I have lived in the Battery Park City section of Manhattan since 1987. It's a lovely area between the Hudson River & West Street and one block southwest of what used to be the World Trade Center.
I pass that hole -- that huge construction site -- almost every day and it still doesn't seem real.
It was a typical Tuesday morning, the sun was shining and I was on-line with my friend Isabelle. I heard a very loud noice outside so I looked out the window and down at the Hudson River. A ferry had crashed into a dock outside the World Financial Center in 2000 so I always looked in that direction when I heard anything. I never thought to look up at the towers. I saw people rushing toward the river and figured that it must have happened again. I never imagined they were running away from the World Financial Center buildings so they could get a better view of the airplane that had just slammed into one of the World Trade Center towers.
I had the news on and a few minutes later I found out what had actually happened. A plane crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. This time when I looked out the window, I looked up. There it was: the tower, black smoke pouring out and pieces of glass falling like tiny glittering snowflakes.
It had to be an accident...right? It had to be a small plane that flew off course and hit the tower; it just HAD to be an accident. The phone kept ringing: my mother in California, friends from all over, everyone was worried (except me). "Don't worry, I'm OK". I told everyone "everything is just fine".
Another noise: "oh my God, what now?" I go back to the window, almost afraid to see what was out there. There were flames coming from both towers now: smoke, glass and tiny bits of paper filled the air. It was confirmed by the news; a second plane had hit the other tower...now I knew, we all knew...that it wasn't an accident.
I stood at the window transfixed as the first tower came down. Staring at the cloud of smoke and debris that was coming right at me, it hit the window like soft, wet snow and slid down the pane of glass. Then it was pitch black, there was no light, and it was as if the whole world had disappeared. I have never felt so alone. There I was with my cell phone in hand, hitting redial over and over again, but not able to reach anyone.
I started putting the cats in carriers. Thank God for those heavy-duty wheels I had to take my stuff in and out of show halls. I piled up four carriers, packed a few things and waited.
Slowly I started seeing some light, but the air was thick, and I couldn't believe the chaos right outside my window. I didn't know what to do, and if I should stay or leave. Some of my neighbors were evacuating, but if buildings were falling out there, I wondered if it was safer to stay put? Was my apartment building going to collapse too? I wasn't just worried about myself; I had 10 cats to think about. One cat was 6 weeks pregnant, one only 3 months old and another was over 16 years old. I continued trying to reach someone on my cell phone. I just wanted someone to tell me what to do.
About this time the other building came down and darkness enveloped the neighborhood -- now a nothing more than a war zone -- for a second time.
At around 12:30 PM I decided to leave. I covered the carriers as well as I could, wrapped a scarf around my mouth & nose and headed down 16 flights of stairs. Two floors down a rescue worker found me and helped me down the rest of the way.
Once outside I was directed to go to the Marina where there would be boats taking people to New Jersey...but I wanted to go to Long Island. We made our way onto a police boat and over to Jersey City. The cats and I were safe. But across the river all that could be seen of downtown Manhattan was black smoke and flames. Battery Park City, my neighborhood, was now being referred to as Ground Zero. I remembered a friend who had rented a small apartment in Hoboken for the summer and I called him. Frank said he would come and get me, but the police weren't letting any cars into Jersey City. Now the adventure (that's how I like to remember that day) begins. I was told there was a light rail train that went to Hoboken; the stop was only a few blocks away and off I went. But there was no train -- it was still under construction and wasn't running all the way to Hoboken yet. It did however run to Bayonne. I was told cars were still being allowed into Bayonne. I tried to reach Frank to tell him where I was going but with all the redialing I had done earlier in the day my battery was dead. Cell phones are great, and autodial is great, but when the battery is dead there is no way to retrieve phone numbers. I had the recharger with me -- one of the things I had packed...no toothbrush, no clean clothes -- but I had my cell phone recharger...funny how the mind works. I thought that under the circumstances someone, somewhere would let me plug in long enough to at least get the numbers I needed. I finally got to Bayonne, but by this time the police had closed it off too. Even if I could reach Frank, he couldn't come and get me. I got back on the train, and headed back to Jersey City. This time the plan was to get a ferry to Hoboken, so I headed to the ferry terminal. But there was no Ferry -- they had stopped going to Hoboken. They were now only evacuating people out of New York. Next I then tried to find a bus.
About 4 hours had passed and I was still in Jersey City and I was right back were I started. I ran into someone who had evacuated on the same boat as I had. She couldn't believe I was still wandering around with four carriers-ten cats in tow -- trying to get to Hoboken. I told her about the train and the ferry and now the bus. A couple overheard me and offered me a ride to Hoboken. They had driven from Hoboken into Jersey City wanting to take some photos of the devastation. I explained that I had a lot of "baggage" with me. They had a Jeep and it was no problem for them; they offered to take the cats and me to my friend's place. It just so happened they had the same cell phone as I did and I was able to recharge my phone in their car. I reached Frank and got directions and they dropped me off right in front of his place.
I was able to get on-line, retrieve my email and send out a message to friends and family that the cats and I were safe and we were trying to get to Long Island.
It just didn't make sense that two people and 10 cats spend the night in Frank's tiny apartment when he had a big house in Rockland County were we could go. So we piled in his truck and off we went. We stopped at a grocery store so I could get supplies for the cats who at this point had been in their carries for over 8 hours.
I got up the next morning and watched the news: it was so unreal, the fires were still burning (who knew that they would actually burn for the next 2 months), and the buildings had been reduced to mounds of rubble. People were dead, people were missing, a 3rd plane had struck the Pentagon and a 4th had crashed in Pennsylvania. I would never be the same; the world would never be the same. A realization came over me: we were all the victims of a terrorist attack.
Frank drove me to the ferry in Bridgeport Connecticut. The ferry took me to Port Jefferson, NY, which is about 45 minutes from Northport, where I was going to stay.
There was a time when the news reported that my apartment building was in danger of collapsing and there were rumors that the garage were I parked my car had flooded> At one point I didn't know if I'd have a place to go home to or a car, but through it my friends supported me and kept me strong.
All the "Healthcare Professionals" said that everyone should try to get back to as normal a life as possible, so 3 days later I headed off to a cat show in Troy, NY. I was pretty nervous about traveling, but it ended up being just what I needed. The love and support I received from my "Cat Friends" was better than any pill or therapy.
I stayed in Northport for almost 6 weeks. Tibby had a litter of kittens there proving to all of us that life goes on. It was hard going back to Battery Park City, hard to breathe the bad air, hard to deal with the dust and the construction, the closed streets and lack of amenities. But it's home and it where I live.
I saw millions of gallons of water being spayed on never-ending fires, day and night. I watched the mounds of rubble reduced to a few piles; I saw thousands of tons of wreckage taken away, truckload after truckload and now I'm ready to watch the rebuilding of downtown.
New York City and it's people are remarkable: to be able to recover from this attack and come back better than before is an amazing feat and one that I am very proud to be a small part of.
Do I have enough carriers if I need to evacuate all my cats? This is a question we ask ourselves all the time, but do we really believe we will ever need them? Well, on September 11, 2001 I did.
The following tips will help you if you are ever evacuated.
-Identify your pet
-Photograph your pet
-Transport your pet safely
-Find a pet friendly hotel
-Foster your pets
-Have supplies on hand
-Plan your evacuation and leave in plenty of time
-Carry a list of emergency telephone numbers with you