TRIP REPORTS ARCHIVE  


11th September 2001 : A first hand account from New York
by Sean Mendis  


EDITORIAL NOTE : The following piece was written on the evening of 11th September 2001 and has not been modified.

September 10, 2001

1400 : Call Delta Air Lines to check on my flights for the next day. At 9am, I am scheduled to fly from NYC to SFO through MCO to keep the fares down. I am informed that my MCO-ATL flight has been downgraded from a 777 to a 738 and is now horribly oversold. They offer to protect me on the United nonstop instead. I decline their offer, choosing instead to stay with Delta. The flight offered was UA 93.

September 11, 2001

0615 : Wake up call in the Hotel Pennsylvania.
0715 : Aboard NJ Transit train from Pennsylvania Station New York to Newark Penn Station.
0740 : Grab a quick breakfast at McDonalds in the station and board the #302 Airlink bus.
0800 : Pull in to Terminal A at Newark just as a United Airlines Boeing 757, N591UA, is taxiing out to the runway for its flight to San Francisco.
0815 : Take the monorail across to Terminal B and check in for Delta Express 2475 to Orlando.
0840 : Boarding commences on Delta 2475. I relax in my seat and look out over the New York skyline. Little did I realize that this tranquil scene would never be the same again.
0852 : Doors close and we push back off the gate. As the safety demo is being performed, I look out and see some smoke above the World Trade Center. No big deal, we'll soon be out of here.
0901 : Flight attendants, prepare the cabin for takeoff. Push back from the gate.
0903 : Looking out of the window towards the World Trade Center. The smoke seems thicker.
0904 : HOLY SHIT! The side of the World Trade Center has just exploded in a ball of fire.
0905 : Captain comes over the PA system. Im sure you folks just saw what I saw. I'd say we aren't going anywhere for a while.
0925 : Back at the gate. Walk up and talk to the captain through the cockpit door. One flight attendant is sobbing in the corner of the galley.
0930 : Call SMS and try to rebook through Philly. All New York area airports are shut down, but others are still running.
0937 : SMS succesfully rebooks me out of Philly.
0940 : Nationwide ground stop announced.
0945 : Start calling around to check if everyone is ok.
0955 : US Marshals and PANYNJ Police with M16s and shotguns begin evacuating the terminals.
1000 : Board NJ Transit bus #302 to Newark Penn Station. The driver is gouging passengers who don't have exact change.
1002 : Bus is on the road. There are two towers still standing amid the smoke.
1010 : Bus is on a bridge. There is one tower that we can still see standing amid the smoke. Must be the angle.
1030 : Bus is on another bridge. Hey guys, can anyone see the towers? Oh my GOD!
1100 : Arrive at Newark Penn Station. Pandemonium and chaos.
1110 : Get myself on the waiting list for a room at the Hilton Gateway Newark. Maybe Gold VIP loyalty will count for something.
1130 : Get online from the business center. Send mass emails and log on to AOL Instant Messenger.
1145 : Get an Instant Message from Liz. She says she brought the UA 757 in from SFO-EWR last night. What UA 757 from EWR? I thought it was a 767 from BOS? Flight 93 that went down near PIT. HOLY SHIT! That could have been me!
1215 : Go over to the station and ask if they need any volunteers. Not yet, but maybe later.
1315 : Lunch at Taco Bell.
1430 : Back online for a bit. Plenty of emails to answer. Friend in WTC was safe. Friend in midtown is safe. Dad in midtown no word yet, but its midtown so I'll assume he's safe.
1530 : Phonecalls, emails and waiting for the waitlist to clear. Lobby is a warzone. Everyone is refugee here. They are bringing across lightly wounded folks from downtown and setting up triage in the train station.
1610 : You can check in now. Hilton has delivered in style. Concierge Level room. God bless Hilton.
1630 : Go out to Newark Penn Station and find the NJT Lieutenant I had spoken to last time. Yes, they want volunteers for the triage station. Well, I'm a trained first responder. You're hired.
1730 : We got a 911 call anonymous. Possible bomb in the station. EVERYONE OUT! NOW! NOW! NOW!
1800 : False alarm, everyone back.
1810 : Thanks for your help, but its under control now. We've got your room number in case we need more vols later.
1830 : Back in the room. Phonecalls.
1900 : Downstairs. Drinks at the bar. Business center internet. Hilton has arranged buses to shuttle people without rooms to remote Hilton locations. God bless Hilton.
2015 : Order dinner at bar.
2030 : Sip on Sam Adams as George W. Bush addresses the nation.
2130 : Back to the room. Hilton has delivered turndown service. I almost cry. Thank you Hilton.
2200 : Back downstairs in the business center. I have to be around people. What a day. What a day.

See "The Return From New York" as a sequel to this story.



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