Everyone has a September 11th Story. This is mine. It is an exclusive excerpt, from Chapter Six of my book, Chasing Ghosts. This post was originally published September 11, 2006.
I had quit my job at JP Morgan on Friday, September 7. I was planning to spend the day sleeping in late, going to the dentist, and taking the train up to the Bronx to play some golf. I tried to ignore it, but the phone on my bedside would not stop ringing. I figured something must be wrong, and I finally picked it up. It was an ex-girlfriend in Miami.
“Paul, turn on the TV.” she said, calm but urgent. As I saw the first tower smoking on CNN, I went numb and heard her say, “Paul. This is what you have always been waiting for.”
I had always complained that mine was a generation without a cause. Not anymore.
I bounded the stairs in threes to the roof of our building on East 24th Street. As I slammed the rooftop door the first thing I saw was the cloudless soft blue sky. It was a gorgeous day—a perfect day. The next thing I saw was the smoke smudging the sky’s flawless color. I heard the cacophony of sirens and people yelling from Third Avenue below. I ran to the street from the roof and over to Broadway, where I could get a clear look at the towers.
Breathless and focused, I stood among a crowd of stunned New Yorkers with mouths frozen open, eyes wide. They were hypnotized. It reminded me of the scenes in Godzilla when everyone in Tokyo franticly jumped out of their cars, dropped briefcases, filled the streets and stopped everything to collectively freeze and look back— before running like hell as Godzilla crashed through the city.
Then the second plane hit. We were in awe. Petrified but unmoved. No one ran. No one panicked. They just stared and cried.