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Dear Editor:

Many of us former New Yorkers were walloped by 9/11, understandably. My husband and I lived on the Lower East Side off the Bowery back in the early 70s.

But my old college pal had lived in Manhattan far longer when the planes hit. I asked him for his memories on this 20th anniversary.  His recollection follows.

“I got a phone call from friends in Ohio while I was getting ready for work.  “What the hell is happening in New York?  Turn on your TV.” My windows face west and uptown from my place in the West Village, so I couldn’t see anything from my apartment.  But when I left for work, from the sidewalk I could see the first building on fire. By the time I got to the Japanese gallery on the Upper East Side, the second tower had been hit. 

Then I got a call from my sister. Her friend, Barbara, from Seattle and Barbara’s two traveling companions were sightseeing in New York. They had just arrived from Washington, DC. As it happened, they were on the subway heading to the Statue of Liberty with plans to visit the World Trade Center in the afternoon.  When they got to Chambers Street, the announcement came to leave the train and exit the station.  They came above ground to see the burning buildings and the crowds heading quickly away. Unfortunately there was no public transportation, and their hotel was at Broadway and 74th Street.  So they ended up walking all the way uptown.

We closed the gallery, and I walked across Central Park to their hotel. We sat glued to the TV the entire day until partial subway service resumed, and I could get back home. Barbara and friends couldn’t get flights out of New York, so they took Amtrak to Albany and stayed with my sister until they could get flights from the Albany airport.

My friend Sarah’s brother was an emergency medical technician stationed across from the Trade Center that morning, and was the first to call in for help.  He set up triage centers in nearby stores and spent the next several days picking up body parts.  Needless to say, he retired with PTSD shortly afterwards. I had the opportunity to visit with him two days after September 11, and that was eye-opening. 

My friend, Kristen, was scouting for photo shoots downtown on September 11, got a shot of the second plane hitting the building, and sold the photo to Newsweek which put it on the cover.

So those were my six-degrees of 9/11.  Unfortunately my roof was closed for restoration, or that would have been a bird’s eye view. 

The next few weeks were somber. It was upsetting to see all the posters of missing people and the sidewalk shrines. People coming into town wanted to see the site, while New Yorkers avoided the area.  I could understand why tourists wanted to see in person what they had watched on TV. New Yorkers, however, experienced the day first hand, and it was too painful to relive.”     

Meredith Hughes

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