Editor’s Note: The essay below was written in 2001 and appears in the self-published book, Through Our Eyes: A Tapestry of Words and Images in Response to September 11. Printed and distributed in 2002, the book was the result of an independent, volunteer documentary project organized by a journalist and several friends. The author’s bio was written in 2002 and has not been updated.
Hewlett, New York
Carlo Crudele, a 27-year-old management consultant, is a native New Yorker. He was born in Brooklyn and now lives in Hewlett with his spouse, Marcelle. On the morning of Sept. 11, he watched the New York City horror unfold from his Jersey City office window. He put his thoughts and emotions into words Sept. 25. His contribution is titled, “My Experiences Associated with the World Trade Center Attack on September 11, 2001.”
I suddenly felt thoughts of disbelief, fright, nervousness and concern run through me when one of my colleagues interrupted our meeting at 8:45 AM on September 11, 2001, to tell us to look out the window because “a plane just hit the World Trade Center.” The meeting immediately stopped and we all ran to the windows to see a large black cloud of smoke, bright red flames and a severely damaged tower.
How could this be? What was happening? Why did this happen? How did this happen? Who did this? Could it be terrorists? All of these questions raced through my mind while staring out the window in disbelief. After looking through the window at the blazing tower, my coworkers and I ran to the television set to see what CNN had to report about the incident. And then we saw something even worse – a second plane crashed into the other tower!!! There was instant panic as we all raced to the window yet again, only this time to see both towers ablaze.
The sight was absolutely horrible! There was black smoke everywhere. The hole from the first plane crash was noticeably larger now. How could the building remain standing? What about those poor, innocent people inside? My mind was racing because I knew several people inside the towers. Were they safe? Were they at work yet? What floor did they work on? And what about my pregnant sister? She works just blocks away from the World Trade Center.
And then the phone calls started. My wife called me. I heard the fear in her voice. I could see the tears in her eyes. She was extremely worried and panic stricken – and rightfully so. I was in the World Trade Center a mere 15 minutes earlier exiting the subway station and transferring to the PATH train to travel across the river to Jersey City. I promised my wife that I was safe and that I would call her shortly. I checked the caller ID on my cell phone and saw that my sister had tried to call me. What a relief! She was safe enough to make the call. I called her back to learn that she was on her way to a friend’s apartment in Manhattan.
And what about my brother-in-law who worked in midtown Manhattan? I called his office to learn that he hadn’t arrived in the office yet. Was this a good thing? I called some colleagues who worked on the 99th floor of one of the towers, but they were not answering – the calls went directly to voice mail. What did that mean? I repeatedly tried to call my wife, but kept hearing the message “all circuits are busy” – I couldn’t use my cell phone at the time I needed it more than ever.
After a few minutes, I contacted my father, who lives near Albany, New York, to let him know that my sister and I were both safe. At the time, he knew nothing about the horrible tragedy unfolding in New York City. I received sporadic calls from friends who knew I traveled through the World Trade Center on my way to work. I told them I was fine, and was equally happy to learn that they were also safe. While standing at the window talking on my phone, I saw “long, skinny things” falling from the windows. I later came to learn that those “long, skinny things” were actually people jumping from the towers.
Then the fire alarms sounded. My building in Jersey City was being evacuated. Why? Weren’t we safe across the river? I looked down and saw the streets of Jersey City filled with people from other building evacuations. The police were telling all cars to “move away from the river.” I heard people saying that Jersey City would be used as a triage for injured people. I also heard they would use Jersey City as a temporary morgue. How could the place where I work be used as a morgue?!?
Where would I go after evacuating the building? What would I do? The bridges and tunnels were closed. The trains to and from Manhattan stopped running. After countless attempts, I was able to call my wife again, who made additional phone calls for hotel and car rental reservations for myself and three of my colleagues. At least we would have a comfortable place to spend the night if the bridges and tunnels didn’t reopen.
Two Weeks After the World Trade Center Attack on September 11, 2001
Today is September 25, 2001, exactly two weeks after the horrible attack on the United States. As I sit in my Jersey City office, looking out the windows across the river, I no longer see the Twin Towers. I no longer see black smoke. I no longer see red flames. I only see a pile of rubble, many broken windows, and a white cloud of smoke. I see a tremendous hole in New York City. I see the results of a horrible terrorist act. I see the catastrophe that has changed the world forever.
As each day passes, I hear about additional people who I know are still “missing” from the World Trade Center tragedy. My personal list of missing people is now up to five. And I can’t help but wonder if it will continue to grow. I also can’t help but wonder when (not if) the next attack will be. Will I be near it? Will anyone I know and love be directly affected? When will it end?
I spent the last two weeks trying to bring my life “back to normal,” but I am constantly reminded of the tragedy every time I turn on the television. I hear about the possibility of chemical and biological warfare. I hear about terrorists trying to gain access to crop dusters. I see terrorist camps on television. I sit and wonder if Nostradamus was right and if this is the beginning of a World War. Will the world “end”? When will it happen? These are some of the questions I think about, but the one that stays with me constantly is “Why”???