I was driving along a part of Interstate 280 in New Jersey, I don’t know the mile marker I just know it. It was the spot coming down a hill where the Twin Towers would always first come into view. On this morning though there was nothing.
It was Saturday September 15th, 2001 and after covering the events of September 11th from Buffalo my wife and I knew we wanted to get away from the television and be around family. As we drove to Pennsylvania I told her I need to see it, so we decided to drive to Hoboken that morning to a spot across the river we liked where the World Trade Center always seemed within reach.
As we got closer we saw only smoke where the towers once stood. We parked the car off Hudson Street and we went to a little park on Sinatra Way where a memorial was beginning to grow at the rail on the Hudson (photo above). After a while we decided to take the nearby Subway into the city to see how close we could get.
Sitting across from us on the train was a woman with a thick stack of flyers baring the picture and description of someone lost in the collapse of the towers. In the days following September 11th this became the last hope of family members, that maybe their loved one somehow had amnesia or was hospitalized unconscious and unidentified. All over the Subway and lower Manhattan we found the flyers on poles, storefronts and stuffed under wipers on windshields. What started out as a way to find their loved one quickly turned into a way to memorialize them.
The subway took us only us so far and we walked south from there. What struck us most was the silence. The signature noise of the city, the beeping, the brakes and tires squealing- silenced. There was a stunned look on most everyone we passed. We walked down a near empty side street and Senator Bill Bradley passed us. I had interviewed him so many times over the years working in Atlantic City, in a normal situation I would have introduced myself and said hello, this wasn’t the place, we walked.
My wife pointed out that on the street where the Yellow Cabs would line up, there were now yellow bulldozers and front end loaders ready to be put to use.
As we stood at the perimeter out walked some medical personnel. They were in their scrubs ready to administer first aid once survivors were pulled from the rubble. As they walked toward us the crowd began to applaud their efforts, the look on their face though told the dejected story of failure, there was no one to save.
When we left we made our way back up to Canal Street where we found some of the shops were open. Inside people were buying up World Trade Center postcards and souvenirs.
I thought to myself here we are a few blocks and a few days removed from this horror and there were signs of life, signs of commerce and I thought if they can rebound maybe we all can, maybe we are going to be okay.