Sept 11, 10 years back: An eye-witness account – Part 1

              It was the best of the days…but it came to symbolize one of the worst of the days. Events that happened 10 years back this day changed the way our world operated. I’m talking of Sept 11, 2001, the day the twin towers fell in NY. I was an eye-witness to the events that unfolded that day. It was destiny that I had landed in the US just 2 months back on my first onsite assignment from work. It was destiny again that my client-office was just near the twin-towers. And it was destiny again that we were already in our office building working at that time early in the morning.

              On Sept 11, 2001 I had reached office at our usual time at 8 am and had just started checking emails, when I saw the ringer beep on the work-phone and the number of a friend K flashed. His office was in Jersey City, across the river Hudson. What could it be that was prompting a call from him at this time and that too at work? – I thought. I picked up the phone and he said that there’s fire in the building just right across ours. I kept the phone down and told my colleagues from India about the fire. We rushed to the other part of the building to see what was happening.

Twin Towers burning
              What we saw at that moment is forever etched in my mind – There was a huge fire and a hollow in the heart of one of the twin towers and there was smoke coming out!  We saw that there was an aeroplane near the building…Good,  the rescue operations have begun and soon they are going to control the fire – I thought. (At that point nobody knew what had caused the fire). Even as I was thinking this, we saw from the building that lots of people and all kinds of traffic had crowded the streets below. A second later, the windows shook and we promptly got instructions to evacuate the building (I realized later after seeing the news reports that this was when the 2nd plane had struck the towers).  We all took the stairs and came out in the streets below. I was amazed to see all kinds of forces down there – NYPD, Fire department, Ambulances, Salvation Army – you name it and they were there.

              When we were down at the streets, we came to know that a plane had struck the towers…My mind started racing – (This has got to be a terrorist attack… It is such a bright sunny day and there is  no way even an amateur pilot can hit such landmark buildings out of the blue.) Being from India where we had already faced the brunt of terrorism, I was too familiar with the fanatical ideology that drives the terrorists. For some reason, the name of Osama Bin Laden flashed in my mind immediately as soon as it started becoming clear that this was not an accident (I remembered the attack Bin Laden had carried there a few years back).

              We were watching out of curiosity what kind of rescue operations could be carried out at that height and in what way – whether they would be able to save lives. Apart from the Manhattan office-going crowd among the onlookers, there were also tourists – lots of them. Many were clicking photographs and some were discussing in hushed tones regarding the cause of the fire – could it be accident or arson? A hostage situation or terrorism? I saw many crying, some praying and almost all trying to call up their near and dear ones on their cellphones (soon they discovered that the lines were jammed).

(continue reading…Part 2)