It's been said that you had to be in New York that day to really feel it. People who lost people on that day certainly feel it no matter where they live. But next to them, the event has to resonate more for New Yorkers.
I hadn't been in the towers much. The NYS cafeteria during a long ago jury duty, the observation deck once with my sister's family (the elevator ride WAS a bit creepy), cutting through the shopping plaza on the way to the PATH train to the Newark NPL con the summer of 2001. That was about it.
I often fall asleep with the light and/or radio on. That night, the light was off, but I woke up early, turned the radio to Howard Stern, and promptly fell back asleep. At some point two planes flew low right over my building, but I was not conscious of it. I groggily heard Howard and Robin talk about a plane flying into the first tower...and then the second tower. Now I was awake. And scared.
Since I would normally be getting ready for work, I decided to call in, though it was a little too early for anyone to be there. I left a message on my boss's phonemail that I heard some weird stuff on the news, and wasn't sure when I would be in. I also left a message with Doug, who sat near me at the time, saying the same thing. I switched to the all-news station at times, but mainly I stayed with Howard whose familiarity was comforting.
I was reluctant to turn on the TV and actually see any of this, so continued listening with horror as the towers fell, one by one. I couldn't believe this wasn't a dream! And what was next? No one knew, and it could have been very bad. I heard passage in and out of the city was restricted, and soon could hear the military planes flying around. If necessary, would I be able to escape? Where would I go? My cousins on Long Island? Up to Westchester? Would I have to walk to these places? I started worrying about toxic dust in the air and made sure the windows were closed. I also filled some containers with water. Then went back under the covers and kept listening.
I felt I had to communicate with SOMEONE so called my cousins on Long Island. My cousin's husband was supposed to go fishing in NJ that morning, but never left. It was his birthday. I also reached my family in Florida and told them I was OK and staying put.
At some point in the afternoon, I decided it was safe to take a shower. After that, I started watching TV, the endless reruns of the moment. I realized I had taped something that morning, turned on the VCR, and instead of the show I intended, watched horrified reporters describe the tower collapses as they happened.
At that point we didn't know if more was in store. We knew about the Pentagon and the fourth flight. But was that all? The mayor came on TV and seemed human and in command, and I had not been fond of him before. I spent the rest of the day alternating between TV and radio.
The next day there was no question of going to work. I just assumed we were closed. Later we learned a message had been sent through ABC e-mail telling only essential employees to come in. The only problem is, we could only access ABC e-mail on our work computers.
Judy was in town from LA with her friend Gail. Gail did not seem to understand the impact of this event at all, and was annoyed that her vacation was being ruined. I got in touch and we decided to meet at BBQ, next to where they were staying. We had a normal-seeming dinner, and then walked up Broadway for a while. At that point, the winds had shifted and there was a pervasive burning smell. No one who smelled it will ever forget it. There were also a lot of policemen walking around. They didn't even let me on the block where the police station was and made me walk around. A few days later a flyer in my lobby said the firemen could use T-shirts and towels, so I brought some over, wanting to feel useful.
On Thursday, I figured it was time to work again and arrived to an office of shell-shocked people. Tapings had been canceled for a few weeks, and I can't say we did much work that day, as we were glued to news sources which had nothing but recaps and rumors (a car of suspicious people was stopped in the tunnel in Detroit!). Management told us to take off Friday (if I remember correctly). I strongly considered hopping on a train to Montreal over the weekend, but stayed here and things gradually got back to normal.
Except it was about 2 months before I took a subway again. And I still have 8 bottles filled with water in the kitchen cabinet. And I still can't forget that smell.