A Decade Later …

DILENI WEERAKONE

The new freedom tower is standing tall almost completed, halfway up at ground zero, the building 3WFC facing the Towers where I worked on that tragic day. In some ways, the now infamous “9/11” seems like yesterday.

It was around 7.30 am. I, still jet-lagged from my trip to Spain remember walking to work through the WTC plaza. I had a habit of looking up at the sky between the towers. It was a beautiful clear Tuesday morning like today.

Follow the usual morning ritual; pick up your coffee, go through the revolving doors of the tower, walk pass the faceless security, cross the overhead bridge, winter garden to the Amex Tower (3WFC) where my office Lehman Brothers was at, and to my cubicle not knowing the events to follow.

I remember one: my colleague saying that a small commuter plane had hit the tower. A few minutes later I heard the alarm, saw everyone lining against the wall. Yet suddenly it seemed as though the alarm was a false one; the commotion had been interrupted and it was everybody back to their desks.

After finishing up a call with a client, I decided to walk towards the window facing the Towers to take a peak at the damage. I could see into the hole the first plane made, now engulfed in hallowing flames, so much paper coming down from the sky it looked like ticker tape parade. While standing there, with my naked eye, I watched the second plane hit the Tower 2 and explode.

Within a few minutes we were all evacuated to Stuyvesant high school grounds at Vesey Street, dazed, watching the two towers engulfed in billowing flames. So much debris was falling, or was it something else? We were all silent for five eternal seconds….no it is a person… I could never erase those images from my head, I really thought firefighters could catch them somehow.

A few minutes later we heard the jets flying, I wanted to go home and then realized that I had walked out of the office without my handbag. I went back to the security and one of them assured me that when all calmed down I could go up and fetch it. While many of our colleagues decided to leave I stood by the grounds.

Suddenly the unthinkable happened; my heart stopped, I heard that noise, the south tower collapsed.

Next thing you know, we were all running down the west side highway covered with dust. While comforting your colleagues as the second tower collapsed, helplessly wondering of people who worked in those towers.

Dealing with my own emotions, I had happy memories of the towers, remember hanging out with my colleagues Barbara, Patti every other Thursday night at the windows of the world bar for mambo nights, getting drunk, kissing boys and getting lost on our way down in those elevators. For all New Yorkers it was a landmark bldg. In case if you are lost and not knowing which way to go, just look for the towers. If buildings have souls it sure did have special attachment with NYC as well as the rest of the world.

Eleven years later, looking back what I have learned; I have changed the priorities in my life and I give a lot more weight to simpler things in life, …I for sure make time to look in the eyes of faceless security and say “Good Morning”

I am so grateful for the years I had with the towers standing…when times were so much different. To have known the before, during and after is a remarkable thing.

 

Footprints is a series which brings you stories and features from and about Sri Lankans who live away from home. iSrilankan follows the story of their lives to see how the Srilankan footprint has travelled and how diverse is the imprint they leave on the Planet, in communities and cultures that differ from their ancestors. 

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