The morning of September 11, 2001 was cool, crisp, and clear. I was at work early setting up for an event on the ground floor of our building when I heard that a plane had flown into one of the Twin Towers. I turned on the TV at my desk and the news showed footage of the North tower smoking. The narrative at the time was that a small private plane must have mistakenly flown into the building.
Still in work mode I went back downstairs and wandered out onto the street where everyone was looking up at the smoking tower. Just then an enormous fireball exploded out of the South tower along with a cascade of glass and paper. Confusion reigned for a moment as we tried to process what was going on. Because the second plane had approached from the South we couldn’t see it, just the resulting explosion billowing out our side. We couldn’t understand why there was an explosion in the South tower when the North was the one that was struck. As the initial shock wore off there was a collective realization that this wasn’t just an errant private plane that went off course. That’s when I went up to our roof deck with my camera, and recorded the shots below.
I remember standing talking with some engineers who were part of a construction project in our building, listening to them predict that the towers would fall from the heat of the fires. We were close enough to know that many of the objects we saw falling from the upper floors were people, but not close enough to see any details or faces.
After the first tower fell we were told to evacuate the building. Broadway was jammed with people, all walking North away from ground zero, many covered head to toe in dust and ashes. It was utter chaos but oddly quiet. The fire marshal for our building cleared us to go back in (the evacuation was a mistake) and I headed up to the roof again just in time to see the second tower collapse.
I set up TVs in the cafeteria on the roof so the people who stayed and were stranded could monitor the news. It was utterly surreal to turn from the news broadcast on screen to see the real-life scene filling the whole horizon. We watched as 7 World Trade Center fell, and tried to keep in communication with our families. As the cafeteria staff had all left during the evacuation I cooked and figured out how to run the industrial dishwashers. About 7 in the evening most people had left, and we heard that the subway was running north of Houston Street, so my boss and I walked out and took the train home.