Chip MacGregor

September 12, 2012

Seven Leftover 9/11 Notes…


Back to the topics of writing and publishing tomorrow, but today I was to share a handful of interesting things about 9/11 I didn’t put in yesterday’s post (and you can feel free to add your own images in the “comments” section at the end)…

1. Did you know that between the two World Trade Center Buildings, on the west side by the Hudson River, was a Marriott Hotel? When the towers collapsed they fell on it, and the hotel was also destroyed. Nobody really seems to know how many people died in the Marriott, but a group of people (ten firemen and a lawyer who was staying at the hotel) survived when one corner of the building remained standing. I had stayed at that Marriott just months before the attack, and it was lovely.

2. Jules and Gedeon Naudet, the two French filmmakers who happened to be filming in Manhattan that day and created the riveting documentary 9/11, were the only people who caught the first plane hitting the north tower. If you view it, note what the police officer who happened to be standing in the shot says: “That’s an act of terrorism! He steered that plane right into the building!” To New York’s finest, they knew immediately what had happened.

3. Three weeks after the attack, I finally took my trip to New York. The scope of Ground Zero was amazing. Television couldn’t capture it. A huge pile, and a huge field of debris — the size of  it took my breath away. 16 acres of rubble. Imagine.

4.  I got to walk completely around the perimeter of Ground Zero with a friend. I noticed there were dump trucks getting filled with debris from loaders, then heading out to Fresh Kills so investigators could sort through the rubble. We waited at the exit where the trucks were leaving, thinking there would be a break. It never came. One of the policemen on site said to us, “You gotta dash between the trucks. They run 24/7.” It took months for them to clear the site, with loaded dump trucks running 24/7 — that’s how devastating it was.

5. 125 people died at the Pentagon, along with 58 passengers, 4 flight attendants, and 2 pilots. Why is it we rarely hear about the Pentagon strike?

6. If you want to read a great story of good triumphing over evil, pick up a copy of Thunder Dog.  Mike Hingson is blind. He was on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center the morning the plane hit. His guide dog, Roselle, walked him down all those flights of stairs, and both Mike and Roselle survived. His story of meeting fire-fighters as they came up the stairs, and having one stop to pour water from her water-bottle into her fire helmet so Roselle could take a drink… incredibly moving.

7. Here’s my lasting image of September 11… There used to be a Burger King on the corner, across from the towers. I’d eaten there several times. When I took my walk around the site, I could only recognize the building by the round “Burger King” sign that was on the front wall — the paint had all been blasted off by the force of the debris. It took me a while to figure out what I was looking at, but as I got my bearings, and realized where I was, I watched a worker inside go about his business. He climbed up a ladder, shook a can of spray paint, and circled a spot high on the wall. It was just a smudge, but he painted a circle around it, then sprayed an arrow pointing to the spot. He then shook his spray can again, and proceeded to write the word “HUMAN” beside it.

That used to be somebody. Now it was just a splotch, ten feet off the ground. The guy got down, moved his ladder, and started circling something else. That’s the image I will always carry with me of 9/11.

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  • Cindy Valenti Scinto says:

    Such thoughtful reminders. I’d like to add one that sticks with me each year. The first fireman to die was killed when a person who jumped out a window landed on him. The impact killed this fireman and the person who jumped. His buddy, standing there with him, watched it happen. To me, that one picture is a summary of the pain caused on September 11, 2001.

    After I saw a documentary and heard the thud of people hitting the ground and saw others jumping, I have that sick feeling in my gut every time I think of it.

    My brother-in-law retired after 40 years as a New York City firefighter. He went to 23 funerals.
    I’m from New York and knew how many people were in those buildings as I watched from out here in Spokane, Washington. I sobbed uncontrollably.

    Thank you, Chip, for a reminder of why we fight for freedom.

  • Juliana Vadnais says:

    Your number five really hits home with me. My father worked at the Pentagon during that time. He luckily wasn’t there that day but I always think about the “what if.” It often gets overlooked but to some of us, it hits home more than the attack on the Twin Towers. I am glad someone else takes a moment to remember that as well.

  • Powerful imagery. I also didn’t talk much about it last year, but this year I felt compelled to share my experience. More kids are being born who will have no personal connection to this day, so we’re the keepers of this story. We have a responsibility to tell it.

  • Peter DeHaan says:

    Wow, that is powerful. Thanks for taking time to share this; it brings 9/11 right back to me.

  • Melissa Tagg says:

    Goosebumps. Such tragedy.

  • Martha Ramirez says:

    Wow. Thank you for sharing this. God bless. Thunder Dog sounds amazing.

  • Michelle LIm says:

    Praying for all of the families today. That day is forever etched in my mind.

    There is a book called “Condemned To Repeat It” that came from the quote, “Those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it.” (Can’t remember who said it)

    There is much to remember about that day. The heroes, the lost, and the American Spirit that lives on in each of us. If only we remember that it is there.

  • Robin Patchen says:

    Sort of puts everything else into perspective, doesn’t it? That first week after the attacks were surreal. Thank you for today’s post and yesterday’s, too. We must choose to remember or we’re doomed to forget.

  • Lynette Sowell says:

    I watched a documentary on the Marriott and its survivors last night–great stories. May we never forget.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      I’ve had others write to tell me about that — I’ll have to watch it. Called something like “Hotel Ground Zero,” I think?

  • These posts made me cry. The images you painted, the way you unfolded the story…very moving.

  • Ruth Taylor says:

    I went to the observation deck on on the south tower only a year before the attack. I still have many vivid images of my time in that building: the elevators, Starbucks just below the observation deck, seeing the huge antenna of the north tower just a short distance away, leaning against the base of the building outside and looking up to the top. More than anything, I remember the swarms of people.
    In 2003 I went to ground zero. All I could do was cry.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Yes — a lot of us have great memories of seeing the towers, or eating at Windows on the World (which was really not a very good restaurant, but had a killer view). When you think about it, it’s remarkable that’s all gone.

  • Ane Mulligan says:

    A poignant reminder, Chip. I can’t help but cry every September 11th. And I pray I always will. We can’t forget.

  • Thanks for sharing, Chip. Details like this are so important to the story.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      You know, I don’t talk about 9/11 any more, and I don’t know what caused me to suddenly unload this year, instead of last year (the tenth anniversary). Maybe I just felt the history was being lost. And you’re right — it’s the details we remember that make it real.

  • I’m from the Baltimore-Washington
    area. We remember the Pentagon. It was personal to us. Around here, you either
    know someone there, or know someone who knows someone. Still, the image of
    those towers just trumps any other image of that day. The stories of loss and
    survival are amazing, but the visual concept of the symbols of our “greatness”
    crumbling to the earth will never leave our minds.

    What always amazes me about 9/11
    is the contrast of good vs. evil. Terrorists wanting to destroy life.
    Firefighters working to save it. People wanting to be first in line to get a
    rental car (just read your last blog). Chip MacGregor offering a ride. People
    passing a blind man on the stairs. A firefighter offering the dog a drink. It’s
    extraordinary what the human condition is capable of … in either direction.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Lovely thoughts, Connie. And thanks for saying something about the Pentagon. I’ve often wondered why that aspect of the day doesn’t get more attention.

  • Jean says:

    What a reminder, thanks! I’ve stayed at that Marriott and wondered what had happened. I even found the photo of the TT and the hotel when I stayed there. I lived in NEOhio at the time and our local TV tracked the plane that crashed in was awful watching all of it unfold in less than an hour.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Photos taken from the Hudson side show the brunt of the first tower landing right on the Marriott, and basically collapsing the building. When I went back, I had a hard time finding it — there was nothing left but one end (which apparently is where the people who survived were standing).

  • Jodie Baile says:

    Wow. What an image. That stopped me cold and I didn’t even see it. I wonder how often we forget the individual human toll of that day? These two posts have narrowed it down to that. The scope of it was so huge and so overwhelming, yet each one of those numbers was one person and everything to someone.

  • Keri Wyatt Kent says:

    Yikes, that’s a vivid image. I remember seeing people jump out of the buildings–that was horrific. Thanks for sharing these memories. And I read and loved Thunder Dog–what a great book.

  • Kathleen L. Maher says:

    And with the bombing of our embassy in Libya, it seems to go on and on.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Yeah. Geez… I know there will always be war, since the world is broken and people are screwed up. But don’t you wish for a breather? For all of this to just take a pause sometime? Probably won’t happen, I realize, but I can dream and hope and pray.

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