Monday, September 11, 2006

The Sept. 11 Post

*I've been informed by a reader that the links below do not work for people who don't have a subscription to wsj.com. If you'd like to read them, you can use the temporary username/password wsjie01. Offer good for a limited time only!*

I'm not sure why, amid all the media coverage, moments of silence and memorial services already going on that I feel the need to do a Sept. 11 post, except that, well, as a journalist (or former journalist at least) I think that witnessing the whole miserable thing go down has some merit on its own -- which of course has nothing to do with me personally, just that I was there to observe and report. Also, when I looked outside my window this morning and saw that the day -- clear, blue skies, gorgeous -- is so much like that day it was just hard to ignore.

Collective memory is one thing and it's still being shaped regarding Sept. 11, but individual memories are powerful and should not be forever tucked away; each one brings something additional to how we interpret events. I was but a bystander and I didn't lose any loved ones that day, so I know this account pales next to those of people involved in rescue, stuck in the towers, or family members of the deceased. But in the interest of preservation of these particular memories, here is what happened to me on Sept. 11.

Five years ago, I exited the A train at Chambers Street and walked up the ramp, through the turnstiles, and into the World Trade Center around 8:30, about fifteen minutes before the first plane hit. My job at the Wall Street Journal in those days was to write the pre-opening markets story for the web site, and my desk was near a window facing the towers, which were across the street. Just minutes after I sat down, the first plane hit. This is what happened in our office afterward.

You can read my full account, which I wrote for the WSJ, here.

In short, my job that day (after we realized that there was no way the stock market was going to open) was to go out and count the number of people who were jumping out of the towers to escape the fires within. I watched each person fall, and counted. Of course, after a time there were so many that it was pointless to count. I couldn't keep up, and eventually they evacuated the area and I went to call my editors. These are the images that stick with me the most, moreso than seeing or hearing the planes hit or watching the towers fall. Nightmares dogged me forever and while falling from great heights is a common theme in other people's nightmares, it's a VERY common theme in mine. I think the individuality of watching each death had something to do with it.

Everyone dies alone, but I feel somewhat comforted that someone was there to watch and mourn these people's individual deaths before the towers fell.

Five years later things still feel forever altered by that day -- we're in a war that stems (albeit wrongly, as far as I can tell) from that day, every time I go to the airport I'm reminded of it, and it's never far out of the news in New York City. I wonder if, or when, it's all going to end. It seems like it never will.

What I can be thankful for is that as a result of that day I made lifelong friendships, born out of horrible circumstances as they were. We cried, we laughed in our despair, and man, did we ever drink a lot of scotch.

Excuse me for being so maudlin, and we may now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

3 Comments:

Blogger ithinkearthisheaven said...

something that shook the world . even peoples cried by watching it on TV . it must be horrible experience to see all that . but whole world have to come over this shock ...
however due to twin tower there were lot of wars which killed more than that attacked killed . and billions of dollars that should be spent on kids /peoples welfare were used for war and weapons .. We need to work hard to help peoples those who lost someone's loving in this attack .. and we need to work hard for for social/economic development which were slowed at large extent due to this attack .

4:02 PM  
Blogger Sweet Southern Girl said...

Erin,
I'd love to read your articles in the WSJ, but I can't get the temporary username/password to work. Any ideas?

9:09 PM  
Blogger Had To Move said...

Sweet southern -- glad I didn't lose you in "the move." I guess there's no way around wsj.com's password protections (though I tried).

There is a similar (if not identical) story posted on a google cache page here:

http://64.233.187.104/search?q=cache:YxWO1nhlaqAJ:journalism.unl.edu/an/winter01-02/schulte.html+%22erin+schulte%22+and+%22new+york+says+thank+you%22&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=1&client=safari

9:35 PM  

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