PSU Lower Manhattan Native Remembers 9/11
This summer not only was I fortunate to obtain an internship in New York City, I was lucky enough to have two great friends house me for the summer. One of them, Alex Ortega, lived two blocks from Ground Zero. In light of the 10-year anniversary on 9/11, here is his story:
I remember it so clearly. I was 10 years old on the day. I had just got to school that Tuesday morning, it was around 8:45, I believe. I was sitting in my 5th grade classroom on the second floor that doesn’t face the World Trade Centers.
When the planes hit, not only could I obviously hear it, I could feel it (his school was two blocks away from Ground Zero). It shook the whole building. I remember specifically, my teacher was writing on the board and the chalkboard was shaking. Nobody knew what was going on because from that angle, we couldn’t see what was going on.
At this time, they told us that a plane accidentally hit the WTC. My dad who worked only a few minutes away picked my brother and I up very quickly. We started walking uptown since that was the only way you could really go that day. I’ve never seen as many people walking in one direction. Imagine a parade or almost a mass migration of people.
As we were walking, I remember that I kept looking back. I knew something wrong, but I didn’t really understand due to my youth. As I looked back, both of the [towers] were just spewing smoke across the sky.
When we would take family trips as a kid, seeing the [towers] would mean we were close to home. That was my home, that’s where I lived. Seeing those buildings on fire was so scary, it was like my own home was in flames.
We walked about a mile up the [Hudson] River to my grandmom’s house and met up with my mom and few friends who lived in my apartment complex. On that walk, I saw thousands of people taking pictures and trying to call others. There was so much cell phone traffic that making a call was not possible.
We were watching the news for a bit until my dad said, “You guys don’t need to be watching this.” About 15 minutes after watching some cartoons, my aunt ran in the room and flipped on the news. Shortly, after that, we all sat in horror as the first WTC collapsed.
I do remember one thing particularly well. There was a man who my dad brought in from the street. He was in real bad shape that morning. He was wearing a suit and tie and he was covered in thick, heavy gray debris. That guy was in such shock. Dad sat him down for glass of water and the rest of us sat in silence. Weird thing is, I’d be willing to bet I could pick that guy out of a crowd today.
Beginning September 12, they used my school as a police and firefighter checkpoint. They also closed my house down. So I couldn’t go back to my house, let alone school for a while. We fortunately had somewhere to stay, but I know for a fact a lot of people stayed in hotels for multiple weeks.
After a few days off from school, a middle school in West Village took on our 5th grade class for a couple days, and then we went to another school, and then another, and then another. The local schools couldn’t accommodate all of the Lower Manhattan kids. After a few weeks of bouncing around NYC middle schools, my mom decided we were going to move Woodstock, N. Y. I enrolled in school there for a year.
Being three hours away from the city was very tough. It took me out of my urban environment and all of a sudden I had to rely on my parents to drive me everywhere. The lifestyle difference was a real shock.
The thing that gets me now is that when I think about it, I just wonder how can someone do this? Not only can it happen, it did happen. It happened to my friends, to my family, and my country. It just doesn’t make to me still.
The day that brought me some closure was the night that Obama announced that we killed Osama. It didn’t hit me until we went down to Beaver Ave and saw the thousands of students in the streets. Then it hit me. This piece of shit is finally dead. I called my parents and my brother and told them about all of the Bin Laden riot on Beaver. Then my best friend from home called, he was the friend with me on the day of 9/11. He watched the WTCs fall live on TV. I loved the patriotism in State College that night, I just wish I could’ve seen him too.
When I currently look at my life, there’s pre-9/11 and post-9/11. For the first 10 years, I walked by those buildings every single day and thought “Wow.” For the last 10 ten years, I walk by ground zero every single day and think,