I was supposed to fly out that morning from LaGuardia to Washington. It was primary day, and I had just voted. Despite the beautiful weather, the plane was delayed on the tarmac. My chief of staff had sent me an urgent email on my blackberry asking me to call him right away. I called him on the plane charge phone and he told me that the World Trade Center towers were hit and it looked like terrorism. The pilot then informed us that the airways had been shutdown as we taxied back to the terminal. The pilot then told us another plane had hit the Pentagon and to please go home to our families. As I headed back to Woodside, smoke was now rising in thick black clouds in the direction of lower Manhattan.
A little later, the morning would suddenly darken for the whole nation as the extent of what had happened and how many lives were lost in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington became evident. My cousin Mike Moran, a firefighter, was on duty in Manhattan, and I tried to find out if he was OK. I wouldn't find out until later that his older brother John, a battalion chief in the Fire Department of New York, had died in the WTC. John Moran was off duty when he jumped on a rig and rushed to the WTC moments after the planes had slammed into the towers.
Around noon, I went to Manhattan for a briefing with the Mayor, other elected officials and the police and fire commissioners. The Fire Commissioner passed me a note that he thought, “All hope was lost” for John. I excused myself from the table and walked into the hallway to regain my composure. I remember thinking that just a few days before, John and I were with our families at a neighborhood block party in Queens having a great time together.
After the meeting, I went down to the WTC site with some officials to see the terrible scene firsthand. Later, I joined the hundreds of Queens residents who went to Elmhurst General, and other area hospitals, to give blood for the expected survivors. And, I remember the days afterwards and the kindness of neighbors who brought food to local firehouses, and started fundraising drives for the families of the victims and the first responders.
The horror of that day remains in my thoughts, but I also remember the courage of the first responders, who like John, were prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. Five years later, my grief, and the grief of so many who lost loved ones that day, is still fresh and continues to haunt me. But, I also know the bravery demonstrated that day and the days afterward helped our nation to pull together after a terrible moment in our history.
Congressman Joseph Crowley lost his first cousin, FDNY Battalion Chief John Moran in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. The sole member of Congress to lose a relative in 9/11, Rep. Crowley authored legislation that was signed into law awarding the Medal of Honor to the 443 first responders and public safety officers who perished that day.
It is my custom to visit polling places on election days. Primary day 2001 - September 11, was no different, but of course it was. As the news grew more and more dire from Ground Zero, Virginia and Pennsylvania, I watched the collapse of the first tower on a beat-up black and white television at Alan Hevesi’s Brooklyn headquarters on Gravesend Neck Road in Sheepshead Bay. When I returned to my community office, the sky was filled with scraps of paper that had been blown all the way from lower Manhattan.
On September 11 2001, we were ironically participating in the ultimate of Democratic processes - an election - and I was in front of a busy polling place with then City Councilman-to-be John Liu when my cell phone rang, and I was advised by my chief of staff - who was watching television - that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. Like everybody else, we assumed that it was a small plane accident. We looked towards the Manhattan skyline and saw smoke from our vantage point in Flushing.
Shortly afterwards, when I received a call about the second plane, we knew it was no accident. Certain that the election was going to be suspended, I left to be of whatever assistance I could. I manned the phones at our office in Bayside where I talked to constituents and emergency service organizations. I then went to assist in the loading of boats with medical and emergency equipment/supplies from the North Shore heading towards Manhattan as all the highways were closed. After traveling to Washington in the middle of the night following the attacks, we met with President Bush at the White House and received various briefings. Then on September 14, I was at Ground Zero with the President and other members of the New York Delegation.
I was actually on my way to Rockaway visiting poll sites to bring lunch and stuff for the poll workers. Over the radio, I heard that the plane crashed into the World Trade Center, and I was right near Beach Channel High School. It was right on the water and you can see Manhattan completely. I stayed there for two hours, and I saw the building crumble It was horrible to see that building come down; I will never, ever forget it.
SERPHIN R. MALTESE
I was home when I got a call to turn on my TV as the first tower had been hit. I called my Albany office to let them know and at that point, I believed it was simply a tragic accident. As I was watching, the second plane hit and I immediately called my Albany office again to tell them to leave the Capitol because I was afraid that any major building could be a potential target. I also called my wife, Constance, who was out running errands and asked her to come home right away. I remember feeling that this attack on our homeland, which I believe is the worst disaster in our history, would forever change our nation.
I hope and pray that this terrible event serves as a wake up call resulting in the protection of our nation and the prevention of any similar catastrophes anywhere in the world.
Early on the morning of September 11, 2001, I was out campaigning for my brother, Councilmember David Weprin, who was running in the Democratic primary on that day for the City Council seat that he now holds.
Standing on the sidewalk in front of a local school and greeting voters as they approached, I was shocked to hear that a single-engine airplane had hit the World Trade Center; it appeared to be an awful, tragic accident. I then left the school where I was campaigning to go to my son's kindergarten orientation, which would normally have been a joyful event for my wife and me as parents. Instead, I arrived at my children's elementary school to learn that a second plane had struck, and that it was part of an attack on our country by suicide terrorists. The primary election that day no longer seemed important, and I began to think about the thousands of people whose lives would never be the same, and the grave challenges that our city and our nation would soon face.
I was on my way to vote - it was primary day - when I heard on the car radio that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I pulled over to the side of the road. My first thought was it was the weirdest accident I had ever heard of, and then I heard a second plane had hit the World Trade Center. I was stunned. I went home and sat glued in front of the television all day watching the coverage, trying to comprehend what happened.
September 11 was primary election day. I remember waking up to a clear and beautiful day in anticipation of the election. I picked up Rick Metzger who was on the primary ballot and we started about our day. When we heard the news that a plane had struck the towers, we were exiting Public School 49 on our way to Public School 128. When news of the second plane hitting the towers, we were by Juniper Valley Park and we could see the smoke smoldering from the trade centers. My initial reaction was one of concern for friends and family who worked in the trade centers.
As the day went on, one couldn't help but wonder about the hero firefighters and emergency service workers that we heard through news reports and saw on TV who were rushing to the scene. The pain, the anguish and the anger that I felt on September 11th will never leave me. The cowardly terrorists may have brought down our buildings, but they will never diminish our spirit.
Like millions of Americans from our parents' generation who can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing on the infamous morning of December 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, I can remember the morning of September 11, 2001 like it was yesterday. It was primary day in New York and I was running for public office for the first time. I remember standing outside of Martin Van Buren HS in Queens when the tragic news was broadcast. Years of planning, months of campaign stops and thousands of man-hours dedicated to what once seemed like an important task lost all meaning the moment tragedy struck.
I could not believe the news coming in on the radio. At first, my campaign staff and I thought it was an accident, so we ran to the nearest TV set and watched the shocking events unfold by the minute. The sheer horror of what was occurring right in front of our eyes will stay with me forever. At the moment, it seemed like nothing else would ever matter again, but like the generations of Americans that came before us, we persevered. Five years later the pain of that sorrowful day is still very much with us, as it always will be, but today, the important thing is to honor that day and those people whose lives were lost by continuing our quest to make New York safer and stronger for future generations.
I was standing next to Congressman Ackerman in front of a major poll site in my election area. I remember vividly Congressman Ackerman telling me that a plane had just flown into the World Trade Center. We didn't know what to think, whether it was true or a sick joke or what kind of airplane, whether there were fatalities. Then, when we heard a second plane had hit the towers, again, it was hard to believe if we were indeed under attack or if the prankster was getting more delusional. A short while later they canceled the election and we all went straight home.
I was up very early that morning and had several activities planned that were related to it being primary day here in the city. When I heard the news on a car radio, I could not believe what I was hearing. It was shocking and it took a while to really believe what was being reported. Later that day, I visited a senior citizen center and spoke with seniors, some of whom said they had remembered Pearl Harbor Day.