I remember a day that started like any other.
When you work on a trading floor, your day starts early, so we had already been at work for at least two hours when suddenly Linda Park on our FX desk yelled out "SOMETHING JUST HAPPENED AT THE WORLD TRADE CENTRE". Linda worked pretty far from where I sat and I had never heard her voice over the general work buzz up to that point in the full year I had been working there.
I remember every single tv screen on the floor suddenly, almost magically, showing the smoking North Tower.
I remember thinking "What the fuck is going on?" I remember asking "What's going on?" (after only a year there I was too shy to swear) and getting the answer "No one fucking knows."
I remember for once the phones were silent on the trading floor. For once EVERYONE was silent on the trading floor. Standing and looking at the televisions.
I remember seeing the explosion when the second plane hit. And the audible sound of hundreds of people gasping at once in a room the size of a football field (well smaller, but you get what I mean). Because of the camera angle, I don't think we saw the actual plane hit, just the explosion. The news informs us what happened.
I remember at some point overhearing someone say quietly "Barkway is there."
I remember seeing the first tower collapse. I remember thinking it was a movie, the news teams were showing clips of a movie, what would happen if the towers collapsed. But it was real. I had just seen one of the twin towers collapse. And half an hour later, as if to emphasis that this is real, the second tower collapsed.
I remember crying. I think I was the only person in my immediate area that was crying. And when one of my clients called and I picked up the phone I was crying.
"What's wrong?" Hermenia asked after hearing my voice "Are you okay?" I knew in her office she wouldn't have had a television so she obviously didn't know.
"The world trade centre collapsed, the buildings are gone," I told her through sobs.
"Oh My God. Let me call you back." She didn't call back.
I remember Mike Fisher yelling "GO HOME. EVERYONE GO HOME. THIS DAY IS OVER." and then adding for emphasis "EVERYONE GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE." I will remember that until the day I die. "Everyone get the fuck out of here" indeed.
I remember passing people on my way home to the subway, on the subway, on my walk home from the subway. People who didn't know what had happened. People who didn't know the world had changed. People who wouldn't know until someone said to them "Hey did you hear what happened?". That someone would not be me. I walked home shellshocked. As soon as I got home I called my cousin Judy in New York and could not get through. I tried once every half hour, as I watched the news on my cable-less tv. Around two o'clock Judy called me, the phone rang twice to indicate long distance and I remember thinking "Thank God" before I picked up the phone. "Did you hear what happened?" is the first thing she said. "Where is everyone?" is the first thing I said, meaning her brother, her mom and dad. Fine, everyone was fine.
The following weeks, everything is a blur to me now. News and more news. Families looking for their loved ones, holding on to hope, posting flyers - the flyers break my heart. A casualty count that only got larger. A funeral for a wonderful colleague lost, a proud husband and father with another baby on the way.
We learned about true evil on September 11, 2001. But out of the tragedy, came stories, many many stories, of bravery, of selflessness, of kindness. People who sacrificed their own lives to try and save strangers, who carried people out of wreckage on their backs, people who worked around the clock in the aftermath in the hopes of finding survivors.
On a day we learned about the worst humanity had to offer, we learned about the very best that humans are capable of. The true definition of hero came out of the rubble of that day. I still read new stories that bring tears to my eyes - 10 years later, there are still stories to be told.