Solemness, And Haunting Images From September 11, 2001

September 11, 2017

Some stories need to be told again and again, in spite of the emotional upheaval they cause in those telling the story. I want those who did not live through it to have some sense, some taste, some bodily inclination of what the experience feels like, some embodiment of the intensity of emotions that traumatic event triggered in so many lives on that day.

Always a solemn day…with many memories… I remember many details of that day in 2001 and some things are out of focus…

It was both surreal and alllllll tooooo real…Emilee and I were in Manhattan, about three miles from the Towers that morning…at West 19th St. and 7th Ave.

As Emilee stepped outside the building we were in for a continuing education class I had, which was in an old converted synagogue, she heard and saw the shadow of the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11, pass overhead, unusually low and loud. Several minutes later, news of that plane’s crash into the North Tower of the World Trade Center (WTC), at 8:46, reached us.

For my own education and remembrance…the times:

8:46 American Airlines Flight 11 (92 on board) hits North Tower (Floor 93-99)

9:03 American Airlines Flight 175 (65 on board) hits South Tower(Floor 75-85)

9:37 Am Airlines Flight 77 (64 on board) hits west side of Pentagon

9:59 South Tower of WTC collapses

10:07 United Airlines Flight 93 crashes in Somerset County, PA killing all 40 passengers and crew

10:28 North Tower of WTC collapses

In an hour and forty two minutes, the WTC was no longer there, and thousands of people had lost their lives.

Approximate numbers…about 3000 initial deaths, divided as follows:

265 on the four planes

2,606 in the WTC

125 in the Pentagon

over 6000 wounded

These numbers include first responders that died that day.

This was mostly for my own reeducation, and stark, sober remembrance, which became even more concrete for me the day I visited the 9/11 memorial a couple of months ago and touched so many of the names inscribed there.

I will never forget the vision of the throngs of humanity in a wave washing up Manhattan from the south end heading north up the Avenues away from the destruction. Faces and clothed bodies covered with ash, a scene from an Ingmar Bergman film (someone whose films are somewhat difficult to understand, with much symbolism), a mass of post-apocalyptic zombies with blank, bewildered, lost vacant looks on their faces as if the word “shock” had been scrawled across their foreheads.

At about 6 PM the evening of the attack, from an apartment in the upper east side of Manhattan, Emilee, my brother, and I, watched for the first time that day, with our mouths agape, the news and pictures of the collapse, as it was played over and over again.

We then drove back to Long Island where we were living at the time. There was NO TRAFFIC. Talk about surreal…and as we drove away from Manhattan heading East, we saw, directly behind us, billowing, smoldering smoke drifting South, I believe (thankfully), from the South end of Manhattan.

Smoke, where, up until that morning, stood two massive, distinct, very visible dominant structures in the skyline. Smoke, and empty spots where the Towers were. Too surreal to fathom, too surreal to comprehend, too surreal to digest. In shock, as when suffering the very initial stage of a sudden death. Only multiplied several thousand times.

Some tragedies we try to forget. Others, like this one, as painful as it is, need to be remembered, and recounted to others, so that it is NEVER forgotten. We have to make it vivid, and visceral, and felt as deep as deep can be.

Neal Klein
Life After Emilee, on the loss of my wife to pancreatic cancer. I’m not accepting comments right now but please feel free to get in touch via my Contact page.