Seven years ago today Kerry and I were in a hotel room in New York City listening to a cacophony of sirens and watching, with horror, the news on TV. Our hotel was 30 short blocks from the World Trade Center. We were supposed to fly home that day. Instead we were stranded in NYC. No trains, buses, taxis, subways or cars were going in or out of the city. Many people simply walked off the island and went home that day.
That night we had dinner at a little Italian place right across from the hotel. It was my cousin and his wife's wedding anniversary. It was so weird; the city was nearly silent and the streets were deserted. Broadway was dark.
We did not walk down to Ground Zero. Looking at the ashes settling everywhere was enough for us. How many people rained down on Manhattan that day we will never know. But white ash covered everything.
The next day train service out of the city was started so we took a train to my brother's condo north of the city. Dennis and Carole took a train to Trenton where they hoped to drive to Philadelphia to catch a flight back to Minneapolis. They ended up driving home too.
Kerry and I rented a car at the Westchester Airport, which was already locked down with guards and cement barriers everywhere. At first the woman at the Hertz counter offered us a Mustang. When we told her we were planning to drive to Oakland, CA she decided a Mercury Grand Marquis (sort of a boat) was a better option. My son called it an "old fart" car.
We bought a U.S. atlas and set out for home. We stopped in Denver to see my son and then after a total of 5 days we were at the Oakland Airport. The Hertz person at the Oakland Airport looked at our New York license plates in wonderment. "Did you just drive from New York? she asked. Yup, we replied. We got to Oakland before any planes had started to land there. We didn't even see planes in the air until our fourth day on the road.
I have never felt so vulnerable and so scared as I did that day. We watched fighter planes patrolling the skies of Manhattan. It to us about five years before we went back to NYC; my nephew's graduation from Columbia University got us there. Didn't go anywhere near Ground Zero.
Looking back at photos of the trip seven years ago, I discovered that I have a photo taken from Ellis Island looking back at Manhattan. The Twin Towers are visible. Who would have thought that in just a few days they would be rubble and thousands would have lost their lives.