9/11: Experiences, Reflections, Changes by Michael Koch
If you’ve been in a high rise during a windy day, then you’ve experienced that strange feeling when the building slightly sways under your feet. The vibration of a large explosion is an entirely different and eerie feeling.
When the North Tower was struck, coworkers on the north side of our build reported “It was an American Airlines jet.” “How is that possible,” asking myself and doubting them.
There are no flight-patterns close enough. It had to be a smaller private plain, right? Everyone in the office quickly gathered at the windows as we stared in disbelief at the huge plume of smoke littered with debris, like a ticker-tape parade without the celebration.
Feelings of disbelief quickly turned to concern and fear for everyone’s safety as we all had friends and colleagues working in both buildings.
Then a spot from the south quickly grew into a jet. The jet then turned into a missile heading directly towards lower Manhattan. “How could this be,” I thought to myself.
Then the impact. It looked real, it felt real, but, how could this be?
I was now convinced that neither crash was an accident. Not knowing whether or not more planes were coming, I was definitely convinced it was time to leave our building, immediately.
Going down forty flights of stairs is more challenging than I knew. Looking back, I know it was much more difficult for those in the towers, fighting more steps, smoke, the building’s movement, panic, age and health issues. I pray the trauma no longer haunts the survivors.
Making it to the street level, I saw debris everywhere. Smoke loomed and covered the sky. Fear was on the faces of many New Yorkers as they, too, watched in disbelief. And, yes, people were jumping to their demise.
Next I needed to make a decision whether to stay and help, or leave to make room for the professionals. The possibility of collapse never entered my mind. Thankfully, I managed to catch a train to Brooklyn before they shut down the entire subway system. At Flatbush in Brooklyn, I, fortunately, boarded one of the last two trains to Long Island.
Being under ground for several minutes, worry and curiosity were off the charts. I happen to have a radio with me. A signal reached us.
As I listen with my head phones, I relayed a report that “a plane just hit the Pentagon.” People near me where questioning with denial. This attracted the attention of others on the train. Several strangers gathered around me starving for more information.
Next, I told them that “one of the towers just collapsed.” The news came just before the train was due to exit a tunnel. We all gathered at the north side of train and pressed our faces against the window, so we look back towards Manhattan.
It was true. We all saw the large, dark cloud that engulfed lower Manhattan. The silence was defining as I stood there in disbelief, once again.
About two hours later, the train stopped at my station. By this time, both towers had collapsed, and I was anxious to be at home with my wife.
I was walking home in a different world. It was surreal. A picture perfect day, not a cloud in the sky with no one to be found, no cars on the street. “Where is everyone,” I thought.
I walked in the back door, and saw my wife in the other room. The dogs alerted her to my presence. I had expected a big hug and kiss. Instead I received a punch and anger.
“Where the hell where you,” she yelled at me. The emotions where high – she did come to her senses. My family and friends were driving her off the deep end with all the phones calls desperately seeking confirmation of my safety.
Like all Americans our prayers and concerns were now focused on those families that lost loved ones that day.
Coincidentally, three weeks prior to 9/11, I was offered a job located on the 90th floor of the South Tower. It was a better opportunity with more pay and everything was great, except vacation time. We could not agree OVER VACATION TIME, so I declined the offer.
My prospective boss did perish in the attack. He was a kind, positive person with a young family. I still see his face, and now pray for his family’s recovery.
This past year was the first time I’d been to Ground Zero since leaving New York eight years ago. For the first time in my life, I became physically ill by emotion. If I feel this way, I can only imagine how families members must feel (moms, dads, a child). God bless them all, and please don’t let us ever forget.
We often reflect on how Americans related to one another on 9/12. The answer to all of our problems is within us and in our relationship with one another. All the other cramp we get from most media and the political class is self serving, and in many cases, intended to separate us. Hence the phrase, United We Stand, Divided We Fall.
Michael Koch is a Sales and Marketing Consultant with Closerware.com and lives in Orlando with his wife. He is also an Executive Director of the FairTax Patriots.