Sunday, July 30, 2017

How the events of 9/11 changed the world and this travel writer

Scenes from the world-changing horrific incident  are etched in my mind forever
Patti Pietschmann

From the initial sight of two planes crashing into Lower Manhattan's Twin Towers to the view of people leaping out of windows and the final collapse of the buildings, 9/11 will never leave my thoughts or memory.

We were there.  My husband and I were in New York on September 11, 2001, but it feels like it was yesterday. We flew in from Los Angeles two days before the catastrophic event which, like so many of us, is now emblazoned in my memory forever--every  terrible, gut wrenching detail.  Our only consolation today is that Osama Bin Laden is dead! God forgive me, but I prayed for that to happen.
We were staying at the Four Seasons Hotel in a suite on the 43rd floor with a clear view of the Twin Towers from a picture window.  

We arrived the night of September 9th.  The next day, September 10 was an absolutely perfect Manhattan day. Warm, but not muggy, and everyone seemed to be going about business as usual.
My husband and I were there on assignments for a couple of magazines. The day before the worst disaster to hit the US happened, couldn't have been more perfect. We met friends and editors for lunch, cocktails, dinner, walked all over the city.  I enjoyed a fabulous session in a New York spa for a piece I was working on.

We had a wonderful dinner at the Four Seasons with friends and went to bed around midnight.  For me it turned into a fitful sleep.  I felt anxious.  I dreamed of carnage and buildings falling down and told my husband about the nightmare when we woke up about two hours before the first plane hit the tower.

I actually witnessed the second plane hitting the building and couldn’t believe my eyes. I blinked and thought, “This can’t be happening.”  The aircraft looked so tiny from our window, like a toy plane someone was flying.”
The events that ensued were so horrific that I began therapy when we returned to Los Angeles several days later.  We  watched people diving out of windows, we smelled the burning flesh.  We  saw the anguish, the fear, the shock.  It was the wickedest day of everybody's life.

The only good was the calm that overcame the city. People sat in sidewalk cafes speaking quietly. You could walk the streets with no worries. Even muggers, thieves and bottom crawlers felt the pain.
I could write a book, but suffice it say, the New Yorkers really pulled through and came to each other's aid. We sat with a man at the Four Seasons bar who had lost all his entire staff, but one that day. His company was based in the World Trade Center.  He was spending the day meeting clients at the hotel. His only surviving employee escaped because while he was having breakfast in the Windows of the World with his work mates, he decided his shirt need ironing and left to take it the cleaners. While he was gone, the tower was hit. Amen.

Our bar mate was so distraught, he cried on my shoulder as  I held this  complete stranger's hand and we cried and cried along with him.   My eyes still tear up when I think about the innocent people who left for work that morning never to return; and the fire fighters and volunteers who died trying to save others.  The fruitlessness of it all.

We couldn't fly home. Lucky for us I have a cousin  with a summer home in the Hamptons who put us up  until planes were operating again.  It was good to be with loved ones (he's my favorite cousin) and of course my husband (my best friend) was there, and we ate and drank and went to bars and mingled with all the other people who were drinking trying to forget what just happened.
But of course we never will.

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, we were about 5 hours out of Frankfurt, flying over the North Atlantic.
All of a sudden the curtains parted and I was told to go to the cockpit, immediately, to see the captain.
As soon as I got there I noticed that the crew had that “All Business” look on their faces. The captain handed me a printed message. It was from Delta’s main office in Atlanta and simply read, “All airways over the Continental United States are closed to commercial air traffic. Land ASAP at the nearest airport. Advise your destination.”
No one said a word about what this could mean. We knew it was a serious situation and we needed to find terra firma quickly. The captain determined that the nearest airport was 400 miles behind us in Gander, Newfoundland.
He requested approval for a route change from the Canadian traffic controller and approval was granted immediately — no questions asked. We found out later, of course, why there was no hesitation in approving our request. Click here to read the rest, you will cry.