I was walking along Broadway to catch the subway downtown to 50th street. I had a strut in my step and I was finally starting to feel like a New Yorker – like I belonged. It was 2001 and I was 25 years old. I had moved to Manhattan from Sydney three years earlier. Initially I dabbled as an over-worked and under-paid editorial assistant for a dotcom company (it was the overly-hyped boom), but eventually I got a job at a magazine. I was much happier and I loved my job.
It was the most glorious day. I remember looking up at the sky before I took the stairs down to the 86th street station and thinking how incredibly blue it was. It was one of those days where everyone’s mood was lifted by the weather. I had a short commute to my office at Hachette Filipacchi Media where I was an editor for Woman’s Day Magazine. It was around 8:30am when I left home.
It probably took 20 minutes for me to ride the subway to 50th street, buy a horrible coffee from a street vendor, and hop in the elevator up to the 42nd floor. The offices of Woman’s Day took up an entire floor of the building with advertising on one side and editorial on the other. We were a close-knit staff of mostly women and a few men, and we were all finding our way in the ocean of editorial that is New York City.
It was in the elevator that a man who was listening to the radio took his earphone out and said “A plane has hit the World Trade Centre.” What? We all questioned him, but he didn’t know any more. It was about 8:55am. I assumed it was a light aircraft that must have clipped the side somehow. Surely it was a horrible accident.
In the office my editor-in-chief had her TV on and we huddled around trying to get the news. Every now and then I’d run to the south-end of the building where the view was one of the most remarkable panoramas I’ve ever seen leading straight down to the Twin Towers. I could see the smoke billowing up from the gaping hole that was on the side of one of the towers – it wasn’t a small plane that made that hole. I ran back and forth between the TV and the window trying to learn what had happened. I was looking out of the window at 9:03am when I saw the second plane fly full speed into the other tower. I gasped and started to shake. There were screams. Looking at it through a window, watching it happen live, it was obviously real and yet there was a surreal feeling that this could not be happening.
Anxiety and panic filled New York City instantaneously. Everyone was trying to locate their loved ones. At one point I went into my office and noticed the red light on my phone flashing indicating I had messages. It was my Mum and Mal, my boyfriend at the time who is now my husband. I called Mum – she was watching TV at home and my Dad was in Europe on business, I told her I was fine. I called Mal – he had a 9:00am meeting at the World Trade Centre that morning and he was in a taxi heading downtown when the first plane hit. He told the cab driver to turn around and he went back to his midtown office.