On a Clear Day: My Memories of 9/11
The news of Osama bin Laden’s demise brings back memories of that fateful day, almost 10 years ago, when the Word Trade Towers came down.
On Sunday night around 8-something, I’m settling in to watch the throw-down between Star Jones and NeNe Leakes on Celebrity Apprentice. I have my Quaker Oats Chocolate Crunch Rice Cakes with Cherry Diet Pepsi all ready to go so I won’t miss a divalicious minute! Yes Ladies, finally a restricted calorie diet is kicking in. (Look for new Asa Mathat pics of me in the future.) Anyway, I turn on NBC and suddenly that Special Report from NBC breaks in. What? NOOO! They can’t interrupt the diva fight of the year! I then hear news that we as Americans have wanted for almost 10 years. Osama Bin Laden is dead! I forget about the Celebrity Apprentice immediately and flash back to my experience of 9/11. I lived in NYC. I’ll never forget it.
The day our world changed.
It was the most glorious day. Sunny. The air was crisp. Every New Yorker commented on the beautiful weather that day. The Sunday evening before 9/11, I was returning to NYC after finishing a Donna Karan event in Miami on a Continental Airlines flight. It was the flight from hell! We were caught in a thunderstorm complete with hail, lightening, and wind shear — every pilot’s worst nightmare. Let’s just say that the flight attendants were screaming as we descended. My thought was, OMG! I’m going to die in Newark, New Jersey?! Thanks to the brilliant maneuvering of these Continental heroes, we survived by the skin of our teeth.
I woke up on 9/11 and commented to my husband, Jason, as I opened a window, “Wow the weather is great! Nothing as bad as Sunday night is going to happen to me today!”
We kissed each other goodbye. I was heading to my office on the 43rd floor at 767 5th Avenue in the Trump building across from the Plaza hotel. Jason was on his way down to the financial district near the World Trade Towers. Around 8 something, I hailed a taxi and I got one immediately. That never happens on the Upper West side at 8 in the morning. The taxi was brand new and I had a driver that spoke perfect English. That never happens either!
He asked, “Would you like to go through Central Park?” Yes. Lovely!
He also asked, “Do you mind if I listen to the radio?” I thought, Am I in NYC? “That’s fine.”
I rolled down the window and leaned back, looking up at the clear blue sky. On the radio we heard, “A small plane has hit one of the World Trade Towers!” I told the cabbie about my experience Sunday night and we both agreed that New York needs at least two more airports.
When we arrived at 767 5th Ave, I said, “Thank you!” I gave him a little extra tip! As he pulled away, I looked down 5th Avenue and saw a big perfect black smoke circle in the sky. Weird! As I walked up to the building, there were three people looking at the flat screen TVs used by The CBS Early Show that’s filmed on the first floor of the Trump building.
I looked at one of the guys and said, “A little plane made that big hole?”
As we’re standing there, the unthinkable happens. We see a 747 slam into the other World Trade Tower. We look at each other dumbfounded. From this moment forward there is nothing but fear and chaos. I run into the building to get to my office. I had to call my mother! As I run into my office I am struck with paralyzing fear. Jason, my husband, is down near the towers. Phones don’t work. I look out the window at the Empire State Building. What’s happening?
I hear over the building intercoms, “EVACUATE NOW! Please head to the elevators immediately. This is a real emergency!”
We are literally shoved into the elevator by security. As I walk out onto 5th Avenue, it is completely packed with a sea of people all trying to use their cell phones. I look over to the flat screen TVs and see the split screen of the Pentagon and another flight that is supposed to slam into the White House.
As I’m standing there praying on the inside, my friend from PR at Estee Lauder comes up and says, “What should we do?”
I say, “I don’t know honey.”
She then says, “Let’s have a cup of tea!”
I look at her and say, “You English and your damn tea!”
News of the Towers collapsing is sweeping across the sea of people. I look at my friend and say, “Let’s go to Central Park. There aren’t any big buildings there.”
Long story short I run into Jason in Central Park. We are crying and hugging like we’ll never let go.
Holding hands, we walked all the way to the upper west side and settled in with the rest of the world watching TV, wondering what would be next.
10 years later with 3,000 innocent Americans killed, I’m so glad to be an American. I hope that Osama Bin Laden’s death will help us continue to heal from this nightmare and remind us that the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave actually means something very precious and rare.
With great respect to those who lost their lives,
Harvey Helms is a beauty culturist and writer, drawing on 30 years of experience in cosmetics, fashion and design. Harvey has held positions ranging from Global Director of Beauty for Revlon Cosmetics to Executive Director of Special Events for Donna Karan Beauty. Harvey currently lives and works in Silicon Valley, where he just finished writing his first book in a trilogy of three: an engaging tell-all on the fashion industry. Follow Harvey on Twitter at Twitter.com/HarveyHelms.