Pols remember 9/11: SENATOR JOSE PERALTA

Where were you when you heard that planes had struck the World Trade Center?

It was the day of the mayoral Democratic primary. I hadn’t been elected to office yet and I wasn’t running myself that day, but I was helping candidates in some local Queens races.
I was stopped at a traffic light on Northern Boulevard and 91st Street when I heard the news on WINS that a plane had struck one of the Towers.

What was your initial reaction to the attack?

At first, I just assumed that a small, private plane had hit the Tower and that there had been some sort of pilot error. But as soon as I heard that a commercial airliner was involved, my first reaction was to call my girlfriend, Evelyn, who is now my wife, to check on her. At the time, she worked in Lower Manhattan.
When I heard the news of the second plane, I became very concerned about Evelyn’s safety. It was obvious that two planes hitting the Towers, one right after the other, was not some kind of macabre coincidence. I called her right away and, not long after that, Manhattan was being evacuated and she was walking over the Queensborough Bridge.
I met her on the Queens side. There must have been tens of thousands of people in the streets near the base of the bridge, trying to find a way to get home. It was total chaos. Most people weren’t aware of the horrific scale of what had happened and generally seemed pretty happy to be going home early from work. I think that when they got home and saw those images on TV that none of us will ever forget and heard the death toll, it sunk in. It changed us and our view of our city and the world.

Ten years later, what are your thoughts and feelings about how far we have come since then?

The world, generally, and our country in particular, are much safer thanks to the courage, commitment and sacrifice of the men and women who have fought to preserve our freedoms and liberty in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Bin Laden’s death is the most obvious indication of that.
In New York, we’ll forever be in the debt of the firefighters and police officers who raced headlong into danger to save lives on 9/11. The courage and commitment of our Bravest and Finest continue to protect us.
I also think we’re better prepared to protect ourselves. As New Yorkers, we always knew to keep a look out over our shoulder, but terrorism was never a concern. Now we’ve taken to heart the theme of, ‘If you see something, say something.’