This is my personal 9/11 story. It involves my very best friend, the same Mike from my first post in this blog My Story…
16 years ago this past week I was sent to the East Coast on business with Wild Oats Markets.
It was 16 years ago today that co-worker/friend Simon and I finished our work several hours early in Westport, Connecticut. We suddenly had a free afternoon and evening. So we quickly checked out of our hotel and headed to New York City (the afternoon before our scheduled mid-day September 11th flight out of La Guardia Airport in NYC).
We heard that the Yankees were home and that Roger Clemens was going for his 20th win vs. the Red Sox that evening. So we decided to head straight for Yankee Stadium.
After we bought our tickets, it started raining like crazy. The game was delayed until the rain let up. We had just gotten to our great seats when I spotted my lifelong best friend Mike and his wife Elena walking by. Such a wild coincidence! Baseball was everything to Mike and I as kids, we started going to Dodgers games together at 9 years old in 1976. Amazingly, here we were running into each other at Yankee Stadium. It was the first time either of us had been there.
I traveled weekly at that time and would often stop to see Mike when I was in the area. But on this particular hectic trip I had not let him know I was nearby….but here we were!
The rain started up again and the game was eventually cancelled. We headed to the exits with Mike and Elena. They didn’t have a vehicle at the game, and we didn’t have a hotel booked for the night. So they jumped into our rental car and we headed to their apartment in Hoboken, NJ. This was directly across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan. We could see all of Manhattan and the World Trade Center perfectly from their neighborhood. What a sight it was!! We came up with the idea to maybe go to Mike’s office the next morning to see the amazing view on our way to the airport. Throughout the night I had called my parents, my wife and a few people that I worked with. I told each of them how amazing it was that we ran into Mike and Elena and that we were going to stay with them and then possibly go into Mike’s office in the morning to see the view….
When we got to Hoboken we immediately headed to this cool little Irish Pub in Mike’s neighborhood. The Harp’s and Guinness’s started flowing. We listened to great music (The Pixies…lots of PIXIES ) and had amazing conversation. Mike kept saying he needed to get to bed, but we kept insisting “one more beer”.
When I woke up not many hours later, I heard the shower going. Then I heard someone leave the apartment. A bit later I finally salvaged enough energy to get up. I told Simon to get off the couch and jump in the shower. I turned the TV on. I immediately saw that a tower had been hit. I opened the curtain and could see the smoke as I looked at lower Manhattan out the window….
I assumed I most likely had heard Mike in the shower earlier, but I rushed to the master bedroom and hollered for him. No response at first, then finally Mike responded that he was still in bed because he was so hungover. Yes, a hangover kept Mike from going to work on time. Mike worked for the small investment banking firm Sandler O’Neill on the 104th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. This was the only time EVER that a hangover kept Mike from getting to work on time.
Tragically 66 of the 82 co-workers that were in Mike’s office that morning did not survive.
With Manhattan being in chaos, many of the injured were being sent on ferries across the Hudson to paramedics in Hoboken and then taken to nearby NJ hospitals. We were right there.
I will never forget the 30 seconds that I did not know Mike had not gone to work, and was still in bed….
I will never forget the emotion of Mike’s wife Elena, as she finally arrived back at the apartment. It was Elena that I had heard in the shower earlier. She worked across the street from the twin towers and was about to get on the train when the first plane hit. Her daily destination was the stop in the basement of the WTC…
I will never forget the pain, suffering and horror all around us….
I will never forget the courage, strength and unity of the people of New York and New Jersey, it was so stunning how everyone immediately pulled together as one….
Never, ever forget 9/11/01
From last year, here is Mike Rowe telling our story….