On September 11, 2001, I was 7 years old, and my second-grade teacher called a class meeting to explain that two airplanes had hit the twin towers in New York City, about 25 miles from where we were in northern New Jersey. I remember raising my hand and asking how there could be a plane crash on such a sunny day. The pilots just not seeing the towers, an honest mistake, was the only explanation I could fathom. I don’t think I knew what terrorism was then, but now I wonder if it’s something today’s American 7-year-olds know too well.
Many parents in my hometown of Ridgewood, including my dad, were among the thousands of people who commuted into New York each day. In 2001, my dad was working for Merrill Lynch in downtown Manhattan: His office stood opposite the World Trade Center. I am extremely lucky that, when my mom took me home from school that day, he was waiting there, unhurt. Since he is very reserved by nature, it wasn’t until this week, 15 years later, that I finally got his account of what happened. A condensed transcript of that conversation follows.
Emily Goldberg: How did you find out about the planes hitting the towers? Did you hear it or see it?
Ken Goldberg: I was in at work well before anything happened. I remember noticing, before anything happened, that it was a really nice day. When it first was announced, people were talking about a small plane hitting one of the towers. So that was the initial story, which seemed strange at the time because it was a perfectly nice day. The first plane, I found out about it on our newswire about the markets. After that, no one really knew anything and no one was overly focused on it. Then, when the second one hit, people knew it was an attack. When the second plane hit, people were running towards my office to say that they either saw it or felt it. Then everyone started walking down the stairs. We were on the 19th floor.