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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Our Generation's JFK and December 7

Posted on September 11, 2010 at 4:02 PM

You’d think that with all the talk of mosque-building at Ground Zero and the National, oh, sorry, I mean INTERnational Koran Burning Day (and, dude, by the way, Paul Sr., called; he wants his handlebar moustache back! And when are people gonna get it through their heads that following fringe religious leaders guys whack-jobs named Jones might not be the best idea?) that I would have remembered that today was September 11. But it wasn’t until I was filling out a bank deposit form this morning, writing 9 and / and 11 that it hit me. September 11.

 

There aren’t many events that galvanize an entire generation. Days where we are all linked by remembering where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news. Our parents had JFK’s assassination. Their parents had December 7. (It is sad to think that for such a momentous event -- “A date which will live in infamy” -- that there is probably a large percentage of the population today that doesn’t even remember WHAT December 7 is or why it is a day that may or may not continue to live in infamy. It makes you wonder if in another 50 years, September 11 will be a day that people will wonder, “What’s the fuss?” That is if we aren’t all saying, “Shì shénme dàjīngxiǎoguài” at that point.)

 

Prior to September 11, the closest thing I had experienced to such a memorable event was when President Reagan was shot. I can remember when I heard the news; I was walking out of a 5th grade class headed to recess when I heard, “Someone just shot Reagan!” And I said, “Unh-uh. I just saw her. She hasn’t been shot.” (This makes a lot more sense when you realize that there was a girl in my class also named Reagan.) Then would come the Challenger explosion in ‘86. As some of you will recall, there was a school teacher on the flight, Christa McAuliffe, which was unprecedented at the time, and the media coverage of the event was huge. They wheeled a TV cart into Senor Hernandez’s morning high school Spanish class to watch the launch, and then turned it off almost immediately leaving us all wondering, “Did that really just happen?” (I'll share another far more shameful memory with you. I can also remember where I was the first time I heard "Ice Ice Baby." I was in a hotel in Berlin. And I thought, "Hey, that's not Queen!" I guess we can pick our friends, but we can't pick our memories.)

 

I can, of course, remember where I was and what I was doing today, 9 years ago. I was doing a prewire for a couple named Taylor. I pulled out their file and am looking at the worksheet right now. “Work Performed: Sept 11 : Housewide Audio Prewire – Laid out speaker and volume control locations throughout home; Pulled speaker wire from Home Run (theater closet) to controls in… “ The house was a remodel and they had a TV on in the living room. I can remember walking by carrying in spools of cabling and seeing other trades gathered around the TV and watching smoke coming out of a tower and the announcer saying, “We’re getting reports that a plane has flown into one of the Twin Towers.” And watching it for a bit and thinking, "Wow. That's weird," and then continuing on with work. And then hearing a gasp, “OH MY GOSH!” and rushing back to the TV to see that now the second tower was hit. By another plane.


And the world changed.

 

Dana was working at the airport here at the time, and I remember calling her and asking if everything was OK and was it safe there. (You know, Myrtle Beach International Airport – with flights to the Bahamas – being such a high profile target.) And saying, that if she needed to leave, just leave. Forget about the job. (Dana, ultra-trooper that she is, not only stayed on, but totally handled the entire crisis while the station manager was out of the country stranded in the airline lockdown.)

 

I don’t believe that I ever saw the Towers in person, at least not in any meaningful way. And when I saw them fall, I felt a great sadness that now they were gone and I would never get the chance. I did a really interesting story on the closest surviving church to Ground Zero, Trinity Wall Street (you can read that here), and in doing that story I visited the construction site. You’d think that it would have been memorable or powerful or emotional in some way, but it just looked like a giant, fenced off pit.

 

So, where were you when you heard?

Categories: September 2010

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4 Comments

Reply The Nancy
12:28 PM on September 12, 2010 
I was at home with my 8 day old daughter wonder what I kind of world my husband andI had just brought her in to.
Reply Keith
1:36 PM on September 13, 2010 
I was an integrator at the time and had just returned back to our office/showroom from a meeting with a builder. When I walked in the front door I found most of our company watching the flat panel hanging on the wall in the lobby. They told me that a plane had crashed into one of the world trade center towers and the building was on fire. Just as they finished telling me this we all watched in horror as a second plane struck the other tower. I will never forget that day or the rest of the week that followed.
Reply Keely
2:46 PM on September 14, 2010 
Similar story to The Nancy's - I had just given birth to Kinsley about 18 hours earlier and was trying to rest when an orderly at the hospital commanded us to turn on the TV. I felt a tremendous sense of loss for all of those affected. I worried about my Daddy, who had just gotten on a plane at SFO (we didn't know yet that he had been grounded). I wondered how and when the rest of my family would be able to meet Kinsley. And tragically, what this event would mean for the rest of our lives. [One bright spot is that Daddy got to stay for almost a week and I really needed the maximum number of family members to buoy my sanity during that time.]
Reply Tuckertues
6:09 PM on September 12, 2011 
While my story is not about escaping from the burning buildings, I was there on that fateful day . To be more precise I was about 20 blocks away.

The company I worked for then and ten years later work for again installed and had service contracts on the multimedia components for the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the National Museum of the American Indian and several offices in and around the WTC.

On September 11th I was walking down the West Side Highway making my way to MJH when the first plane struck. I did not see nor hear the plan roar in as I was listening to my music at an obscene level (wearing a pair of Sony MDR headphones which I still own). Just prior to the impact I received a pager message to go to an install job at the Guggenhiem first. I was pissed as this was on the east side and uptown- completely in the opposite direction. I cranked up my music louder and turned heel to find the nearest subway station. By my reckoning I entered the Houston subway at about 8:35.

As I exited the subway at 85th and Lexington I turned on my radio to listen to WNYC?s morning addition to hear the report that a ?small aircraft, possibly a helicopter had crashed into the North Tower. My first thoughts were of the B-25 bomber the crashed into the empire state building in late 1945. But that was a cloudy day with low ceilings, this was a clear bright blue day- odd. The news went on and I went into the Guggenheim.

We were finishing up some project rooms on the lower level when we heard a scream from a meeting room just down the hall. This was no ordinary scream - someone was hurt. We ran down the hall where a great deal of commotion was and on the rooms large screen TV the South Tower was also now on fire and visibly swaying. A second plane hit, someone told me. I don?t remember sitting down.

As we sat and watched the live feed the news was reporting possibly Three, Four, or more planes possibly being hijacked as flight control reported that their transponders were off. No one knew, yet, if this was just an attack on NYC or if other cites we to be attacked, but we did know that the subways were stopped and Grand Central had gone into shut down. Unsure of where the next strike would happen and what famous building would be struck next we decided to leave. We got outside just in time for my radio to crackle to life with high pitched voices describing the fall of Tower 1 - which we could see clearly from the front of the museum.

I could describe the horror. the shock. but what I remember the most is the near heavy quietness that overtook over the city. The scream of sirens that seemed ceaseless and the roar of fighter jets flying crossing patterns over the island broke through but eventually became swallowed up in the quiet shock.

All of the above does not consume me - it plays out like a TV show in my head, nothing more. What still haunts me are the posters and fliers of the ?missing? that were everywhere almost overnight. Thousands of faces looking back atop and surrounded by desperate pleas to call if someone found them (hopefully in a hospital bed with no ID).

Just under a week after the event I was asked if I was comfortable with heading down to ground zero to diagnose, set schedules and prepare the museums - especially the Museum of Jewish Heritage - for re-opening. Nothing could have prepared me the devastation, the still smoldering steel and the smell. The smell of steel, concrete, dust, and charred flesh. The latter hung in the air like a sheer curtain and logged itself in your nostrils. The walkways were lined with plywood boards filled with the photos of the missing, notes of love and grief, stuffed animals, flowers and lockets. It still causes me to stream tears when I think of it, even now. The sense of loss is to great to ever diminish completely.

My Strongest memory is of walking into Grand Central Two Weeks after the event and making my way to the missing boards there, (something, it seems, that everyone did regardless of the fact that the pictures never changed). The quiet urgency that seemed to become our new normal was broken by a cry that expressed pain, surprise and, completely unanticipated, joy. As if one we gathered around the board moving in almost instinctively. Grim faces turned and contorted in ways that many of us thought would not be possible again. I saw on the faces of those around me the same quivering lips and the same streaming tears as on my face, along with the biggest grins. To this day, this moment the memory makes me weep openly and smile - to have seen that missing posted plastered with large red letters scrawled across - FOUND! Thank You NY!

I have never hugged so many strangers before or since. It was a turning point. She was ALIVE! FOUND and in the company of those who loved her. To me, then and now itt meant hope was still possible.