Where were you on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001?
I was in the concourse level of Rockefeller Center in New York City, taking money from an ATM machine. I have an ATM receipt with a time of 8:46 a.m. – the exact time the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. I then went and bought a coffee and a muffin. I still struggle with the idea that all over the country, similar mundane tasks were being performed at the same time our world was changing.
I was working as a journalist for The Associated Press then. Unaware of what had just happened in Lower Manhattan, I took the elevator upstairs for my 9 a.m. editing shift in 50 Rock, about 4 miles north of the World Trade Center. Minutes after I arrived, the second plane hit the South Tower and it became clear this was no accident.
My bosses sent me down a floor to the New York City bureau, which was in desperate need of reporters. I did nothing brave or even noteworthy that day. I just sat at a desk, answered phones, monitored TV reports and took dictation from reporters in the field. I had plenty of friends who worked downtown. I convinced myself that since none of them actually worked inside the Trade Center, they were all OK. Thank goodness that turned out to be true.
I remember talking repeatedly to a reporter who was at a hospital or triage center that expected to receive some of the expected hundreds of injured workers from the WTC and nearby. Very few injured arrived.
When I wasn’t taking notes from other reporters, I was in charge of updating our stories on the status of public transit and commuter trains. I remember at the time thinking it seemed like such a silly story to worry about in the wake of what was happening in Lower Manhattan. But of course residents were desperate to get home to their loved ones, and in a city like Manhattan, you usually do that by bus, train or subway.