I still love you New York

“I’ll always be thinkin’ of you
I’ll always love you though New York
I’ll always love you though New York, New York” -Ryan Adams
Inspired by my friend Missy's post on her blog about a traumatic day in her life several years ago. I told her that I couldn't even remotely begin to fathom something like that, but that I could surely relate to coming out the other end of a tragedy and being forever changed.

I want to tell you this story because often times, when I tell someone about it, I hear that it’s the first time they’ve ever heard this side of the story, or that they’ve never met or known anyone that survived.

2001 was an especially hard year for me and my loved ones. The year started with my grandfather dying unexpectedly. On September 6th, 2001 my boyfriend’s father passed away, and then…

On September 11, 2001 I was on the 101st floor of 2 World Trade Center.

I was on an extended temp job with Aon Consulting (In their “special risk” department ~ ironically). I got there really early that morning because (being an actor) I had two auditions at lunchtime. I vividly remember what a beautiful pre-fall morning it was.  The sky was so blue, the air was so fresh…I bought lovely blueberries from a street vendor.

My building ID from that day. They kept forgetting to give me a pass for the month of September, so I had to get a new one each day until 9/11.

At 8:46am flames, black smoke, and debris shot past my window (from Tower One);  someone came out of their office shouting: “EVERYBODY RUN, EVERYBODY RUN!” I remember thinking, that the glass was going to explode, so I headed towards the center of the floor. But then I instantly thought, “I better get the hell out of here” and ran back to my desk to grab my bag ~ because I knew I wasn’t coming back. People were agitated and animated; running around the floor. I went straight to the stairwell. The last thing I ever saw of the 101st floor of 2WTC before heading down the stairs was Anna – she sat in the cubicle right next to mine. She was running in a circle and, it looked like to me, trying to figure out what to do. I shouted “Anna! Come on!”…she looked at me, nodded her head and said she was coming. (She did not make it out)

People are often surprised to hear that the stairwell was remarkably calm. As a matter of fact, I specifically remember one man saying to people “calm down, this is no big deal, we’ll be okay, no need to panic”…I wonder if he was just convincing himself? I don’t, however, remember being overly panicked – I just recall a strong feeling that I needed to get out of the building and I focused on getting down the stairs.

Handmade memorial tiles. Somewhere in The Village.

A very large woman was struggling down the stairs; I looped my arm in hers and hauled her down 10 more flights of stairs until she couldn’t keep up with my pace. About 10 or so minutes went by and there was finally an announcement over the intercom in the stairwell…a man’s voice said:

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a situation, a plane has struck tower one but tower two is secure so please return to your offices and desks.”

(We thought it was a little plane)

(I sometimes wonder if that guy survived)

Many people did go back through the doors of the stairwell to their offices – but I was thinking,“OH HELL NO…there was fire OUTSIDE my window on the 101st floor! I’m a temp – if they have a problem with me leaving, I do not care – they can take it up with my agency!”

Luckily, I had on kick-ass rubber-soled J. Crew city loafers. I saw many women were going down barefoot because they were wearing ridiculously high-heels.

Memorials at Trinity Church

A couple minutes later there was a huge “BOOM” that shook us (like watching a movie about an earthquake); some fell down the stairs. Because after about 30 floors my legs were starting to get sore, I had been leaning on the wall and railing – kind of sliding down. I was slammed into the wall.

(That was 9:03am. We thought it was that plane from tower one exploding)

I called out to the lady I had been helping – she was fine and right behind me.

(She DID make it out)

I was at about the 73rd floor (later I learn that the plane that hit our tower hit at the 78th floor -the elevator bank for high floors; anybody that stayed above that floor did not escape).

{For the sake of brevity}: I continued down – many, many flights of stairs go by. Sometimes, I was by myself (I kid you not).  I know I’m sounding pretty calm – in fact, it was getting really spooky. But still, I felt okay in the thought that once I got out of the building, it was going to be alright. I meet up with some guys from the Fiduciary office and I kind of connect with them. It feels better to be descending and talking with someone about what we’ve seen and heard…to not be alone.

(They heard it was 2 passenger planes)

Fast forward to about the 30th floor: a guy passes us, his button-up shirt is off (his t-shirt has blood and burn holes) he says it’s hell up there guys.

One year later.

(We still had no idea what could be going on)

At about the 20’s there was obvious fumes and thank goodness I had a sweater tied around my waist – I used it to cover my mouth.

(A fireman passes us going up the stairwell)

I remember thinking, “that damn hose must be a bitch to carry up stairs”

So, we get down to the lower level – they are herding us into groups to the escalators to get back to the ground level and leave the building. But one of the guys says “let’s go over to those stairs that aren’t being used & get the hell out of here.We do, and nobody tries to stop us from doing so; several people follow our lead. Then we’re standing outside in the plaza right underneath the two towers looking at the spots that were on fire – papers floating around in the sky. I remember thinking, “I can’t believe I just spent the last month and a half working on big filing project and now those papers are probably floating around right now.” (I guess I wasn’t quite grasping the severity of the situation yet)

It was eerily quite outside; people standing around; a pool of blood on the ground; someone being put into an ambulance. Everything felt like slow motion – r the calm before the storm…sparkly dust floating around. We start walking toward South Street Seaport…one of the guys said I think this just might be the first day of the rest of our lives – let’s go get a drink!” It was about 9:30am.

cross made from wtc steel beams 9-11-02

We got to the plaza area of south street and I came upon a man just standing there staring towards the towers. I asked if he was okay and did he just come from there too? He said,

“No…I’ve been watching the people jumping from the buildings”

(Reality slapped me upside the head and speeds up at this point)

I couldn’t understand why people were jumping! Why were people jumping!?!?

I find my two Fiduciary friends and they are talking to people & that’s when I hear hijacked planes, terrorists, more planes, etc, etc….

The National Guard flies overhead – we all fall to the ground thinking it was more hijacked planes! So, we go up to McManaman’s (a restaurant/pub) and have a drink. Phones are out, TV is out and we hear more of the story coming from the radio above the bar.

(It’s just absolutely unbelievable)

We were there no more than a few minutes when someone yelled from the balcony:

“ONE OF THE TOWERS IS FALLING!! WE BETTER GET OUT OF HERE, THE TOWERS ARE FALLING!!!”

(the tower I had just run down 101 flights of stairs was falling down about 30 minutes after I walked out of it)

(for several years I dream about being trapped in collapsed buildings)

We head north along the East River. The smoke and debris never catches up to us. The wind was blowing toward us – I don’t know if this was helping us, but we all commented on it. We walk forever to get away from that area, all the while watching it from afar and trying every payphone we found (none working).

(Fast forward) I finally find a place to rest as I lived way too far uptown to make it there that day. It took three or four more hours to get a call to my mom in Illinois to let her know I was okay (She already had her minister at her house).

I spend the next week with severe muscle strain and watching the events replay on the TV morning, noon and night. I still cannot believe what happened; that I survived. I Learned later that many people on the Aon team died and they had many children between them. I felt so sad about that because here I was living this selfish and single existence in Manhattan. But, I definitely learned what I was made of that day and I learned to listen to my instincts.

I wanted to share my story here because it’s a big part of who I am now and to pay homage to that day (on this the seventh year since) to the more than 2,900 people who died and honor the people who survived (who ARE surviving).

Today I’m going to go out about around Chicago ~ enjoying the day with my mom. Happy to be alive.

9.7.11 Update::10 Year Anniversary

It is amazing that 10 years have gone by, and yet, sometimes it feels like it happened yesterday. This time of year always makes me feel uncomfortable. The coverage of 9/11 is pervasive  –  especially this year. Although I am willing to speak about my experiences… {and I will be telling my story again this year for 6th graders in Scottsville, KY} I really don’t like to watch programs about it or listen to stories on the radio. I like to find a happy place to be with people I love, shut off the media for the weekend – and try to be in the moment. I think a good thought for those that lost their lives and their families who suffer. I send out a good thought for those who survived. I say kind words to myself and give thanks. I try to  move forward. But I am always relieved when 9/12 arrives.

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22 thoughts on “I still love you New York

  1. Oh, Stacy. I honestly can’t fathom what that experience must have been like for you.

    Sending you hugs and can’t wait to see you in October.

    Thank you for writing this.

    Have a great day with your mom. You so totally deserve it.

  2. My dearest Stacy. what an incredible story, thank you for sharing. So glad to have you as a friend in my life. enjoy your day with your Mom!

    Love Lila

  3. I came to you from Missy’s blog…and I’m glad I did. Thank you so much for sharing your remarkable story. I can’t even begin to imagine what you and the thousands of people in NY and DC had to go through – and what you still go through on a daily basis.

    Thank you for giving us all some perspective.

  4. I came to you through Misc & Co. too. Thank you for sharing your experience. It is/was such an unimaginable event, hearing your story helps remind me…it did happen, and it was awful, but people did survive. Peace to you.

  5. That was an incredibly moving story, Stacy. Thanks for posting it. I live in Melbourne, Australia, but I still remember being woken very early in the morning that day and turning on the T.V. in disbelief. My wife’s sister, her husband and my two nieces live in Manhattan – they had phones to say that they were ok, ‘safe’ way up town – but in truth, nothing felt safe for days, even weeks after. I still can’t comprehend it. This year I made my first visit to New York. I walked all around Lower Manhattan on a late January afternoon, almost freezing in the shadows and half lost in the narrow streets. I finally decided to visit what is now the vast building site where the towers once stood, and paused for a time in the chapel nearby. Afterwards, a weight seemed to lift, and I continued exploring. My hands lost sensation whilst taking photographs of various buildings and streets with mysterious names: Wall, Stone, Pearl, Cedar. I even wandered down a street with my name on it – I wondered about my ancestors for a moment, then walked on. A few moments later I found myself in front of an old fire station, with a painting of a huge tiger’s head on the old timber doors. I took a few photos before realising the significance of the place – and the people who must have been working there, on the day the towers were attacked. At that moment, the moment the enormity of the event really hit me. I sat down by side of the street for some minutes before moving on, but that image stayed with me for the rest of my visit.

  6. I remember dialing you non-stop that day and finally reaching your mom to find out you were ok. Little did I know at that time how close you were.

    What is most inspiring is that you have continued to work through the immense emotions associated with this tragic event in order to move on, and keep the most fabulous Stacy we know and love in tact.

    Love and hugs to you today and every day sister!

  7. Wow.

    It’s always incredible reading another fellow Survivor’s story; it always reminds me of how much we have in common and how truly blessed we were to get out of there alive on that day.

    I still see all that paper…and the quiet…that was the really strange part. A plane had just crashed into a skyscraper, and there was almost dead SILENCE. Just that paper rain and the blue sky and…silence…

    I got covered in dust. When I got home, those clothes went into the trash immediately. I couldn’t throw away my shoes, though. Maybe it was because they were brand new; maybe it was because they would serve as a physical reminder of my survival. I still have them, in plastic (even though they were cleaned by the fire hose when I was decontaminated on the NJ side of the ferry) and in a box.

    Thanks for sharing your story. It’s tough reaching down into your gut and pulling all of that out again. It may be 7 years ago, but to me it’s like yesterday…emotions and all.

    I hope you managed to come out of that better than I did (mentally). I hope you managed to talk to someone and get anything that may have been bothering you all out in the open, and hopefully you’re not having any physical ailments.

    If you like to correspond, my e-mail’s on this message or on my blog under “About The Author”

    Thanks again…peace to you.

  8. Wow, Stacy. A very moving retelling of what happened to you on that horrendous day. I have other friends and family that were there, but no one that was actually in the towers on that day, actually one friend decided to call in sick that day and my cousin had her rehearsal cancelled that was held in the area. Amazing….thank you for sharing this with us

  9. Ken Barnett posted a link to your story on his Facebook page and I cribbed it and posted it on mine. Your story is a reminder of so many things and such a perfect homage to the people who died, their families, and those who are surviving, that it should be shared. Thank you for sharing with us. I hope life has been smiling on you.

  10. Many years ago, on Christmas Eve at my mom’s I met some of your family. I wondered for a second just now of how I was not aware that you were there that morning 9/11 until now. Not that it matters, what matters is that you are here and you have written your story, in your words. Written so beautifully, I was able to visualize your experience. To me the choices you made that morning were so beautifully instinctive and from within. Then I remembered, that Christmas Eve came back to me and I remember thinking how that small living room was filled with strong women, Pat, Wylma, and Kathy and I knew where that instinct came from. I am grateful you were born into a family of strong women, who even back then impressed me with their concern with our earth and its future. In this present moment, I see sunshine and blue skies over the bayou, and send them to you. : )

  11. Like Gwen, I am just reading this for the first time. I new you had been there, but had been afraid to ask about it. (no point in bringing up bad memories more than they do on their own). I’m glad your still with us, and making the bluegrass state a little less red.

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