September 11th, 2001. America was attacked. Our nation went through an unimaginable and unforgettable tragedy. In a moment, the country as we knew it no longer existed. Everything changed. Everyone changed. For some this day was pure trauma. We understand it is important to remember and honor the experiences of everyone on that day.
Debra Dziena, Recruitment Manager, is a born and raised New Yorker. She remembers this time as “the longest day of her life.” Here is her account of this monumental day in American history…
That day started like any other day. I took the train with my best friend since 5th grade, Noelle, like we always do. We split up as usual for work – she went downtown and I went uptown.
Noelle called me and mentioned how strange it was to see a plane fly overhead as she walked to work. At first, we chuckled, carried on with work, and thought nothing of it.
Moments later, a coworker simply said “a plane crashed into one of the towers.” My first reaction was to shrug it off but it only took a few seconds for the reality of his statement to register to us.
Are you serious?
It’s on fire?
SHIT WHERE IS NOELLE?
Our building immediately starts lockdown procedures – at the time I worked at IBM so, as you can probably imagine, security was quick to react and effective. My coworkers and I were herded into a room where we all sat and watched the news in horror. People were hysterical, calm, frantic, stressed, shocked. We felt everything and nothing at the same time. You’re body and mind almost go into autopilot. It’s a surreal feeling that you really can’t describe.
Everyone was trying to get in touch with loved ones at this point but cell signal was and would continue to be a major issue at this point
As we watched the live coverage, the 2nd plane hit the second tower. We saw the collision, we saw the explosion, and suddenly it was very clear to us, and probably the entire world, that this was a deliberate attack. Then we saw the towers fall. It collapsed so fast. All you could hear was the sound of screaming, and hysterics and shock.
Eventually the building let us leave. We walked outside to a New York none of us had ever known. A few of my coworkers and I chose to band together. We were in survival mode. We made our way by foot to my coworker’s girlfriend’s apartment. I spoke to Noelle and she was okay but we had no idea how were we going to get home so she eventually met me there.
For the next 12 hours we slowly made our way closer and closer to home but we didn’t really know what to do. New York City united. The bars were packed with people watching the news, finding cell signal, desperately trying to locate loved ones, attempting to assure their loved ones that they are safe, looking for answers, and trying to understand what was actually happening.
Some people were silent, others were crying, the occasional patron would be screaming. None of us knew what to feel or what we were feeling but we were together
In that moment, in that bar, we were a team. In that moment there was no fear. We weren’t black, white, Buddhist, gay, wealthy, etc. We were humans helping, supporting, and comforting other humans. We were in shock. We were in a literal and figurative cloud. It was about only what was important the next minute every minute – loved ones and safety.
What happened after that was different and our nation became divided but New York came together.
Noelle and I eventually made it home in the middle of the night. It was the longest day of my life.
We went to sleep and that day ended, but nothing was over. The “new” New York was just starting. In the following days Noelle, her cousin Jen, and I did everything we could to help. We donated supplies and supported our communities and friends in any way we could think of.
When the dust settled (metaphorically because you could see and feel the dust in the air for months after) and we were cleared to resume our “normal lives” is when the fear really settled in.
I was scared of everything all the time. I didn’t even realize how impaired I was by this fear until my boss basically told me it was time to SNAP OUT OF IT. She was right and I needed to hear that.
New York rallied and triumphed through the tragedy and I was a part of that. We rebuilt and I’m so damn proud of us all. I’m so proud to be a New Yorker!
So that’s my story. I hope some of you feel compelled to share yours too.
Almost 3000 people died that day in the US as a result of these attacks. I feel like to honor their memory and to honor everything we went through in those days, we have to talk about it. Everyone experienced that day and moment differently and we have to share because we can’t forget. It doesn’t end because we all carry that upheaval with us everyday.