Sounds of silence and sirens
Throughout the night, I heard either silence or sirens. It was not a typical weeknight in Manhattan.
I think it was then that I became addicted to live television. If I flipped through the channels quickly enough, I might be able to get more information. If I was away from the television coverage, then I switched on my radio walkman. If I was away from both of these, I'd surf the Web for more.
I don't think it hit me then. I was still an observer, unsure of what I was observing.
I had arranged a breakfast meeting at 9 am. So my new colleague and I agreed to meet in uptown Manhattan. All the building attendants were on duty checking our identification and then ushering us to queue for the sign-in book. Despite the extra effort, there was no logic in the process. We didn't have to show our identification cards where we signed in. We could have written anything. I took the lift to an empty floor. I waited for someone to show up. Then it occurred to me that my colleague might be downstairs.
Does this mean all my meetings would be cancelled this week? Where was everybody?
Sure enough, she was downstairs and outside. She was told by the security guards that nobody was upstairs. A week later we learned that the people we were meeting were actually inside their offices already. Anyhow, we decided to carry on our bilateral meeting outdoors.
The truth of the matter was we were simply too dumb and numb to return to our offices. We passed by a long queue of blood donors. We continued walking. We talked business and forgot about the world for 14 hours.
Central Park was a haven of peace. The day was just as beautiful as yesterday. And we earnestly wanted to win back the lost productivity from the day before.
At a quarter to midnight, we parted. I got back to my hotel and stayed transfixed by CNN, ABC, and other news networks. I wanted to catch up on events of the day.
My sister called to tell me about the people trapped in the buildings. Those that were above the crash wanted to go upstairs. Those below the crash wanted to go downstairs. But the intercom voice that reassured them to stay put and that the building was safe confused some of them. She told me about the man who was negotiating with his colleagues about whether to stay put or escape. She told me about the people who thought they could get rescued from the roof. Then I recalled that I had also had the same instinct to escape but decided to obey the intercom the day before. Later I found an article on the New York Times web site discussing exactly this critical decision dilemma. It sent a shiver down my spine.
12 September 2001
I am writing this on 22 September Saturday, in the comfort of my home in London. No longer bombarded by real-time, live coverage on TV, I am remembering Black Tuesday - a day I shall never forget. A day when I felt helpless and totally alone.