The day started for our PR firm in midtown Manhattan with a plane crash. Prospects of terrorism emerged quickly.
We kept the TV on in the conference room for the latest news. Our firm was comprised of many 20- and 30-somethings, and soon we were getting requests. “My friend’s boyfriend works in the World Trade Center and he is missing. Can I leave to be with her?” Yes.
Colleagues were still making their way to work, some via the PATH train at the World Trade Center. One arrived having seen bodies fall as they jumped from the twin towers.
We were a crisis firm, but even our clients soon realized that our crisis was bigger than theirs. We evacuated the building and dispersed. I boarded a bus for the Upper East Side where I lived. There was a young man on the bus dressed in a suit. He worked at the WTC but had a client meeting that morning. A woman nearby started peppering him with questions. He was stone-faced and responded briefly and reluctantly that he did not know the status of his colleagues.
That night, I began calling a friend I had just had dinner with the Friday before who worked at AON on the 102nd floor of the WTC. I asked her to call me back to let me know that she was safe. I called her every night for a week.
At her funeral, I ran into other friends and former colleagues. One, who worked at Goldman Sachs, had been to three funerals in two days.
“Missing” was a hopeful, but tragically inaccurate, term plastered all over the city.
Twenty years later, I still tear up when I think of that day. And it is hard to trust a crisp sunny morning in September.
— Judith Wilkinson, Stockbridge
Photo credit: A woman looks at missing person posters of victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 14, 2001.(AP Photo/Robert Spencer)