Tag Archives: Empire State Building

The Danger of the Diluted Memory

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The view from my window on September 11, 2001

At about 1 AM this morning I was in my car and I began to realize how many memories I had filed away from 18 years ago.  There were literally tens of thousands of people whose experience that day was worse than mine, but like so many other New Yorkers who saw parts of it live and spent part of that day in Manhattan, the horrors of that day were very real to me.  Even so it took a mental jolt, one caused by a friend changing a picture on Facebook to bring me back to what I remember from that day, and to remind me of how important it sometimes is to remember the things we want to forget the most.

Everyone who was in New York on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, a day that was originally an election day, will remember that the weather was so perfect, that in retrospect it was eerie.  When I saw Dick OIiver of FOX 5 NY first reporting an incident, I recall him saying that it had appeared that a twin engine jet had hit one of the Twin Towers.  Since at the time I was living on the 10th floor of an apartment in Forest Hills, Queens, I was able to see the towers from my window.  Seeing the smoke coming the first tower from the window made this all very real very quickly, but what it did not immediately do was make it clear to me that it was an attack.  There were many, including myself who initially thought it was a terrible accident.  Regardless, there was nothing that my staying at home was going to do for anyone so I made my way to the train which going through Manhattan would eventually get me to Brooklyn where I worked at the time.

Some of the images that stuck with me most on that day were the images of people whose expressions of panic and devastation implied they had people in the towers.  At least back then, whenever a major news or sports story hit, there were enough people talking about it on the subway for someone to get wind of what was happening.  So by the time the train was just a few stops in I knew a second plane had hit.  Within a few stops I saw 2 young women crying uncontrollably, looking as though they had a person or people they loved in peril.   When the train arrived at the 34th street and 6th Avenue station it was evacuated, the first car being the car with open doors while all the remaining cars, of which one was the one I was in moving towards the front.  When I got out into the street there were 3 memories that will remain with me forever.  The first one was the fact that the streets were filled with people, and that almost all of these people had one thing in common.  They were walking uptown.  The general feeling seemed to be more of a focused numbness than anything else.  There were no smiles, not a lot of talking and throngs of people doing the only thing that made sense at that moment.  To get as far away from downtown as quickly as possible.

The second thing I remember was standing in front of a store front and seeing the TV on what I remember was WABC NY, with the image of what would later be known as Ground Zero and the words, “Twin Towers, attacked and destroyed”.  Once again it felt very real.

The third thing I remember is something I rarely speak of, likely due to the incredibly sad futility of it and the fact that I will either never know what it was or worse, the fact that what it was would only be described as one of the saddest things I will ever see in my life.  On a side street there was a white car, with the windows down and the news blasting from its speakers, and outside there was what I am guessing was a Japanese couple most likely in their late 40s or 50s, the man pacing back and forth and together with his female companion sobbing almost to the point of screams.  All I could imagine was that their child was in one of the towers, and somehow they knew that he or she had been killed in the attacks.

I remember the fear I felt by the rumor that there were more planes unaccounted for, and knowing that being around the corner from the Empire State Building made us all vulnerable.  I remember walking to and over the 59th Street Bridge, looking downtown and seeing the trail of smoke, while walking next to people covered in the grey dust that covered anyone who was close enough to feel the effects of the attack.  And I remember the smell.  Everyone who was in Manhattan either on that day or days following remembers the smell.  The smell of burning, the smell of devastation, the smell of death.

The worst thing about everything I have just recounted is what I said way back in the beginning of this piece, and that is that compared to many on that day, I saw and experienced nothing.

So 18 years later, as impactful of a day as that was, it was not till today at about 2 AM that I started to remember these things.  And it dawned on me once again how important it is to keep memories like this alive.  It dawned on me that I am very likely far from alone in allowing the memory of that day to become diluted.  And it brought me back again to the importance of reminding people of the things they sometimes want to forget the most.  If 18 years and 3,000 people later the memory of September 11th is weakened to me, someone who does care, it’s even more clear to me how important it is to keep talking about 75 years ago and 6 million.

May the souls of all of those lost on or as a result of September 11, 2001 always be blessed and may we honor them by never forgetting what happened on that awful day.

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9/11 Chronicles-Volume 1

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As we approach the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks I will be posting some of what I wrote on the days following September 11, 2001. The following I wrote within days of the attacks and was the first piece I wrote in reaction to what took place.

Living in NY on 9/11/01

On Tuesday morning Sept.11, 2001, we witnessed an event that will change the world forever. This act committed by the forces of evil against the civilized world is one that changes the shape of our future. As a resident of New York, I have seen a city traumatized, saddened, and angered. We were all abruptly forced to change the way we look at everything that we do and to alter our perspective on a daily basis. The average New Yorker will take serious umbrage to anyone touching something that belongs to them, especially when it belongs to them collectively.
At around 10AM on Tuesday morning I found myself around the corner from the original symbol of New York City, the Empire State Building. I am not ashamed to say that I was afraid to be there, yet like so many others there, felt a comfort in being with my fellow New Yorkers. After managing to get one call out, a call that created a chain to let my family know that I was OK, I started to walk uptown and to the East, and like many of the people who live in Queens, I walked over the 59th Street Bridge. When I looked to my right, where I used to see the symbol of the New York skyline, now all I saw was a trail of black smoke. I got home safely after a day of much walking and fear yet never lost sight of the fact that I was one of the lucky ones.
As someone who considers himself to be a New Yorker I have been deeply moved and grateful for the attitude and support of our fellow Americans. Today when I bought my first American flag, I did it for 2 reasons. Out of a tremendous pride for living in the greatest city in the world, and out of a gratitude and pride for living in the greatest country in the world. This week while we are all Americans, to us in New York it felt like the entire country was a country of New Yorkers.
The war that was declared on us a few days ago was an act of evil against our basic good. But true good will always conquer evil, and the victims of the attack on Tuesday will not die for nothing if the proper actions are taken to make this the beginning of a series of events that will insure the safety and freedom for us and our future generations.

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These things happened….

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These things happened,

The publishing of Ulysses by James Joyce;  The first swimmer crossed the English Channel; Calvin Coolidge became president; the first Winter Olympics took place; Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic Ocean; Walt Disney created Mickey Mouse; Herbert Hoover became president; the Stock Market crashed;Penicillin was discovered; the planet Pluto was discovered; Empire State Building was completed; Amelia Earhart crossed the Atlantic; Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Party became ruling party in Germany; Social security was established; Golden Gate Bridge was opened; Japan invaded China; Germany annexed Austria; World War II;  Japan attacked Pearl Harbor; Atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; 60 million people killed in World War II;  6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust; Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier; the State of Israel was founded; United Nations was formed;  NATO was formed; Korean War; Elvis Presley; Polio vaccine created;  Disneyland Opened; JFK became President; I was born; Cuban Missile Crisis; JFK assassinated; The Beatles; Vietnam War; Star Trek series; first Super Bowl; Apollo 11 landed on the moon; Terrorists Killed Israeli Athletes at Munich Olympics; Watergate scandal forced President Richard Nixon’s resignation; the movie Star Wars; John Paul II became Pope; Iranian Muslim revolution; CNN was formed; AIDS discovered; Personal Computers were invented; Soviet Union collapsed; Apartheid ended; Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa; 2 different Bush’s became Presidents; Bill Clinton became president; the Euro currency was formed; 3,000 killed in 9/11 attack in New York; Iraq War; the Internet was created; Holland lost 3 World cup finals; Justin and Kim got married.

These things happened, in the 92 years between the birth of these 2 people, my mother Sipora Groen and my youngest family member and great-niece Jara.

If this doesn’t give you hope nothing does.


A Day of Funny Mishaps, Good Company and Chocolate Wine

chocovine_originalThe purpose of Holland’s Heroes is primarily to promote the book  “Jew Face”.  As many of you already know, I often use this forum to discuss matters of the day and personal views or philosophies.  In this particular post however, I will be doing none of the above.  Instead this is me keeping a promise and sharing the events of what was a fun day filled with a series of minor incidents and mishaps, none of which would spoil the festivities.

As I do not use this forum to discuss my personal life in any detail, and since I believe in honoring and respecting the privacy of others, I will be somewhat vague in regard to the people involved when telling my story of December 25, 2012.

The plan was for me to be at the home of a special friend (the use of the world special here is all any of you nosey ones will get) in Queens by 4:30 so that we could travel from there shortly after 5 to her mother’s friend who had invited all of us to enjoy the Christmas festivities.  The woman we were visiting, a very friendly woman I had met just a few days earlier, was kind enough to invite me to her home and enjoy excellent company, food, and drinks.  I must say, as someone who is a lightweight, it feels like I’ve already had more alcohol between Thanksgiving and today, as I write this the date is December 27, than I had the previous almost 11  months of the year.  And that is before I even celebrate New Years and my birthday which will fall this year the day after New Years.  If you are scratching your head you passed the “is the reader paying attention?” test since New Years is on January 1 every year and my birthday falls the day after New Years every year on January 2.   Anyway, I arrived near my friend’s home, got off the bus, ran across the street, tripped over the island, stumbled, regained my balance and made it to the other side just ahead of the oncoming traffic.  Incredibly lucky to be alive (the drama is just for effect, it wasn’t THAT close), I made it to my friend’s house and waited with the 2 lovely ladies for the car service that was to take us to the party.

When the car arrived we put 3 large bags in the trunk of the car.  Being the man in the group, I decided it would be appropriate and mildly macho to carry 2 of the 3 bags, so when we arrived at our destination I went to take out the same 2 bags.  As I pulled away from the trunk I saw something in the trunk that might have fallen from one of the bags.  I moved forward to double check the trunk exactly at the same time that my friend, someone who I thought actually cared about me, pulled the hood of the trunk closed on top of my head.  The assassination attempt was not successful however and I still live to tell the story, even though I had to wait 2 days till my memory returned and the headaches subsided (more nonsense since 5 minutes after it happened I felt perfectly fine).

The house was filled with Christmas decorations.  And when I say filled, I mean it did not matter which way you turned your head.  Lights, ornaments, statues were everywhere.  The only problem is that since most houses are not equipped to use as much lighting as the Empire State Building, within 10 minutes of being there different fuses took turns turning off.  Of course the upstairs fuse went off just as we were walking up the stairs to drop off the coats, but despite my wobbly condition I made it up and down safely.   I did manage to knock down some decorations on the staircase, with the help of my friend’s mother, but it was dark so I honestly have no idea what it was we knocked down anyway, which means it is almost like it never happened.  Shhhh. Honorable mention goes out to my flashlight app on my smart phone.

The food was delicious, the wine was good and getting better by the glass, and little by little more people made it to the party.  I had Chocolate Wine, which, I am proud and happy to say came from Holland since it was quite good.  If it sucked I never would have written about it and certainly not shown a picture of it.

The food was heated on sternums, so when it was time to clean up there was one large aluminum pan that I helped the hostess carry to the kitchen.  Only half of the water in the pan made it to the sink, the other half ending up on my arms and on the legs of the hostess.  At least this wasn’t life threatening, even though I was fearful of drowning at one point (more nonsense).

I discussed fantasy football with the hostess’s son, much to the dismay of my friend, and then proceeded to watch his young daughter open approximately 250 presents (another exaggeration), but she was a cute little girl so everyone enjoyed watching her having such a nice time.  Plus I got a scarf from the hostess so I was happy too.

The cab came to pick us up, I was not attacked this time, and we all made it home safely albeit it a little ill from the constant stop and go of the car.  The only explanation I can come up with is that the driver was practicing for when he does drive in traffic, because there was none on this night and he still managed to drive like he was on the Van Wyck Expressway North at 5PM on a weekday.  On a personal note, I had a great time and thank all those responsible for making it a fun time for everyone.