• TheGoodfella

My Own 9/11 Story

This is a post I anticipated making the day I decided to start the GoodfellowThoughts blog. In preface efforts know it’s just my story. It’s merely my way of sharing another day of my life experiences. I in no way share this for pity or sorrow as my thoughts are very inconsequential when compared to the suffering of people who forever had their lives changed that day. This account is my story and my optics only. And it's most likely similar to other stories that people have shared publicly before, but this is mine. And I don’t believe I have ever tried to write it out before. It’s just permanent space on my brains memory that I rarely access. It was 20 years ago but because it was such an important day in my life the memories are vivid, almost as if it were but a few months ago. So from here I will just write and see where it goes…I assume this will be a long post.

The 20th Anniversary of 9/11 is today. The day the Twin Towers fell. This post is not another tribute. It’s not just another RIP thanks to the brave first responder’s posts. And I’m not degrading that sentiment at all as I share those feelings. I just know my readers always give me props for being unique and for telling my story & personal Thoughts. If you want the usual “RIP Lets Pray” I’m sure there are countless MSM posts by 20 year old woke journalists at the New York Times who will try and suggest 9/11 was Americas fault and/or we deserved it. F#@k them. You won’t be reading that here. Move the F on and click the red X in the upper right corner if that upsets you...

On August 14th, less than 1 month out from the terrorist attack I was on my first visit to New York City. I saw the Statue of Liberty, Central Park and rode the horse and buggy, Broadway, Empire State Building, Manhattan Square, and MTV Studios. I rode the Subway; I bought a fake Rolex watch from a street peddler ($25). I got to take a cab to and across the Brooklyn Bridge and shout out the window and have a cab driver laugh at me. I ordered a big 1 foot long NY Hotdog from a street cart with only mustard, relish and sauerkraut. I went to Little Italy, ate at Patsy’s and sat in the famous booth Sinatra used to regular. I remember the pictures on the wall of every single major star that had visited. It was like a real life Planet Hollywood where stars actually went. I did every single major tourist trap event I could think of. And I loved every single second of it. New York, there was nothing like it.

And of course I went to the World Trade Center. I was super excited to see the Financial Center of the entire world. See the floor, the operations, and the employees. Just meet people and try to imprint a great memory. To live fully in the moment of getting the opportunity to see something in real life that I saw in almost every single movie filmed in New York since before I was born. Most notably Godfather III. And I know it sounds ridiculous but there was an old 'The Simpsons' episode where Homers car was parked between the Towers and got a parking boot and ticket. He had to wait for the cop and he had to pee. And he ran up one tower to find a sign on the bathroom that said “Out of Order, use other tower”. I remember LMAO and wanting to see the towers after that.

I remember waking up at 8ish am. The streets still pretty dark because the buildings just block the sun out. We left the Marriott Manhattan and took a limo directly to the WTC that morning. The traffic was off the chain. And just taxi cabs everywhere made seas of yellow. I was in New York! I remember being on the ground looking up at these monsters of buildings. From watching movies I always perceived the buildings were so side by side, that you could almost jump from one to the other. But they were far apart. Not extremely far, but like 75-100 yards. Like a football fields length apart. But that was hard to tell from the ground because the buildings were so much wider than I thought they would be. You couldn’t be in front of one and see the other. I’m not sure why but that was my experience.

I remember the beautiful reception area of 2 WTC. It was what you would expect for such a famous building. Everything super clean, fresh, spacious, and decorated with class. Even the indoor plants looked perfectly laid out. It was amazing. And then I got to meet some nice people in the reception area to go to the top of the WTC. I remember making jokes and small talk with them. I remember after talking to him for a while a nice guy named Louis got me a coffee and said “You have wanted to do this for a while so I want to make sure you’re awake”. And I was tired still from the day/night before, so I was appreciative. I said thanks, gave him a fist dap to let him know, and he said enjoy and gave me my pass to go up. Louis had a female co worker. She was a brunette female in her late 20s. I don’t remember her name but she was very pleasant and she brought me to the first elevator. I entered and begun to ascend. I don’t remember how many floors we went up. It was approximately 20.

The doors opened and revealed a floor with a completely open floor plan. It seemed like there were no interior walls. At least not that I could see or remember later. I believe I could see windows all the way on the other side of the floor. And the floor was completely illuminated because the sun gleamed through the windows at this height. To my immediate left I saw what looked like thousands of cubicles and desks. There were workers everywhere. To give my readers real life perspective it was so many people it was like the entire population from the mid size town I was from all on a single floor at once. That’s the most simplified way to put it. My belief was that each floor must be similar to this. Just a towns population on every floor. They were working, buzzing around fast and doing what they did every day. Nobody even looked up at the tourists walking by. To them it was just another work day they wanted to finish and go home to their loved ones. I completely understood.

Then we stepped into the second elevator. I was not expecting the feeling that would follow. To my memory it was the fastest elevator on the planet. It must have gone 80 floors in 5 seconds. I remember feeling the G’s and crouching down and bracing for a crash to happen. The same nice elevator lady looked at me and giggled. My friends with me made some jokes. But they all agreed it was fast. The lady said it wasn’t irregular for people to have my reaction. For a glimpse I thought the elevator had malfunctioned and were about to fly out the top of the building like Willy Wonka. I was scared, but it was funny in hindsight. If anyone reading this now ever went on that elevator you understand. It was a 0-60 MPH in 2 seconds feeling.

Then the doors opened and we went through a small hallway. We were at the top, the observation Deck. We got to walk around freely. On the top there were fences to prevent jumpers and accidents. Of course that made sense but for some reason I didn’t anticipate seeing big chain link fences on the top. On the top of the fences they had that angled 3-4’ extension that came out. So the fence was impossible to climb unless you’re Spiderman. I looked to my good friend who was at the edge of the fence, leaning over with his weight on his back foot, trying to look down the side of the building, then he looked back out at the city, and then to me and he said,

“Holy S&#t man, it’s like being in an airplane.”

For obvious reasons that’s the line that would forever make impact on me. And of course I did the same as my friend was. For a few minutes time we were probably almost identical in our postures lol. Seeing the bottom of the building was impossible. And there were clouds to. Process that…lol. When you stared out at the city you could see the islands, and the different communities. I remember giant sections of colored buildings clustered together like a mosaic. I particularly recall a big section of buildings that were all red in color. Pretty much in the center of the island and looking straight out of the WTC toward the North east I believe. And these are some big buildings that I’m staring down at. Some maybe 40 stories tall. But they looked like miniature models at this height. It appeared almost like looking down at a Lego city my son builds now.

I believed I could actually feel the building sway with the winds. I don’t know if that it was actually happening or just the effect of being 1362’ high with wind blowing in my face. But my friends also said they felt movement but not to a nauseating level. Just a constant sway in all random directions.

When I walked around the deck I could see the Statue of Liberty that the day before seemed huge while standing on Liberty Isle. But it now looked like a speck. There were those tourist viewer telescopes to see it from. That’s how high up we were. My friend was correct; it really was like being in a plane. You could see everything. Even past Central Park, and that was not close at all. And of course when you turned around and looked out across the street to the left you saw the other tower (1 WTC). It had this huge antenna on its top. I had seen it in pictures and knew it must be large, but in real life you realize how massive it is. 'At 33 stories tall, it was the height of a big building on top of one of the biggest buildings in the world' said the tour guide.

There were also friendly and informative workers on the top who answered all our generic questions that they have probably been asked 100,000 times before. “Has anyone ever climbed the fence?”, “how big is the antenna?”, and “What do you do in high winds?” Yes I remember rattling off at least 10 questions. I was completely infatuated. We all were. Then the highlight was to come…

We had reservations at the Windows on the World restaurant in the other tower (1 WTC). We had to go down 105 floors of 2 WTC, cross the quad type space between them, and then back up 107 floors of 1 WTC. So I felt what Homer Simpson showed me in the old cartoon I talked about earlier. Anyways we all made the journey. It was much faster than I had believed it would have been.

It was the most miraculous view possible. We got a window seat looking out at the water and Statue of Liberty. We felt like royalty even though this was a pretty friendly atmosphere that locals would frequent with out of town guests like us. I had Sea Scallops which is not unique for me because I will eat Scallops before all other food 100% of the time. It was soooo goooood! Then I had a White Chocolate Cake thing with what looked like small apple fritters around them for desert. Again, it was sooooo yummy! Just hit my sweet tooth perfectly. After desert I had a Cappuccino and enjoyed the view with my friends some.

While we were just enjoying life the Pastry Chef named Heather must have been making her usual rounds and talked to us for a while. She was delightful. Fun and such a happy soul who I could tell did not feel uncomfortable just saying hello and chatting. You could tell this was someone living her dream and making things happen in her career. At least that’s what I assumed because… well…. She’s a chef at this restaurant and probably every culinary student I have ever known would kill to work there. She told us about how my cake and the apple things were made. I don’t remember the details because I don’t cook but it was interesting at the time. It was a unique process she made herself, so she obviously had talent. She said to enjoy the rest of our trip and asked what we had planned next. We told her we were just going to enjoy the downtown streets and lights. Walk around and enjoy just being there. She said she hoped we had a great night, waved good bye and carried on to the right. After about 10-15 more minutes passed we went for the elevator. Returned to the street and went back to our hotel for a brief while before enjoying our last night in the Big Apple.

28 days later I woke up as I normally do. It was about 9:00 AM EST. It was time to shower and start my Tuesday morning. As a creature of habit each morning I would turn on the local news in Orlando FL where I lived. Good Morning Orlando to hear the local weather and traffic while I showered, dressed, ate breakfast and had a cup of coffee. The moment I turned on the TV the coverage was everywhere. I saw the Towers on TV with all the smoke. But didn’t understand the gravity right away. Not until I heard the words ‘A plane hit the tower’. I was shocked, however I ran up stairs to wake my roommates who had been to the WTC with me just a month previous. We all came down to my room and watched my 28” TV non-stop all day. We called family, relatives and friends in NY, CA, TX, etc. We made many phone calls that morning. All over the place, but calls to NY were not working. The auto phone error message said “all circuits are busy” every time we tried to dial a 212 number. We called family and friends in different time zones who didn’t know yet because of the time difference. We saw the second tower get hit, we saw people choose to jump from the high floors, we heard about the Pentagon, and the flight in PA. And suddenly we saw the first tower crumble to dust and then the second repeat shortly after. Our reactions in the room were in unison to what the reactions were everywhere. The world just stopped. I remember nothing happening outside my usually very busy neighborhood all day and night. Everything felt different that day but nobody could say what.

My friends and I started to think about all the people we had met, all the faces we saw. Who may have been there and who was not. We thought about people on the ground looking up wanting to help. It was beyond somber. And we knew there must be millions in NYC and around the world feeling the exact same way as we did. The entire day I just remember holding my pillow for some reason and watching my TV. We didn’t talk much. In fact the only noise I remember all day was when the phone rang and one of us talked to people about what was happening on the TV. After the phone call ended it was just the sound of the TV again.

It was impossible to grasp anything at that point. You just know death happened. You knew we were attacked by terrorists from the Middle East and that President Bush was going to address the Nation after Immediate Emergency Personnel at Ground Zero were accounted for. We knew Firemen, Police, and random people trying to help were in the towers when it fell. Nobody knew details yet though. It was a catastrophe that nobody had ever contemplated possible and how/why was not the priority. Rescue, prayers, and hope were the priority. I prayed and I cried in private. I couldn’t help myself. It was a moderate emotional breakdown that I’m sure millions of other experienced. Knowing people I enjoyed the company of only a few weeks prior may be gone and were murdered. All I understood that day was we were all attacked by an enemy that hated us enough to do this. People that the average American didn’t even know existed. I remember contemplating that maybe a violent introduction was their goal.

And of course we thought about ourselves. How if this had happened only a few weeks prior, we may have been in the WTC building and died. While 28 days seems a big window… it’s not that big when it’s your life. We thought of how many people were just like us that morning. Tourists with families doing exactly what we did weeks before. How a fun day and exciting experience turned into the worst nightmare in only seconds for them. And how some surely had died in the process.

As days and weeks went on my friends and I routinely checked obituaries, victim lists, missing persons lists, etc. Any source we could get. I bought Newsweek, TIME, NYTs, USA Today, every publication possible. We learned that Louis was fine. He was located on the ground when it happened and among the first to evac. The elevator girl was off that day so she was safe by luck. But the Pastry Chef Heather was there and had died. Of course nobody knows exactly how. I have always hoped she passed in the initial explosion so she felt no pain and had no fear. I think about her every time I remember the WTC. We know there must have been hundreds if not thousands of people we saw that day who were no longer on this Earth. People who were just doing their jobs, and waiting for their normal work day to finish so they could go home. I will never forget that they never got to. I will never forget meeting them. I will never forget how I felt that morning. It was a defining moment in my life. And I will never forget. Period! So don’t ask me to change. Don’t suggest I get over it. Don’t tell me that it’s in the past and doesn’t need to be told. I still have all the original magazines and newspapers from the weeks that followed and when my own children are of age to understand I will share it with them. Because our future generations that were not yet born need to be taught to never forget. And on September 11th 2001 my generations #1 responsibility became to help our future children to #NeverForget.

Because it seems to me that too many people are forgetting.