The SeaTac blog posted an abridged version of my 9/11 Anniversary piece presented at the SeaTac City Council meeting on 9/10/19. This is my unabridged version.
Tomorrow is the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the United States. The south tower was hit at 9:03 AM and collapsed at 9:59 AM. The north tower was hit at 8:46 AM and collapsed at 10:28 AM.
I will never forget that day, September 11, 2001. I was working in my office in Connecticut, and one of the staff yelled out, “a plane just hit the World Trade Center.” I was very involved in my job, and I quickly thought, “it’s just the small plane, some new pilot trying to fly between towers.” Twenty minutes or so later, that same employee yelled, “oh my God, another plane just hit the Trade Center.” It was then that I began to fear that this was not an accident!
I put on the news and learned that the two planes that hit the Trade Center were commercial passenger planes and that the damage was catastrophic. I immediately tried to call my wife asked her job in New York, and the circuits were busy. Being a technician, I was aware that it was probably that the local circuits were overwhelmed and could not handle the number of incoming calls, so I called my daughter in San Francisco and asked her to call her mother, who worked a couple of blocks from the World Trade Center.
I learned from my daughter; my wife was going into motion. Her office had closed and sent the employees home. My wife was heading to our normal pickup point in the city, the George Washington bridge. I left my office in Connecticut and flew my car to New York to get my wife. As I arrived at the entrance to the George Washington Bridge, the police were in the process of closing the bridge to all traffic both in and out of the city. They advised that the FBI ordered the closing.
The view from the bridge was surreal. Both towers were visible, and miles of smoke went past the bridge north towards Westchester and beyond. Without warning, minutes later, both towers collapsed. I will never forget that unforgettable sight.My wife ended up walking to Midtown through crowds of people in shock and crying. She stayed with one of our daughters in her apartment in till the next day when the city reopened.This incident has become a bookmark in our life forever. Also, it started a process in wife and me that we did not realize was happening, we distanced ourselves from the city. My wife soon quit her job, and we stopped going into the city for entertainment and restaurants, over the next few years.
New York changed tremendously after the attack. Security appeared everywhere. The many carefree and wonderful events that happened in the city; the Macy’s fireworks, New Year’s Eve watching the crystal ball drop and the village Halloween parade, were now flooded by police and security personnel imposing rules meant to protect, in case of another attack. New York was no longer the carefree playground for people to come and visit. New York had become a target!
During the September 11 attacks of 2001, 2,977 people were killed (excluding the 19 hijackers) and more than 6,000 others injured. Of the 2,977 victims killed in the September 11 attacks, 412 were emergency workers in New York City who responded to the World Trade Center, which included: 343 firefighters of the New York City Fire Department.
As of August 2013, medical authorities concluded that 1,140 people who worked, lived, or studied in Lower Manhattan at the time of the attack developed cancer as a result of “exposure to toxins at Ground Zero.
And sadly, the police, firefighters and emergency workers who responded 18 years ago are now developing cancers from the toxins of the buildings and jet fuel at a rate 30% higher than the rest of the population.
This incident in American history is undoubtedly one of the greatest tragedies to befall this great country. Tomorrow, sometime during the day, look at one of the flags flying at half-mast and remember the first responders, the innocent victims and the people still suffering because of hatred for these United States. Do not let this memory die or have no meaning; the lesson it teaches is very important; Our way of life is fragile, and we must protect it.
God bless the United States of America!
Joel Wachtel 9/10/2019