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Where Were You on 911?

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Posted by Matty from Flatbush on Friday, September 11th 2020:

Where Were You on 911?

I was working second shift at AXA Equitable Sucks then on 6th near 52nd. They paid for my parking so when I got out around midnight and got my car from my garage on 7th Avenue, I zipped down the West Side Highway. Always took a look at the two buildings just before I went into the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. Took me less than a half-hour to get to my house on 94th Street in Bay Ridge. Jackie was between jobs then so she was home and waiting up although she kind of kept day hours so after a greeting, she went to sleep. Even though casual dress was OK for work, I still felt I had to change out of them, so once I did, first thing I did was to walk Fred. Wow, Fred was still only seven then. Didn't even have arthritis yet. Next I would go down to my little room in the basement -- I can't call it a man cave since there was no TV although there was a radio, a CD drive in my computer and a small frig that only had a large bottle of Absolut vodka in it and an ice cube tray. That's all I needed. Shortly after I waited for Fred to come down to knock on the door to get his treat. I kept a box of large dog biscuits for him. He didn't disappoint. Fred would stay down there with me. By 6am, I returned upstairs to bed, Fred following.

Around 9am, we got a phone call. Annoyed and still feeling the Vodka, I asked Jackie "Who's calling at this time?" as people knew not to call us that early. It was Jackie's friend Patty. She told Jackie to turn on the TV because a train crashed into the World Trade Center. What? I was still out of it. A plane! A plane! Turn on the TV. OK. My first thought was it was like a prop plane or maybe like that one that crashed into the Empire State Building in the '40s. We turned on the TV on Channel 1 in time to see the second plane hit and stayed in bed watching the TV for hours. I sobered up quickly.

After the first building fell, I wondered if it would look weird just seeing the one building standing. I didn't even consider that the second building would also fall. I remembered back to when the buildings were being built and how the yellow and orange construction material could be seen from Brooklyn as the buildings rose. I thought those were pretty cool colors for buildings, not realizing that they would be covered or come off. So I was kind of disappointed when the silver color showed up and actually didn't care much at first for the plain rectangular shape. But they kind of grew on me over the years. I even went to the top one day in the late '70s when some friends from out of town visited because that's what you were supposed to do. Also went to the Statue of Liberty for about the third time ever that day.

Work was canceled for that day and night. I finally was able to make it outside that afternoon. You could see the smoke from 94th Street and 3rd Avenue, almost ten miles away. A slight breeze would blow the smell of burning rubber in. At least I hoped it was burning rubber or burning materials. I wondered how long that was going to last and how dense it would become. Soon it would not need a breeze and you would get used to it.

Fred and I took a walk to the nearby Belt Parkway bike path and trail and walked to the part where you could view the city. We had a clearer view of the Statue of Liberty covered in the smoke and the smoke. Work was canceled the next day also.

That's when the first sign appeared. A little further down my block a woman, Angela Tiberi, put up a big bedsheet sign on her balcony. I don't remember now exactly but words to the effect "We're waiting for you David DeRubbio." That was her older brother. I didn't really know her other than to say hello if I saw her as I walked Fred around the block. That sign remained for about seven weeks. He was a firefighter. They had a mass for him in November.

Fred and I continued taking walks to the Belt Parkway in the mornings even after I returned to work. The smoke was still there but the smell finally began to dissipate. There was always a crowd of people just standing there and staring. Every day. In a weird way, I kind of began to hope the smoke would stay there because then I wouldn't have to see that the buildings weren't there. Maybe there might be a chance that they might still be there once the smoke cleared. Obviously, I wasn't ready to accept this reality yet. I kind of wanted a do-over.

Signs appeared all around the neighborhood. Another name I remember seeing on my walks was for Police Officer Moira Smith around 74th Street. I began to look at the death notices - not the obituaries - in the Times and read their biographies - to see who lived near me or whether I knew them. The News and the Post printed color flags in their centerfolds. I taped one in my front window. I never had a flag before. Almost every house did.

Instead of the Brooklyn Bridge or the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, I had to take the Queens Midtown Tunnel or the 59th Street Bridge to get to and from work. You weren't allowed to pass by the World Trade Center site. The next time I could they put green construction tape along the fence surrounding the footprint so you couldn't see anything and there were T-shirt hawkers and tourist gawkers on the Church Street side. I was still in Brooklyn and the City when the Freedom Tower began to rise but still haven't been there and doubt I ever will go there to see that or the memorial. I can see the Freedom Tower from the Verrazano Bridge when I come into Brooklyn. Although I lived there for 62 years I don't feel like it's my city anymore anyway, especially with Nathans Coney Island selling cheesesteaks and no more Chow Mein on a bun.

Reference ID: BK96506


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