My September 12, 2001 Story

Sorry, took me a few days longer due to real life issues.

So, on the day of September 12, I was home watching news about what happened the day before when I get a call around noon that I was needed to go to work in Manhattan for an emergency connection that was vital. Despite my bringing mentioning the security that had gone up, I was told this was that important and arrangements had been made, upper level management had a contact in the NYPD who was supposed to get me through any police barricades. They gave me this officer’s name and the way they described it, made it sound like some kind of golden ticket or magic password that opened anything.

I got together some things needed and also brought my camera, in this time when people were going digital I was still using a 35mm film one that was a memento of a relative who had passed on. I get a ride from someone into Brooklyn, I forget exactly where but I was dropped off somewhere on the N/R line along 4th Avenue northeast of 59th Street because I know I was not dropped off in Bay Ridge. I took the subway into Manhattan, when it went over the Manhattan bridge, even from there the scene was unusual, you could see smoke rising from the area where the towers used to be. Entering Manhattan, trains were not stopping anywhere south of Houston Street so any stations below that such as Canal and Prince were passed by, first stop for me was 8th Street-NYU even though they had barricades at 14th Street from what I heard earlier.

I walk the 7 blocks down Broadway to Houston and hit the barricades there. I try going up to one of the officers and tell him what I am doing, trying to reach the worksite at 32 Avenue of the Americas (6th Avenue), and mention the officer’s name I was given that was supposed to get me through. He says he has no idea who that is and best I could do would be to go to their command post that is all the way east on Houston by the FDR Drive. That’s about 24 east-west blocks, yay me, that officer’s name sure turned out to be magic didn’t it? I tried a couple more barricades I passed, no one seemed to know who this guy was.

During this time and continuing until I later get to the worksite, I got calls at times from my boss and other employees in either management or engineering asking if I was there yet. I explained how the name they gave me did not work, they said they would look into it but kept telling me to try finding another way to get through the barricades. I thought to myself how silly that was, the only way would be to jump them thus getting me arrested and I was NOT doing that just for my job, turned out to be not the first time I got asked to do something borderline illegal at this place I worked for.

I get to the FDR Drive end of Houston and go to the command center, no one there knows who this person is either. My wonderful boss and others told me to figure another way to get by constantly stressing how I had to reach the worksite. I spent several hours walking up and down Houston trying to figure this out, at one point I had someone call me and insist on staying on the phone with me telling him every street I crossed. After doing this a bit, I told him my cell phone battery was at half charge and it might run out indicating this did not work, he said in that case just to call him from every pay phone I came across. I hung up on this idiot, really, I do not keep rolls of quarters in my pocket for things like this and this is New York City, half the pay phones are always broken.

Some of the time, I took some pictures because the scene was different that what I was used to. Being a long time New Yorker, I had gotten used to certain things, amount of traffic on the streets, people out in certain neighborhoods, etc., when you have lived somewhere for a while you get used to that. Well, the scene in Manhattan was far different than what I was used to, far fewer cars on the streets, lots more people either walking about or gathering together for various reasons.

Eventually I was on East Houston between Alphabet City and Lower East Side when I tried explaining my situation to another officer manning a barricade. I figure this one thought I was harmless enough that he let me through, FINALLY I would have the phone calls off my back of all the higher ups who could not get right that darn name that was supposed to prevent all this waiting. I make my way though the Lower East Side then head west along Canal Street where there is another row of barricades towards West Broadway and Avenue of the Americas. There were fewer people about and still little to no traffic, the whole trip I felt like I was in a ghost town an image that is very unusual for New York City. I reach West Broadway and once again try telling my story to an officer manning the barricade there, this time the worksite building is visible so I can point it out to him exactly where I am going. He eventually decides to let me pass so I go into the building and get to the work floor. I call in to let my boss know I am there and he tells me I have to wait for certain people to get on the phone to do anything so I will get a call back.

Great, all that hassle to get here, the constant urgency and annoyance of all the phone calls just so I can wait. Without meaning to, I wind up falling asleep woken up a few hours later by the office phone ringing, my cell had been charging. Finally I am on the call for the work to be done that consisted of moving a pair of fibers from one set of plugs to another. Before I could think it was all over, I get told I need to go to a site at 14th Street on the west side for more work. Wonderful.

I pack up my things and leave heading up 6th Avenue since there are no trains operating here. By the time I reach a station with running trains, there is no point to take them for just a one stop trip since I only had 10 more blocks north then 4-5 west to go. So I walk the whole way up to this site taking a few pictures along the way and still having to deal with how odd it is to be going about in a city area that is usually busy but now is a ghost town. The only vehicles in the street were mostly cops and dump trucks that I saw, one spot on the west side had a bunch of dump trucks lined up waiting for work in the empty street.

I get to the west side site and let them know I am there, after waiting for a while again I do nothing but move a fiber pair from one port to another. Now I have to wait while they check this connection out, the previous one being checked while I was on my way up here. Finally I get told I am done and can leave until they are allowed to resume normal business. I left and headed for Union Square, easiest place to get the specific train I needed to go to my destination. I catch an R train taking it all the way to the end at 95th Street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, again over the bridge I can see the former WTC site still smoking, from 95th Street I have to catch a bus back to Staten Island to reach yet another train, ride that to the right stop and then walk it about half an hour back home. By the time I finally get back, it has been a full 15 hours counting trip time since I left. I eat, sleep and wonder when I go back to some semblance of a normal life, when I finally do I still have to contend with the police checkpoints for a while and wear a mask to breathe the air whenever in Manhattan.

Well, there is the day after story. I have to say, it is one of several experiences that has left me wondering how some people get into upper management, the whole bit about the officer’s name that was supposed to get me through barricades only no one knew him, turns out he was in charge of the southern Manhattan area that was not covering Houston so no one there knew him. The constant phone calls also pushing me to find some way past the barricades without getting arrested, hey I am not a magician and I have come to learn some management types should learn how to use a cell phone, it is not for calling people just to annoy them by telling them the same thing. If you are in management, that means in part you are supposed to find solutions to problems not dump them on the lower employees to figure out. Also there was some kind of office politics going on since the company had merged with another recently and apparently people were jockeying for positions to avoid being let go. I do understand after reading later the importance of the work given all the telecom systems that went out and I was fixing one, but really it could have been a lot easier if management did its job.

When I get time and figure out how to do it, I will try to get the decent pictures up. Not all the photos came out well, even some of the good ones have signs of bad development but they have enough to be worth something. At least there is one memorable picture in there to me, the only picture I ever named of all the photos I have taken.

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