As a New Yorker, I am feeling sad and subdued today, the 10th anniversary of a “day that will live in infamy,” to quote President Franklin D. Roosevelt, another New Yorker.
This is the question I still get after 10 years:
Where Were You on 9/11?
In my office, at Citigate, the PR agency where I held my last job working for an organization before hanging out my own shingle again. As an agency, we had a large TV monitor hanging from a wall to keep up with the news.
I remember someone calling out, “Come take a look — a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center!”
I immediately called my husband to turn on the TV, just before we lost all phone service, which was down for days afterward. We stood glued to the TV, watching the unimaginable happen before our eyes. A young woman in our office lost her 26-year-old husband in the conflagration.
I had a lunch date with a former client, who was flying in from Toronto. She had left me a voice message that she had landed at LaGuardia Airport and was in a taxi on the way to Manhattan. She never made it. She later told me she could see the smoke from the burning towers. Bridges and tunnels were closed, so her taxi was turned away. She went back to the airport, and, as all flights had been cancelled, she tried unsuccessfully to find a room at an airport hotel.
She still had her taxi, now a very valuable asset, and a young man approached her. Would she drive him to Long Island? She did, registered at a motel around the corner, and spent the afternoon in front of the TV with his wife and two young children. It didn’t seem bizarre. In those dark days, lifetime friendships were forged with strangers. We became part of an extended family of survivors — those who personally lived through the experience.
For three days she holed up at her motel, watching TV and eating meals with her new friends. Finally, she found a limo driver who agreed to drive her clear across New York State — a 12-hour trip — to Buffalo. Her husband drove from Toronto to pick her up. Later I learned that three of my office colleagues, stranded in Los Angeles, had rented a car and drove across the country back to New York.
Dear friends, who lived in my building, put together an impromptu dinner for everyone who was around. We ate and watched more TV with replays of the horror of the buildings collapsing and people jumping from the World Trade Center rooftops rather than die in the flames. Our friends had visitors from Florida who drove their car back to Florida and then sold it for them. True story. It took months for life to return to the new normal. The new normal is life after 9/11 because life changed forever after that dreadful day.
Where Are We After 9/11?
The world is a changed place. Iraq. Afghanistan, an African-American President. But, most of all, the rise of social networks has revolutionized our lives — and was the catalyst for the Middle East uprisings that gave new hope to the oppressed as they fought for their freedom and better lives.
Social media has enabled people to communicate with each other, build relationships and forge communities with common goals. Think of these developments since 9/11:
LinkedIn — founded in 2003: 120 million members
Facebook — founded in 2004: 750 million members
Twitter — founded in 2006: 200 million members
There are 156 million blogs — 156 million! Everyone is a communicator and amateur journalist now. How wonderful.
I haven’t tuned in to watch any of the 9/11 commemorative ceremonies. After 10 years, it’s still too painful to watch. Instead, I’m at my computer, engaging with my families on social media. That’s what we are — families that include friends from around the globe. Mine include Susan from Australia and Catarina from Sweden. We’re in touch regularly. I feel that I know them personally.
We’re all connected. This one big global family that will hopefully build a better world.