#289 | Monday, November 26th 2001
I was sitting at a Chili's restaurant at the airport in Charlotte, NC, eating huevos rancheros, drinking coffee, reading the USA Today and waiting to get on the 9:50 US Airways flight to LaGuardia Airport. I was going home to the Big Apple.
My cell phone rang and it was my good friend and business associate Bob from Atlanta. My son Willie was staying at his house and he said to me, "I just turned on the TV and a plane hit the World Trade Center."
I figured like most people, a small plane, maybe a stunt gone bad, when he exclaimed, "Ohmigod! Another plane hit the other tower!" and I knew it was terrorism.
I was stunned and immediately mad.
I hung up, rushed over to the bar where a young man was getting ready for another normal Tuesday and I barked orders to turn the channel from ESPN to CNN ... "Why?" he asked and I said, "We've been attacked by terrorists."

Eight years earlier I had been sitting at my computer downtown Manhattan when my wife called from Louisville, Kentucky where she was performing in a play. "Is everyone okay? Is Daniele okay?" Dani is our daughter. Back in '93 she was 7 years old and went to PS 234, at Chambers and Greenwich, three blocks north of the WTC.
In one moment I knew we had not taken that terrorist act seriously enough. My anger and my sadness combined. I felt personally responsible for not having the insight and the courage and the will to have stopped this threat back then.

Quickly word of the new attacks spread through the airport and quickly would-be passengers assembled in restaurants and lounges in front of TV's everywhere.

I called my daughter Daniele, now a junior in high school at the Lab School on 17th Street. I got her voice mail and left a message. My phone rang. It was my son Luke who lives on 18th Street and works at oxygen media around the corner.
He knew I was coming to New York and he was relieved to hear I was still on the ground.
My next call went to my sister who runs an ad agency near Penn Station. She was in tears and mine were rolling down my cheeks as we spoke. Two of our brothers are among New York's Bravest and she assured me that one of them was off in Pennsylvania playing golf. The other, a lieutenant was working in Brooklyn (not a good sign I knew because last time - in '93 - he was working Brooklyn and managed to make it all the way to the 85th floor of one of the Towers.)
My phone rang and it was my precious daughter and my voice cracked as we spoke and she shared how scared she was and how one of her frineds who lived in Battery Park had not made it to school that day. I told her that I had spoken to Luke and he promised he would come by and we hung up.
Next I called my Mom in Florida. She and my Dad, a retired NYC Deputy Chief, moved there back in the late 70's. She had just returned from Mass and my Dad had taken the car in for service. She had not heard the news and I told her, but it didn't register fully. I knew it would sink in once she watched the TV and we signed off.
Everybody but brother Tom the lieutenant was accounted for. I was worried.
I went to a restaurant and ordered an Irish cofffee, breaking my own "No alcohol before noon" rule. I had two and then went back to the bar at Chili's because my cell phone didn't work in the other restaurant.
I got to plug it in because by this time the Chili's bartender and I were old buddies.
I received 43 phone calls between 9 am and 11:30. I watched in fascinated dread and spoke briefly with friends and business associates who all knew I was heading for New York. At 12:15 the bartender announced that he got the word to stop alcohol sales - the management fearing that stranded travelers would get unruly.
I decided to get out of the airport and called Mollie, my girlfriend and business associate.
I headed back to her house after stocking up on some supplies and I hooked into the DSL line at her home to continue touching base and getting updates.
I spent most of the day in front of the computer or the TV. It wasn't until four pm that I got through to my brother Tommy's house and his son Tim told me that his Dad was safe. I prayed a prayer of gratitude.
That night our company, Prepaid Legal Services, had a business presentation scheduled in Charlotte and my business associate Corey Muhammed called me and asked if I thought we should keep the event scheduled. I thought we should. It would give everyone a chance to get with each other.
That night in the lobby of the hotel while the sales presentation was going on I read a caption across the bottom of the TV that said over 75 police officers and over 250 firemen were missing presumed dead. I lost it. The stark reality of the situation came crashing down and I slipped out of the hotel into the night to hide my tears and to be alone.
After a few minutes I called my son Willie who was in Atlanta and instructed him to get a good night's rest and get up early and come and pick me up in Charlotte so we could get home to New York.
Home.
The story went on from there. I couldn't sleep that night and didn't get another solid night's sleep for over three weeks.
I spent the next three weeks in NYC. New York was amazing. I was never so proud to be a New Yorker and to be an American. The people responded with a depth of spirit, a love and a generosity that speaks volumes.
I am fortunate to be part of a great nation and part of a great family. I will never again take our freedoms for granted or fail to appreciate the wonders of this creation.
God Bless America and all Freedom loving Citizens of the World.
Let us continue to remember the families who lost their loved ones and let us help them in every way possible.

Mike Melia | 49 | New York

#288 | Monday, November 26th 2001
I grew up on Long Island but was in Atlanta working when the WTC was attacked. I woke up after the first plane had already hit and watched the second one crash into the tower. My knees got weak and my mind had a hard time accepting that this had really happened. Before 9/11, if I had seen the attacks in a movie, I would have thought it too impossible to believe.
My father was in Charlotte, supposedly flying to NY that morning. We got in touch and decided to drive up the next day. What a surreal drive. We talked about it and listened to the radio a bunch until I could not handle it anymore and I had to put some music on. We arrived in NJ at 3 AM and first saw the sad skyline from a train on the way into the city. My eye kept roaming the city buildings, looking for that downtown focal point of the majestic towers that no longer existed, save for a huge pile of rubble.
New York, the greatest city in the world, was not the same, still is not the same. No one is the same. I love this city more than ever. When we first arrived, I had trouble looking downtown, I did not want to go to Union Square until I had gotten over a little of the shock. After the first time I stopped by there, signed my name on a banner along with an I Love NY inscription, I could not stay away. Every night I would wander over to the memorial to see what was going on.
A friend of mine from high school worked on the floor where the second plane crashed into, but luckily, he was downstairs smoking a cigarette. Two of my uncles are NYC firefighters but they are both still with us. I give thanks for that everyday and I give thanks for the fact that I did not personally know anyone who was killed.
At first, I was overwhelmed by all of the missing posters everywhere, but I soon changed my mind and decided to stop and look at each one and read the names, sort of my way of honoring the lost souls.
This city should be proud. It stepped up, jutted out its collective chin, and showed the world that you can try to knock us around, but you canít ever keep us down. We will continue to get up and stand up straight and proud. I am so incredibly happy to be a New Yorker, to be connected to such a wonderful city. We will never forget what happened but we will continue to live in freedom and prosper as a city, a country, and a people. We can not and should not try to get back to how life was before the attacks, because life is not like that anymore. We must try to live our lives with more love and more awareness of our differences, and why they donít matter.
My personal goal is to have everyone who I come into contact with be better off for having met me. This is the first time I have written down all of these thoughts and experiences and I hope I got my feelings correctly translated into words. I also hope that this helps everyone who reads it. God Bless Us All.
Willie Melia/ 23/ writing from NYC

Willie Melia | 23 | New York

#284 | Sunday, November 25th 2001
I live in Manhattan and went to visit my boyfriend who lives in Long Island, a suburb of NYC. I was going to leave the night before, but it got late, so I stayed. I am a late sleeper and woke up at 12:30 in the afternoon to find my boyfriend downstairs crying. “What’s the matter with you?” was my question. As he came over to me with tears streaming down his cheeks he put his arms around me and said, “They blew up the Twin Towers.” As he was hugging me the TV was in the background and I watched footage that they were repeating over and over again of Tower I being hit by a plane and then Tower II; then the horrible image of the buildings collapsing. I initially went into shock, maybe for a few seconds, but it seemed like an eternity to me, and then I started screaming my best friend’s name who worked there “JOYCE ….. JOYCE ….. JOYCE …. NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
I was furious that my boyfriend did not wake me up, but he said that this was probably the last good sleep that I would get in a long time, and he was right. The skyline that I look at every day is forever changed, and so is my life.
Joyce Ann “Cookie” Carpeneto never made it out of the building (Tower I; 83rd Floor), nor did any of her co-workers. I thought if anyone would get out, it would be her, but alas, life is fleeting and we are merely flesh and blood and no matter how strong our constitution, a terrorist attack like this one managed to kill thousands.
I miss her so much it hurts. I had just talked to her two days before the attack and we were supposed to see each other the next weekend. This was to be our last telephone conversation and she asked me if I would send in a resume to her company so we could work together once again, as we had years before (as well as being roommates). I told her I would think about it and that I loved her so much for thinking of me for the job.
It is so hard to put into mere words how someone so special can come into your life and then be taken so swiftly and savagely in the name of a so-called “Holy War”. Joyce was the most gentle soul that I had ever known. I will never be able to thank her enough for being my friend and for teaching me that life is so precious; I truly feel blessed. I was once loved by one of the most special people in all of New York; in all of the world. I will keep her in my heart until the day that I perish and hope that we end up in the same place of peace, God willing.

DianaHalle | 33 | New York

#271 | Wednesday, November 21st 2001
About 5 minutes after waking up this morning at my apartment in New York's Chelsea neighborhood, my cell phone rings. A friend I work with. Jon.

"You watching the news?"

"Nope."

"Terrorists just flew two planes into the World Trade Center."

Whoa. Shit...

I hit nytimes.com. Connection failure. cnn.com. msnbc.com. Same thing. The net's up but the news organizations' servers are slammed.

A quick shower and dressing later, I'm heading west to the Hudson River. I'm thinking I can go to my gym, which has a big screen TV and (formerly) a view of the WTC.
I can see tense looks on people's faces as I walk down the street. I want to talk to people... tell them what's happening, ask them what they know. You don't really do that in NYC, though, so I just pick up my pace and cross 10th Avenue.
All the traffic is being rerouted off the West Side Highway down 18th St. A dozen cars are parked on the sidewalk there. As I hit the corner of 18th St. and the highway, I can see them. Huge clouds of black, black smoke coming off the twin towers. My stomach is in knots.
I cross the highway, onto the recently-paved promenade that now runs the entire length of the west side. The promenade is usually mildly busy this time of day -- joggers, bikes, skaters. I skate down the west side frequently, right down past the WTC. There are a few of the athletes this morning, but they're overwhelmed by a march of men and women in white-collar work outfits heading north. Each of them wears a look of shock.

I realize they're walking from the WTC. From the distance, I figure they must have been walking for 20-30 minutes already. I alternately feel like crying, yelling and like vomiting.

There are a few people heading south. A man on a bicycle negotiates the crowds, a professional-looking camera with telephoto lens hanging from his shoulder.

I'm not going to the gym. The whole pier is shuttered with security guards posted at the entrances.

The possibility of heading downtown crosses my mind. For what? I feel helpless, a feeling that will return frequently over the course of the day.
Instead I walk a few blocks south and cross back over to the Oxygen office at 10th Ave. & 15th. Oxygen is a tv network, and the 150 screens or so are all tuned to the news. CNN, CBS, MSNBC all going on the TVs, flat plasma screens, projection TVs.
It's even strange knowing how to greet people. I don't end up with much time to think about it after all. I watch the footage of the second plane colliding with the tower. It's amazing how small the widebody jet looks next to the massive building. It's even graceful swooping into it.
My heart hits my throat at the reports of people jumping from high floors of the WTC.

The news comes through that one plane was a American Airlines flight from Boston. There but by the grace of god go I...

I watch the first tower collapse on tv. Gone.

Everyone who's at work comes together on the 8th floor. The senior management is bringing in food, making arrangements for New Jersey-ites and Long Islanders to stay with employees that live in the area in case we can't get off of Manhattan. They're bringing in lunch for everyone. You're requested to sign out at reception if you're leaving. Are they overreacting? Who knows...

My cell phone vibrates. I have a voicemail, but I can't access it.
Getting outbound land lines is spotty, too. I manage to reach my dad. Still in Charlotte, North Carolina. Thank goodness. His flight to New York was canceled last night. Fortunately, he didn't make it out of Charlotte before they closed the airport. I leave a message for my mom that I'm ok. Talk to my stepmom from her cellphone. How did she get service?
Voicemail from folks on my team. They might be coming in, might not. Someone leaves a message like this but doesn't say who they are. I have no idea.

Instant messages from friends. I'm ok. You ok? Emails carry the same messages. AIM is much more reliable than the phones right now.

The second tower is down. Collapsed. They're gone. I'm fighting back tears. This is so wrong.

I haven't eaten breakfast. Bad idea. I get on the elevator going down. The doors open and a friend gets on, Yaron. He says something to me. I have no idea what. The doors start to close. Whoa, what am I doing? This is the ground floor, my destination. Snap out of it, Luke.

Bananas, fruit salad and a green salad from Chelsea Market. It seems bizarre to me that the employees of the shops and restaurants here are still doing their jobs. Glad they are, though.

I'm back in the office. I make short work of a banana and feel a lot better.

The New York Times and CNN have both gone to text-only homepages and they now seem to be handling requests well enough to serve up news. TV and radio are much better infrastructure for this kind of event, though. Broadcast.

I'm in the elevator again, heading to my sister Daniele's school on 17th St. to get her. Judy, Dad and Ed all asked me to get her, and keep her close, and I will. Glad I can do something productive.

It's a busy scene there at her high school. I sign in at security and get a clearance sticker. They direct me to room 110. I approach a school staff member. "I'm looking for Daniele Melia." Her eyes light up. "That's my girl. I had Daniele in second grade. She's wonderful." She begins to make a few phone calls, figuring out where Dani is.

There are teenagers around the office on the phone, trying to reach parents. Crying. Using the fax machines to call out. Some of these kids parents are probably dead at this point, I realize.

I sign a form indicating that I'm taking Dani out of school and we go to find her in the lunch room. Kids are hunched over cafeteria tables and half-slices of pizza. The teacher and I split up to find her and we end up at her table around the same time. Dani stands up, her hair in braids, and starts crying. I push my own tears back, figuring that the older brother shouldn't start crying, especially in front of a bunch of high school girls.

She's happy to see me and we head back to oxygen after giving my phone numbers to a friend who may not be able to get home. Dani tells me of a friend who was coming to school late through the WTC-Chambers subway stop around 9:30. Nobody's heard from her and everyone's worried.

Back at oxygen, we eat some food, watch the latest developments on TV. The Pentagon's been attacked in a similar fashion. A plane is down in Pennsylvania. No one's working. Some folks are starting to leave.
Judy, Daniele's mom, arrives at Oxygen. Our receptionist is amazing, Judy notes. She's right, Erica was awesome today. The only time I saw her shaken was talking to her mom. I leave Judy and Dani in front of a projection tv screen and head back to my desk.

One of the company's senior management wants to add a link to the homepage touting a discussion board about this disaster. I hack the html and deploy it while Dani and Judy watch the news.

Around 2 PM, we leave oxygen and head back to my apartment. Judy curls up on the couch and takes a nap. I surf news and commentary a bit and then fall asleep myself as I listen to the radio and the sirens.

9/12/01: 3 AM.
Chelsea is calm. Sirens frequently pierce the night, but otherwise the streets are empty. No cabs. No trucks.

Nearby, there are rescue workers digging through the night.
This was a tragedy for New York, and for DC, but also for the world.

Let's stick together.

All my love,
Luke

Luke Melia | 25 | New York

#240 | Wednesday, November 7th 2001
I remember waking up, and my roomate immediately said to me, "Pete, terrorists ran into the World Trade Center!". I immediately sat up and put on ABC news. As soon as I saw the clouds of smoke billowing out of the side of the first tower a sadness hung in my heart. I continued to watch as the second plane struck the other tower. I had classes soon, but I wasn't going to go, and neither was anyone else. I just sat with friends in my room all day and watched the news religiously. Certain parts of scripture flashed through my mind, as well as predictions from Nostradamus. I usually wouldn't believe all of his sayings but some things just seemed to match up too well. Especially since there was an earthquake not less than a few weeks after the tragedy. All I can remember is worrying whether my brother who commutes daily to NYC was ok. I was terrified for him. Later in the day I felt nothing but an uprush of pride in how America was responding. For all of the insults, badgering and degradement people try to place on the US, we came together when it counted and proved our country is the best there is, with the best people there are.
Peter Palumbo | 19 | New York

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