September 11, 2001, is a day that no American will forget. But for some, it may have an even larger impact on their lives. Nicole worked in New York City months prior to that fateful day. However, one morning, it took only a phone call from a loved one to stop her from going to work at the World Financial Center, just across from the World Trade Center. Nicole’s life could have been different if it hadn’t been for that one phone call and now, 10 years later, she can look back and remember the city as it was and still is: beautiful.
By Nicole Graves-Watson
Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, marked the 10-year anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Memorial programs were aired on television and radio. Newspapers and online sites were abuzz about the 9-11 attacks. Civic and religious organizations held memorial services. Wherever you were, you could not escape the significance of September 11, 2001.
As someone directly impacted on that fateful day, the constant reminder is hard to bear. Ten years ago, I was a 24-year-old aspiring journalist. I had a job working for Bridge News, a news wire service located in the World Financial Building, which was directly across from the World Trade Center. I wrote financial news briefs, but dreamed about the opportunity to write larger pieces.
On any given day, I would have lunch at Sbarros in the World Trade Center and window shop at some of the pricier stores. On pay day, I would go across the street to Century 21 and pick up a bag or an outfit. Most of the time, I would take a walk in the beautiful Battery Park. I would eat my lunch on a park bench and watch others walk by. It was a nice, beautiful place to work.
I had only been at Bridge News for eight months and September 11, 2001, was my last day inside the office. The morning of September 11, 2001, started off as a very usual day. I was running late to work and parked my car in the small parking lot, near Penn Station in Newark, New Jersey. I got out of the car, spoke to the parking lot attendant and proceeded to walk a few blocks away in three inch heels inside Penn Station to catch the Path Train. As I begin to walk towards Penn Station, my cell phone began to ring. It was my boyfriend, Jon, a truck driver who warned me not to go into work. Jon told me that he heard on his CB that something happened at the World Trade Center. He didn’t know what happened, but begged me not to go. I listened to Jon and walked back to my car.
I pulled out of the parking lot and turned on the radio, but there was no word about anything happening in the World Trade Center. A few minutes later, I heard that something horrible happened. A plane hit the towers. “How could something like this happen?” I thought.
For some reason, I drove to my mother’s job. She works at Chancellor Avenue School in Irvington as a teacher. I immediately saw the security guard, who smiled and said, “Good. You’re okay.” Not fully aware of what was going on; I went to my mother’s classroom and saw her crying in the hallway. “Mommy,” I called. “I’m alright.” We hugged each other and I told her that I didn’t make it to work.
I later went to my apartment and turned on the TV to see the horrible destruction. Images of men and women running in the streets, covered in ash, soot and debris, filled the screen. I sat still for a few moments and cried while thinking about the panic. My cell phone and house phone started to ring simultaneously while family members and friends called to check on me. At that time, none of us knew this was a terror attack. We thought a pilot lost control of a plane and struck the towers.
Later that day, I along with everyone else learned the awful truth. It was an intentional attack by terrorists. Prior to that day, I never could envision the United States being attacked. I naively thought the United States was indestructible. The following day, I received word from a supervisor. They were contacting employees to ensure everyone’s safety. Luckily, we had no fatalities, but I’m sure the horror of that day lives on with my fellow employees. My supervisor also informed me that the company’s New York office was shutting down. Bridge News would only be operable in Saint Louis, Missouri.
Americans of all backgrounds came together following that tragic day. U.S. flags adorned cars, homes and businesses like never before. We were patriotic and proud. I kept in contact with a few employees for the first few months. Some found jobs at Dow Jones & Co. and other news outlets. I dabbled in real estate before returning to my previous job as a social worker.
In the past 10 years a lot has changed. I married my boyfriend, Jon, and we now have two beautiful daughters. I work in a government agency as a community relations specialist. But I haven’t returned to Ground Zero. I like to remember it as it was on September 10, 2011, the day before disaster struck. A nice, beautiful place.