Tuesday, September 11

Six Years Ago Today...

I was a senior at NYU, living at Water Street.

I woke up on a Tuesday much like this one (A little chillier, but a *beautiful* day) a little before 9am and rolled over to watch Sportscenter from bed, as was my wont in those days. There were a ton of sirens outside, but that was nothing unusual in NYC. I mean, sirens are about par for the course, really.

I don't recall who the anchor on SC was, but I recall being upset that they cut over to some news show. I started flipping through the ESPN channels to find sports news, but to no avail. I accepted that I should probably figure out what was going on and was shocked. So, of course, I went outside to see what was going on for myself. As you can see from the earlier link, I was about seven blocks from the World Trade Center, so all I had to do was walk to the corner and look down Fulton Street to see the towers.


There were so many people just staring into the sky, mouths open. Some were crying. Some were running toward the buildings. Some were running away. I stood there for a couple of minutes and took it in. I saw some things that I won't repeat here, but suffice to say that the images are seared into my mind. I thought to myself "That's crazy. I hope they get the fire out soon. I'm sure they will." I then went back inside and fulfilled my RA duties by going to see the Hall Manager and ask what I should do.

Went around knocking on doors of residents to make sure they were up and and aware of what was happening and then went to visit some friends on other floors in case they didn't know.

Then, a huge noise and a powerful rumbling/shaking rattled the building. I rushed to the TV to figure out what was happening a mere seven blocks away. Holy Shit!!!!!! A building collapsed? A building that big? That I had seen every day that I had been in New York for the past 3 years? No fucking way.

Yes, fucking way.

Time to evacuate the 32 floor dorm. 2000 residents. As an aside, during RA training, when we were going over fire safety and the like, we were told that the building was fireproof and as such we would never have to evacuate more than 3 floors. Never. I asked the annoying question of "Well, say that we DO need to evacuate the whole building. How would we do that?" The answer came back, with a laugh, "If we have to do that, there are bigger things to worry about." THIS, apparently, was the bigger thing. We had no plan. We were dispatched to 3 floors a piece (some people were already at class) and told to knock on all doors, shout, and do what a reasonable person would do to get students out. We were assured by the fire department that while we were in no immediate danger, soon enough no one would be allowed down here. As I stopped at my dorm, I packed up a bag of stuff because I didn't know how long I'd be gone:

  • Disc
  • 10 beers
  • 6 CDs
  • Discman
  • Pants
  • Duct Tape
  • 1 Book
  • Notepad
  • Pens
  • Hot Sauce
  • Hat
  • Loaf of Cinnamon Raisin Bread
  • Peanut Butter
  • Nalgene of Water
  • Waller
Not too bad, considering it took me less than 5 minutes to packand I was terrified that the building would come down around me...

I then decided to trek to the Broome Street dorm to catch other frisbee players who lived in an big 'ole suite (8 people?). When I got there, there weren't any. They too had been evacuated. I had my cell phone for about a month at this point, and while I had managed to get through to my father (thank god!) right after the building came down, I was entirely unable to make any calls after then as the network was overloaded. So I just kept walking north.

I met people along the way and offered them beer. This was a good tactic as they understood that I was an okay guy and were a little more open with me. The conversations that day were surreal. I walked all the way up to Central Park that day. Why? I don't have a fucking clue. I just kept going. I remember stopping on the way in Washington Square Park to gaze south through the arch at the remaining tower. It was very obviously on fire. I discussed the possibility of classes resuming with a random NYU student and the odds of that building coming down. We decided it was impossible that the building would come down.

We were wrong. That was the last I ever saw of the largest buildings I've ever seen.

Eventually, I managed to get in touch with the NYU ultimate players. One of whom, Man-Fai Tam, was offering us a place to stay for the night. That was fantastic of him. We all huddled together with familiar faces and watched the news until we passed out. Glued to the screens, watching another building fall in NYC as the enormity of the plot unfolded before us. Wow. Just, wow.

I decided to get on a a bus the very next day and go home to see my family. A good choice.

More interestingly, Jamie and I had been planning to attend a Hat Tournament in New Jersey that weekend. This was my fourth year of ultimate (and his, I think) and I was coming off of a torn ACL. This seemed like a good place to get out and run early in the season. As you can see by the website (I love the permanence of the internet!) it was a associated with the wedding of Denise Ryan and Zach Bressler. I had never met them before, but I was overjoyed that they were running this tournament this weekend. Anything to get my mind off of September 11th...

We begged the tournament directors to let us play on the same team together, as we were brothers and all, and they let us. Not sure why exactly, but it was the first time we had ever actually played together outside of pickup at Lehigh 2 summers ago. The events of the weekend are murky, but I did meet eventual Pike teammate, Matt "Bones" Dufort and congratulated him on his college title with Carleton (which I had watched in person). The bride and groom also played in a wedding gown and a tux, respectively and were wildly entertaining. 3 or 4 years later, I met them as well, playing pickup in NJ.

All in all, there couldn't have been a better place to be that weekend. I was in cleats, clothes and everything else borrowed from Jamie, and I was still having a hard time shaking some of the thoughts I from the Tuesday before, but while I was playing, it was all gone. Nothing existed but the game itself. Teammates and opponents were nice and all (And it was fantastic to play with Jamie for the first time-- He made one of the craziest catches I have ever seen in our last game) but it was the game itself that took me away from it all. Remove all outside distractions and get lost in the game.

As ever, when things were going crazy in my life, I found sanity in competition. Sports, marching band, board games, card games, you name it. They are all something to take me away from reality, for better and for worse. This is still one of my individual favorite memories of ultimate. There are better tournaments, and there have been bigger games, but never has a specific weekend of ultimate meant more to me.

Thanks, ultimate.
Workout Total:
Full Dynamic Warmups
10 min wobble board
20 min stretching


Bill Mill said...

I was studying in Spain at the time. The lady who lived in the apartment across the way, and owned the student apartment, came running in to my room, where I was studying. "Gweelly, Gweelly!" (William = Willy = Gweelly in Sevillano) "Mira, mira"!

I sat and watched the TV for about 4 hours. I remember distinctly feeling strongly that, if we could find the fuckers who did this, I would go to war; it's an odd thought for a person who's never fought even their brothers.

It was weird being in Spain when all this went down, they were very sympathetic for a while. Mostly, however, I'm pissed that my trip to Morocco got cancelled, because I still haven't been to Africa, even though I lived like 200 miles away, and what the crap did Morocco have to do with anything?

gapoole said...

It was surreal. Everybody in my middle school was hushed and scared. My stepdad worked across the water in Jersey City--I had seen the towers outside of his office window. He told me later that my mom told him she had a bad feeling before he went to work, told him to be careful. Apparently, he heard about it on the radio during the commute. It amazes me how many people were able to get out, by the grace of God and NYC civil servants.

Out of curiosity, why hot sauce?

dusty.rhodes said...

Why hotsauce? Are you serious?

Aside from that original reaction, here's why:

1. I don't like ketchup.
2. I like spicy food.
3. If you're eating bad/cheap food, few things make it more palatable than hotsauce.
4. It travels well.

Every college kid should have a bottle of hotsauce. Jalapeno, habenero, tomatillo, chipotle, whatever you prefer. There's a hotsauce for everything.

Roadtrips, institutional cafeterias, homecooking and everything else are all vastly improved by the right hotsauce. hell, they're often improved by the wrong hotsauce.

Hotsauce is the shit.

gapoole said...

Don't get me wrong, I love spicy food. I can stand more hot than most people I know. I just didn't get how it went with bread and peanut butter.

dusty.rhodes said...

Updated link to the hat tourney website in the amusingly referenced "permanence of the internet" section: