September 11, 2001
It started out like every other day. I woke up for my morning run and admired the New York Skyline on my normal route. During my run, I debated whether or not I wanted to keep my 8:45 doctorís appointment. Was it really worth it? I was going on vacation to San Francisco next week. Could I afford getting into work later today?
As I finished my run, I headed back to the apartment and jumped into the shower. I decided I would keep the appointment because it could be a month till I got an appointment again. I finished getting ready but, as usual, was running a bit late. I thought I would catch the bus into the city instead of the PATH train since my appointment was on the Eastside.
As I approached the bus stop, I noticed that I had just missed the NYC bound bus by seconds. I started to walk towards the PATH station and, to my surprise, I noticed another NYC bus approaching. I flagged it down and hopped on.
I was in the middle of writing a check for my co-payment when I heard on the radio something about a plane hitting the WTC. At first I was thinking a small helicopter or something. I immediately called home to let my parents know where I was, but my phone was not working. Seconds later I received a call from my mother. She was hysterical asking me where I was. I told her I was leaving my doctorís and then the phone went dead.
I walked outside and could smell smoke and had to cover my ears from the sirens and screaming. I felt like I was in the middle of an awful action movie. People were walking aimlessly and staring at the sky. I noticed people surrounding cars, listening to radios. The world was ending right before my eyes. I kept trying my phone to let my family know I was alright, but I really did not feel alright. But, like millions of others, my cell phone was not working. I walked the streets with no direction and to this day I canít even remember where I was going. I was in shock. The sky was full of smoke and streets became filled with the "walking injured."
All the subways were shutdown, the tunnels and bridges closed. I was trapped. All I wanted to do was get home and I couldnít. I was alone and stuck in chaos. It felt like anywhere you walked was a dangerous area.
As hours of walking passed, I remembered a ferry operated from 38th street to Weehawken, NJ, a town about a mile from Hoboken. I thought this was my last hope. I walked about 15 blocks and, as I approached the Pier, someone shouted at me, "Itís about a 3 hour wait." At this point I decided I didnít care and had no other option and I would wait. I stood on line with thousands of others, listening to the stories and sharing sobs. One man I was waiting on line with had been scheduled to attend a meeting on 57th street; normally, like me, he works downtown-- in the WTC on the 60th floor. All he could think about were his colleagues and whether they made it out in time. Than it hit meÖ where were my friends? My coworkers?? The panic finally set in. All of sudden I felt sick to my stomach and the tears flowed. Suddenly a line filled with strangers became comforters and friends. The man assured me I would be okay and, after waiting 2 hours on line, we stood on the ferry together in awe. As the ferry left the NYC harbor, the entire boat was silent. Everyone gazed at the skyline.
When the boat arrived at the Hoboken ferry terminal, a man announced that anyone that was in a ten mile radius of the explosion should exit the boat first. Since I was in this category, I left the boat and exited the ferry and followed a pack of people into a tent. A policeman explained we would need to be "decontaminated", sprayed with water, since they were not sure if the explosion involved biological warfare.
After I was sprayed by hoses, I left the tent; counselors and Red Cross crews offered help. At this point I could not even talk or maybe I forgot how to. Finally, a young woman asked me, "Are you okay?" All I could say was, " I just want to go home." She asked me where home was. I replied, " I donít know."
The last couple of days have been some of the most difficult times for me, not to mention our nation. I have managed to hear from most of my friends. Some are still missing. On Wednesday, a friend and I walked around the Pier in Hoboken and joined crowds of others in the park staring at the smoke still burning. We are all still in a daze.
I just canít stop thinking about how different it would be if I didnít keep that doctorís appointment. Everyday I take the PATH train to the World Trade Center between 8:45 and 9:00 so I would be in work by 9:30. I would have been there when the plane crashed. What I really canít stop thinking about at night are the everyday people I see on the PATH train in the morning. I donít know their names and they didnít know mine. All you know is everyday you see them sitting down reading the newspaper, talking to their husband or even yawning while sipping their coffee. You always smile at each other and feel like they have become a special part of your morning routine. They give you a sense of familiarity. You notice when they get a haircut or even when they seem to be in a bad mood. They are strangers, yet they are not. All I want to know is if they are okay? Were they on the train that morning? Or were they like me, and had to be in earlier that day? I guess I will never know.
Even in my apartment building life has changed. I havenít seen some of my neighbors yet. I noticed yesterday someone placed a letter by the buildingís mailboxes. It read,
"Your friends and neighbors in the building care about you and want to know if you are alright. Please mark a check by your apartment number for you and your roommate if you are alright." I placed two checks by 5K, one for me and one for my roommate. I noticed so many unchecked apartments and wrote on the paper, "Thanks to whoever wrote this letter."
I guess sharing my experience with all of you helps me deal with what happened. I know I left out so many things, but there is one I am not going to forget. This experience has helped me gain perspective of so many things and, most importantly, has helped me realize how truly precious life is. We are not promised tomorrow. I love all of you !
Note: Amy Godwin is the daughter of Edward and Chris Godwin of Middletown, NY, and the granddaughter of Patrick Godwin and Mary Bernice Sweeney of Elmira, NY. She is a direct descendant of Michael and Catherine Sweeney, the original Sweeney emigrants to Sullivan County, PA and is the niece of Bob Sweeney, the Sullivan Page Coordinator. This piece was written a few days after the terrorist attack on New York City and is reproduced by permission of the author.
Copyright © 2001 Robert E. Sweeney and individual Contributors. All Rights Reserved. Prior written permission is required from Robert E. Sweeney and individual Contributors before this material can be printed or otherwise copied, displayed or distributed in any form. This is a FREE genealogy site sponsored through PAGenWeb and can be reached directly at ~Sullivan County Genealogy Project (http://www.rootsweb.com/~pasulliv)