by Kevin Walsh

I have a number of photos of the old World Trade Center, which began construction in 1970 and was destroyed by terrorists on September 11, 2001. To this point, though, I haven’t told the story of my activities on that day mainly because they are so prosaic compared to the tens of thousands who worked in rescue and safety operations that day and in the weeks thereafter, or compared to the thousands who perished and their families. I suppose I will relate them here so after a 19 years’ remove, you can compare them to your own.

I have a number of photos of the WTC taken by others, and an entire folder with photos of its ongoing destruction, also taken by other photographers; since I don’t indulge in what I consider terror porn, I won’t show any of those here. I do have some photos in which the WTC appears in the background, since the towers tended to pop into view from wherever you were around town. The above photo is of Middleton Street looking west from Broadway in Williamsburg; I was walking down Broadway in mid-1999 in search of old painted signs on buildings (most of those have since disappeared).

I was 44 years old and an office jockey at Macy’s, writing blurbs for their catalogs, mainly in house furnishings and bedding. It was not a smooth road because the person who hired me had been shuffled into a different department and I had a different boss. I worked in the 17th floor in their offices, which were accessible from an unobtrusive doorway on 7th Avenue and West 35th. Penn Station was across the street, so reaching the office was an easy ride via the Long Island Rail Road from Flushing. I had gotten to my “cubicle” around 8:50 when a teammate, Alyssa, said, “are you aware that an airplane has hit the World Trade Center?” I thought, like perhaps many in that moment, that a small plane had gone off course and hit the building; this had happened before to the Empire State Building in 1945.

WTC from Empire State Building observation deck in 2000

I did not have immediate access to a television set at the office, though some knew where to find one. In fact I also did not have access to the internet because the way the office was set up, all workstations had composition and layout software (Word, QuarkXPress and so on) but not internet access, which was restricted to one terminal on the floor; we copywriters had to access product information on the internet on that one terminal. Of course as the morning went on it became clear that two hijacked airliners had been flown into both towers, the Pentagon in Washington, and that a fourth airplane, presumed then to have also been hijacked, crashed in Pennsylvania. I remember saying something like, “Mr. Bush, you’ve got a war now.” I could not reach the old man in Bay Ridge via a direct call, so I called Mary Beth at work in Port Washington, and she was able to reach him to let him know I was alive.

There was no panic in the office. Looking back on this, I am surprised that was the case. We had a balcony on the 17th floor that I occasionally wandered out on for work breaks. Today, we saw scrambling fighter jets in the sky. The balcony faced west, not south, so I saw none of the towers.

We were given a free lunch. Then, as now, Macy’s restaurants were in the basement, referred to as The Cellar; at the time, kitchenware was also displayed there. We quietly got our lunch from a buffet and took it back up to our desks. I’ve said there was no panic, but I couldn’t help thinking to myself, is this my last meal if NYC is indeed under attack?

The afternoon passed and people drifted out. Around four I crossed the street to Penn Station. The regular train schedule had broken down, and trains were leaving when they were adjudged to have enough people to make a run. Yes, trains were still coming into Manhattan, as well. I was lucky to find a train going to Flushing soon enough. On Tuesday nights, I worked at the Queens Times-Ledger, a newspaper chain, as a compositor. Needless to say it was sort of a late night and I was working there till about 1 or 2 AM.

I went into Macy’s the next day to find just a handful of people there including my supervisor. There was only one ad to work on that day, a public service ad by Macy’s; I don’t recall what the copy was. The floor was fairly unoccupied for a couple of weeks, as people much more affected by the act of terror than I was dealt with their grief.

I remember, perhaps a couple of weeks later, I was sitting at a Blimpie which was located in a basement on 5th Avenue and West 35th, staring at the murals on the wall. Did any tears come, finally? Maybe they did.

Check out the ForgottenBook, take a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”



redstaterefugee September 11, 2020 - 10:19 am

On 9/11/01 I was less than three years from retirement. I worked in the Gertz building (the former department store had been converted to office space years before) in Jamaica. I was scheduled for a training session on how to compose e-mails (really!). We were transitioning from work stations to an internet based system. We were in a windowless room. At about 8:30 AM the trainer told us that there due technical difficulties we’d break for a few minutes while he contacted network HQ. After a few minutes he returned & told us that we were finished for the day; there had been an “accident at the WTC involving an aircraft”. I was the first to say that it wasn’t an accident but an act of war. I witnessed one female colleague’s panic attack. Finally, management informed us that due to a shortage of landline capacity business was suspended for the day so that our 200 telephone lines would be idled which would return capacity citywide. On my trip home I was listening to WABC; as soon as left the parking structure it was announced that 2 WTC had just collapsed; I worked there from 1974-80, so it was easy to visualize the destruction. I got home ahead of my wife, who was working a poll site on Main St, Flushing (it was mayoral primary day). She said everyone’s cell phones were receiving Fox News texts about the attack. Finally our daughter returned from high school; she was very upset because a bus driver demanded that she open her back pack. I explained that in Israel bus drivers were being killed by suicide bombers, so it was an understandable precaution. The world changed for us that day (not necessarily for the better.

Maureen IIrwin September 11, 2020 - 11:37 am

Very nice. Thanks for sharing. I worked on Maiden Lane, but had left N Y by 2020….Thanks fo r the memories.

Tal Barzilai September 11, 2020 - 6:18 pm

I still wish they rebuilt the Twin Towers rather than have what we wound up with, which I tend not just find as an illegitimate replacement, but also feeling as if the terrorists finished the job in destroying them, but that’s just me saying this, so please don’t grill me for saying this.

redstaterefugee September 13, 2020 - 10:01 am Reply
Tal Barzilai September 14, 2020 - 9:32 am

Believe it or not, most really did want the Twin Towers rebuilt, and there are even a number of stats to prove just that since the day the very event happened. I even attended a number of public hearings involving the WTC site, and I remember hearing many including myself preferring them to be back rather than having something else. Unfortunately, pro-Towers supporters such as myself were being vilified in a claim of either being disrespectful to those who died there or claiming that it would just be another target again as if what we have now wouldn’t be or would be alright to build there despite what happened. Others tried to claim that even if they could be brought back there couldn’t be a memorial even though anything else there could have it despite them taking up so little space. Overall, those in charge allowed for fear and narcissism to take over rather than showing how we can’t be kept down. As for Trump’s support, I never understood what was in it for him unless he planned to either rent space, take over the ownership, or even help finance the construction whereas those such as myself were always for rebuilding them from the start. BTW, the support for rebuilding the Twin Towers wasn’t even a partisan issue as so many from across the political spectrum wanted them back be it liberal or conservative.

R. Newman September 12, 2020 - 12:04 pm

Kevin, thanks for sharing your personal experience with all of us, and for the sensitive and appropriate way you did so. Especially for those of us who grew up in New York City,,no matter where we now are in the world, we will never forget that day.

Anonymous September 12, 2020 - 4:17 pm

I was on top of Curtis HS on Staten Island and had my back to the Towers when Plane 1 hit, sat there and watched Plane 2 impact and watched both Towers fall…took me 11 hrs to get home to Whitestone Queens via NJ Turnpike and Tappan Zee Bridge. Got the 2 young kids who worked in NYCSCA Site office home to their families.Next day found out I lost 12 Friends,former Co-Workers that day. NYFD,NYPD, Port Authority, WNBC/WABC Transmitter crew.

Andy September 12, 2020 - 5:07 pm

From 1974 until 1982, I worked at #1 WTC, 82nd Floor, for a transportation planning agency that was part of NYS Dept. of Transportation. In 1982 I went to LIRR in Jamaica where I stay till retirement. On 9/11/01 I got to Jamaica a bit later than usual (8:40 instead of 8:00) because I voted in the primary before getting on the train. I walked into my boss’s office to say good morning right after the first plane struck 1 WTC. A few minutes later we saw on TV the second aircraft smash into 2 WTC. I was a designated LIRR rep at the NYC Office of Emergency Management (OEM) so I jumped on the next westbound train to Penn. Once there, I found out the rest of the story and went to #1 Police Plaza, where a temporary OEM was set up. I walked from Penn to #1 Police Plaza (by the Brooklyn Bridge) because the subway had already stopped running below Midtown.
Fast forward to 2020. My boss at the LIRR in 2001 and a good friend, had retired from LIRR but was still working for another public agency. Sadly he passed away from COVID-19 this past April.

Bill Tweeddale September 15, 2020 - 7:24 am

I was walking my dogs in a cornfield in Hurley, NY when the farmer drove up and said “A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center!”. As we listened to his pick-up radio, the 2nd plane hit the south building. I hurried home and turned on the TV to see the calamity, and watched as both towers collapsed. When I got to work at the Kingston Hospital ER a little later, they were making plans for the expected overflow of injured victims from the city. Sadly, there were none. My brother had worked for an engineering firm in the WTC in the 80’s, but had since moved.

redstaterefugee September 16, 2020 - 11:51 am

The Sunday after 9/11 we went to Church On The Hill (168 St & 3 th Avenue in Flushing). The pastor, Robert Perless, showed great wisdom by forgoing the normal service & encouraging the congregation to share their concerns. One member, an OR nurse at a prestigious Manhattan Hospital, told us that the entire ER staff lined up curbside to receive patients who never arrived; she was fighting back tears.. That perfectly sums up the fate of the thousands who perished that day.

Alvin September 15, 2020 - 11:01 am

I was quite young when the towers fell, but I was in school then and had just about finished lunch. A rumor had passed amongst the student body that two planes had hit the towers, but I didn’t quite believe it. Shortly after, the bells for the next period didn’t ring and we were all shuffled into the gym, preparing for an early pickup. One of my gym teachers had started crying because his older brother was a firefighter and he knew he responded to the call. Although I didn’t lose anyone close to me that day, I always think about the anguish that my gym teacher had on that day.

Joe Mastropolo September 15, 2020 - 2:02 pm

My dad was in construction and worked at the WTC from 1971-1977. I was in college during the early 70s, so I worked at the WTC during the summer. I started in June 1971 and initially worked the night shift for most of the summer of 1971. The construction during the day created a lot of rubbish and debris that couldn’t be removed during the day so that’s why a night shift was needed. I worked there the summer of ’71 and ’72, and from June ’73 to January ’75. It was hard work and long hours as the push was on to get as many floors ready for tenants as soon as possible. There were times where I worked from 4:30AM until 5:PM for days at a time and was so exhausted at times that as soon as I got home, I would sleep on my bedroom floor until it was time to go to work again…no change of clothes, no shower, no dinner, just sleep. I was shocked to learn that many of my co-workers were doing the exact same thing because of the fatigue that they felt. The fatigue was so bad at times that when we got to work at 4:30AM we found ways to get some sleep while there was no one around. We would get pieces of cardboard and would create makeshift beds in unfinished electrical closets. I’m not complaining because we were well paid, but it wasn’t easy. It was really a great time, with a great bunch of guys and I keep promising to write a book about my experiences.

John Kovacs September 18, 2020 - 2:32 pm

A view from Ohio: On September 11, 2001, I was at work in Amherst, OH. A co-worker was listening to the Howard Stern show when he reported the 1st plane hitting the WTC. I had commented to co-workers that it had to be some kind of terrible accident or computer malfunction as the weather was good. I also related the story about the B-25 bomber that hit the Empire State Building in 1945 in a heavy fog. When Howard reported on the 2nd plane hitting the WTC we knew it was no accident and that things were about to radically change in the world. Later, we heard about the 3rd plane hitting the Pentagon. My thought at the time was “Where in the hell is the Air Force?”. Then we heard about the 4th plane (Flight 93) crashing in PA. I knew that it couldn’t have been an ordinary crash. Later we learned that Flight 93 did a U-turn practically over our heads before heading east and crashing in PA. The Cleveland air traffic controllers were trying to talk to Flight 93 but only got voices and screams. Another plane that landed in Cleveland was surrounded because authorities feared there was a bomb on board. Years later a guy that was my manager said that he had tickets for Flight 93 out of Newark but missed the flight. Scary times.


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