Sep 11, 2008 Americana
The radio was telling the story that had played out between the time I got off the E train at Seventh Avenue and doubled back to the phone store, and walked east to Fifth. Both buildings, now, were on fire.
Doom, I thought. War. And a whole new world.
I was in Manhattan, and Manhattan was under attack.
I tried to call home — northern New Jersey, across the Hudson River. No answer — or were the phones clogged already by then? If so, I used my cell phone (the old one), which did work. But no answer yet.
Emails fast and furious — the Internet was working. I was a member of a number of email discussion groups. The two most interesting this morning were “Princeton High Tech,” which included a large number of engineers, and “CYBERIA-L,” which was truly international and also had a large number of technically proficient people involved.
We were trading bits and pieces of information. The websites were mostly current, too. Then the speculation began about how many people were in the towers… and what could happen…
And what was happening?
The towers were aflame. The announcer on WCBS 880, the news station, then said words I had never heard in a lifetime living in and around New York — words that still convulse me, because of the doom they spelled, each and every time I recall them:
The Fire Department has announced a general alarm. All fire department personnel on or off duty are directed to immediately report to the site of the World Trade Center and assist in the operation.
This was chilling. This bespoke a situation truly out of control in the world’s great metropolis.
Rapidly, my computer was beeping with messages over ICQ, which permits users to search for other users who identify their geographic location in their profiles. People wanted to talk to other people in New York. Most, from Europe, as I recall, were sympathetic and wanted to know if I could tell them what was going on. They were very supportive.
Others, from other parts of the world, mocked and laughed at us.
A short time later the announcer, who was watching the events on television (I only realized this later — at the time streaming media was in its infancy, and we had no television in our law office), said, in a panicked voice, “The South Tower has collapsed!”
The City, they also announced, had been locked down. No one could enter or leave via the bridges and tunnels. We were all in this together.
Part three here.