Dad's Day

September 11, 2001 was one of the most horrible days of my life. It was like any other school day. I had dropped my seven year old son off at his school, PS 234 at 8:40 and walked the one block along Chambers Street to catch the Number 2 train uptown to 125th Street to go to the school I was working in for the day. When I got off the train at 125th Street, my cell phone was beeping with a message and then rang with in an incoming call. It was my son's mother and she asked if I had heard. "Heard what?" I asked.

The World Trade Tower had just been hit by a plane." I turned around and saw an image I didn't believe. Then the second plane hit. I was in shock and was panicked that my son was down there and I was uptown. Needless to say the trains were not going back down there. I immediately began walking back downtown. Moved east to the FDR Drive which was obviously going to be the only way to get back downtown. I began hitchhiking and a cab with someone in it picked me up and took me as far as 23rd Street on the East River, where they were forced off the highway by the police.

I then went back onto the highway and hailed a cop car going downtown telling them my son was in a school in the shadow of the towers and they were going to take me down as far as they could. They told me to jump in and we sped down the highway to Houston Street. I walked the rest of the way against pedestrian and no vehicular traffic. I got as far as Worth Street and walked west across Worth Street. When I reached Broadway, I saw the seven story plume of smoke and debris cascade across Broadway as people were running but overtaken by what I learned later was the collapse of one of the towers. When I finally got to within a block of his school and could see it, I was told the school had been evacuated to another school, PS 41, on 10th Street and Sixth Avenue.

I was relieved, but now turned northward to that school. Upon arriving he was safely seated in the auditorium, but was the last one in his class to be picked up. The principal and a couple of teachers came up and told me how helpful he was. I was proud of him and told him so as we hugged for what seemed an eternity. He doesn't hug and kiss me in school, but he did this day.

We then walked over to Lexington Avenue and 23rd Street to get his 16 year old sister who was fine at her high school. Upon arriving at her high school, we found his mother just entering the school. During all this time our cell phones were useless and we had no communications with each other. It was 2:30 and we had lived a day unlike any day we had ever experienced in our lives and hope never to again.

Let me say, I'm a Vietnam Veteran, and this day was far worse than any day I ever spent in Vietnam. We walked home. Their home is in lower Manhattan a mere ten blocks from the World Trade Center. Their apartment was filled with dust and smelled. They lost all services, water, electricity, and phone. We walked up 23 floors to their home. The children and their mother gathered some things and made their way back down and I walked them to a train in Chinatown. They went uptown to a friend's house to stay while I stayed there for the next week, as my apartment was inaccessible, under these conditions until the building finally got a generator to give us power.

I spent the following week at various friend's homes. I was homeless for two weeks. Four weeks later. Today, my son entered his third school in one month. It is an old unused school that the parents have spent the last couple of weeks preparing for the children. They put up large pictures of all the students. Murals of classes, painted the place and brought in new books, desks, and supplies. It was a very cheerful place. My son found his picture on the second floor and came out today more happy about school then in the past month. We are lucky to have our son in PS 234.