September 11 NYC Aftermath

A man lights a candle on Sept. 14, 2001 in memoriam of the victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York City. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

On 9/11, when the World Trade Center was attacked, I was at a mandatory unemployment meeting at 350 Fairfield Ave. in Bridgeport, Conn., less than an hour from New York City.

In April 1987, I had been the coordinator of disaster volunteers when L'Ambiance Plaza collapsed, killing 28 workers. At the end of the search on May 2, with no one found alive, my stomach was in knots, and I could hardly speak. It took nearly six months for that sensation to stop.

Immediately, when the towers fell, I felt that same sensation. New York was so close, and I really wanted to go to help the rescue efforts but knew I could not. I called the State Police and, much to my amazement, my neighbor Rick, a state trooper who lived across the street from me in Seaside Village, answered the phone. I asked if there were anything I could do to assist — phones, anything. Rick took my phone number. Then the whole world watched the devastation and its aftermath day after day after day. And I prayed for the families and for the first responders. It seemed to be the only thing one could do.

Nine days later, still feeling the same sick emotions that had overtaken me, I was hit in an auto accident while waiting in front of Sacred Heart University for the police to let me pass. I had been working a temporary job at the Jewish Home for the Elderly, which was under tight security after 9/11.

As I sat in my car waiting for the police to let me pass, I could not stop contemplating the horror 9/11 had brought upon our country. Our world and the United States would never, ever be the same again.

— Rachel I. Branch, North Adams

Photo credit: A man lights a candle on Sept. 14, 2001 in memoriam of the victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York City. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)