Remembering 9/11 17 yEARS LATER

In the USA, we remember 9/11. I have never written out the story with images and this anniversary prompted me. This event caused anguish in the world and US, while today NYC is thriving and my life is lovely. My story only addresses my experience.

A photo taken weeks after 9/11 from the ledge of 195 Broadway weeks after where we found intact documents from Canter Fitzgerald.

It was a lifelong goal to work in New York City, an exciting city compared to being raised in a small southern town. For me, it was an adventure to live across the river in New Jersey and commute into lower Manhattan to Siemens' temporary offices at 195 Broadway. Our new offices were being built in the Twin Towers. Siemens had two choices, the 80th or 30th floor. Since the 80th was more prestigious and cost more rent, it was decided to locate on the 30th floor of WTC1.

Aiken Standard

9/11 started out as the perfect day. It was the first crisp, cloudless day after a hot summer. The kind of temperature and breeze that feels good. I got up earlier than usual to do an errand at the DMV; the Port of Authority Police stopped me at the tunnel for expired tags and gave me a break on a ticket if I promised to get them ASAP. The previous weekend I was taking my bike into NYC to ride the waterfront path

Commute from across the river. I lived in Jersey City, directly across for the Twin Towers. My WTC badge. It was exciting to visit our new offices in the WTC. A drawing possibly by Joern's daughter.

On 9/11 it felt great to be going to a meeting in the WTC, I was early, new tags, a new life in many ways. Every day before, I arrived later, around the time that planes would have hit and I would have been walking across the plaza. This is the first credit I give to the Port of Authority police for saving my life. The second and third happens later.

My Jersey City Apartment after 9/11

At 8:30 a.m. we assembled in a small meeting room with a window and drawn shades on our new floor in the WTC. Someone passed out Krispy Kreme donuts, and I had one in front of me on a napkin. A week earlier I had gone shoe shopping and asked for good office shoes that I could run in if need be. Even though I was in a Naturalizer shoe store, the saleslady thought that was an odd request. I had an escape instinct, I thought. I bought some shoes that day but wore slightly impractical clogs on 9/11.

Meeting Invite that put me in what I think may have been the safer place than I could have been.

As in most engineering offices throughout my career, I was typically one of a few women. The other woman was Jackie, who was about seven months pregnant. Soon after we were seated, we hear a loud sound, a bit of a crash. We thought it was a window washer's scaffolding hitting the building. The feeling in my knees was the first thing telling me that something was wrong. I said to the group that I smelled something, and it was not window washer. The engineers told me I was wrong, it was nothing. Moments later Rainer came to the door in a panic. He was part of a Siemens husband/wife team, and his wife, Angela, was also in the building. He told us to evacuate now. At this time mixed messages were coming to us. It did not matter, we proceeded down the staircase. Grabbing our things, leaving the donut.

195 Broadway in the left bottom corner was the location of my office while Siemens built new offices in the WTC. My coworkers and I planned to meet back there after the planes hit. Instead I got out of the WTC by subway train, directed by Port of Authority.

We all had a cell phone. Mine had a low battery charge. David heard it was a plane. I thought it must be a small aircraft. I felt nervous for Jackie, the pregnant women. The GM, Peter, took charge. He was an ex-commander in the British Military and a good leader. All agreed to his plan to meet at our office adjacent to the WTC Center on 195 Broadway. Once we were in the lobby, we stopped with Peter who was taking video images on his Pocket PC (no phone cameras until the following year in the US.) You can view the footage below. The Port Authority guards urgently yelled at us to go. Our group descended the elevators after we stopped to look out the window and film. At the bottom of the stairs, there was panic. I passed the many high-end stores in the mall and took special note of Coach Bags.

The General Manager of our team took this video on a Cassiopeia Pocket PC. The only camera phones were in Japan at the time. I appear walking down the steps at :43-:44. I parted ways with the group and was directed by the Port of Authority to the subway train and escaped the fall of the towers. My co-workers did not and endured the dust. The video gets quiet after the fall of the tower. This video is highly disturbing for me to this day. 17 years later.

Then there was a tremendous crash far above my head when Tower 2 was hit, and the air quickly smelled of fuel, I remember. The Port of Authority guards once again were violently directing people. I started running. I followed their lead while they pointed in what seemed all directions. They pointed me to the trains. My Siemens group followed Peter, I did not. The WTC Cortland station I left from was partly destroyed and finally reopened 2 days ago.

The guards pointed me to subway trains, the turnstiles were open, I ran to a train and pushed the doors open because they were closing when I got there. There were two other women on the train. A fourth tried to get in, and we were numb and frozen, and she could not pry the doors open as I did. Maybe it was too late, the train left. I remember getting off at the first stop, Canal Street, 14 blocks from the Twin Towers. When I saw the smoke and fires, I was in complete shock. People all around me were crying.

This is likely the route I took to get to a Subway which first stopped at Canal, where I exited.
WTC Train took me to Canal Street, safe from the falling buildings and separated from my co-workers.

My phone had run out of batteries, and I had heard a hotel was letting people use the phones. When I entered, I saw Mayor Rudy Giuliani surrounded by firemen. There were several cubicles and a TV. I remember hysterical people when they watched one building fall on TV while we were inside. I called my Grandparents who I confused. They did not understand I was safe. I believe I saw the last tower fall from outside, blocks away.

From documentation my Mother collected.

Meanwhile, in Aiken, my dad was being evacuated from Savannah River Site, a potential target and my Mom dropped her food tray in the School Cafeteria where she taught when she saw the twin towers in flames on TV. They both met at home, hysterical until they heard I was okay.

My Mom lit this on 9/11/2001 and many days after

I walked the city for 8 hours, trying to give blood. There were long lines everywhere, but no patients. In the evening I heard that the Spirit of New York, a cruise ship, was leaving Chelsea Pier to take people across the river to New Jersey. It was surreal on the boat. The sunset was beautiful. On my right, I could see the statue of Liberty and on my left was the empty space where the towers had been.

A photo I had taken before 9/11 of a commute by ferry

For days I was shaking, and I kept thinking of the Port of Authority Police and Firemen. After the intense fear was gone, I really thought that now the USA had been attacked, it would be like a person growing up, learning compassion thru experience. I thought that it would lead to more peace because now our country had been visibly violated and over 3000 people had been killed.

Some images taken after 9/11

We lost our joyful co-worker Randy Drake on 9/11. He had walked outside of 195 Broadway and was hit on the head by heavy plane debris. He was a beloved son, father, and husband who worked only for the love of contributing.

A beautiful memorial of our friend and co-worker. Photo Credit: Joern Fellenberg

Some cards I received motivated me to change my life. Those sweet little babies on green grass in SC...

Three years later at my Grandmother Becker's funeral, the Pall Bearer was wearing a Port of Authority pin. My mom told him I credited them with saving my life (getting me to the DMV and early to work, to get out of the building and stop looking out of the windows, and leading me to the trains.) He gave me his pin.

Created By
Jennifer Kouyoumjian