As I begin to write this, it has been just over two days now. Two days since I got that frantic call from my fiancee Debra, who was at a payphone in downtown Manhattan, telling me to come meet her. Initially dumbfounded, we finally picked a meeting spot and came up with a backup plan in case we didn't meet within an hour or so. I didn't find out until later that she had been on a subway at the World Trade Center stop when the second plane hit.
It's been nearly two days since I stood at Cooper Square, the corner of Lafayette and Astor Place, watching the streams of people walking uptown, desperately looking for Deb, feeling, well, not really knowing what I was feeling. I got through to my mother on my cell phone and she said my sister and her fiance were somehow safe and together. I couldn't understand how he could be safe, but I couldn't really understand anything. I found out later he was walking to his building when the first plane hit, took cover, and managed to get uptown quickly. And my father started walking over the Brooklyn Bridge after the attack occurred.
The streams of people running up the street continued. I heard someone say one of the towers had fallen. Someone borrowed my cell phone but it didn't work. It was past the time Deb and I agreed to go to our backup plan, but I couldn't leave yet. Then finally, there she was. Two days later, I am still emotional as I remember the scene. Two people Deb had met along her walk-complete strangers until that moment-seemed almost as happy as we were that we were all together. We exchanged business cards with the two people.
Deb and I walked back to my office, where we might have a working phone. Frantic messages were waiting on my voice mail, the greeting for which I later changed to say "I'm OK." A friend, David, still had not heard from his wife. A few hours later, I learned she safely completed her walk home.
All our other friends seemed to be accounted for and we began walking farther uptown to David's apartment because we heard Metro-North, the commuter rail line that would normally take us home, had stopped running from Grand Central Station. But as we walked past the station we found out it was being reopened.
It's been about two days now since I got home, returned all the phone calls, and contacted everyone I needed to contact. I got an e-mail from a friend living in Israel wanting to make sure I was OK. It was only a few weeks ago when I was calling him asking the same thing.
It's been a few hours now since I woke up and decided to go to work, back into the city. After the bomb scare at the Empire State Building, only two blocks from my office, the previous night, I was not planning to return to work so soon. But a night of sleep changed that.
The city is quieter. The conversations are muted. No one is smiling. No horns are honking. No one is yelling. What happened to the homeless guy who used to hang out across the street from my office? Flags are everywhere, as are the sounds of sirens. A church if offering refreshments outside and is inviting people to come in, take a break, relax.
I think of going outside for a walk later, to look for signs that my city is still my city. For now, I look east at the East River, with one boat, probably security, stationed there. It's another clear day in New York, but the sky is clouded by the blowing smoke. I look south where I would normally see the beautiful picture of downtown framed by those two towers. But they're not there.
There is a bomb scare and several buildings in Midtown, around my office, are being evacuated. No one knows for sure which ones. The reports are unclear. There is chaos in the streets again. I get nervous and decide to try to make my way home, a trip that would eventually take me to a friend's office, another friend's apartment and finally a bus ride to the train. Despite my hopes, this is not the day for any sense of normalcy to return.
I've lived my life in and around this city. But my life and this city will never be the same.