will. I do know, however, that I never forget September 11th, 2001.