It's the one story that still gives me chills.
I can't watch the video or even talk about my experiences that day without getting goosebumps and a wave of emotions.
I was there that crisp beautiful September morning, just four blocks from the scene, dealing with shock, uncertainty and anger like everyone else, trying to shelve the strongest emotions so I could clearly report on the awful and surreal events unfolding before my eyes.
I left my midtown office soon after the first reports filtered in of a small plane accidentally hitting one of the towers. When I emerged at Canal Street I found hundreds of dazed New Yorkers standing like statues on every corner, staring wordlessly towards the smoke rising above lower Manhattan.
Just four months after surgery to repair a torn ACL in my right knee, I wasn't able to run the mile or so to the scene (my train stopped short of ground zero because of the tragedy unfolding there) so I hopped and half-ran, flashing my press credentials to police as I got close, ending up just a block north of the North Tower where I first realized BOTH towers were on fire and our nation was under attack.
Our satellite truck was around the corner and engineer Pat Butler was already running cable and hooking up a camera and microphone when I found him. Moments later we began broadcasting live from the scene and moments after that, the first tower came crashing down.
I visited the site just days before this eighth anniversary for an up-close look at the progress being made and an interview with developer Larry Silverstein who finalized a deal to lease the World Trade Center property just six weeks before the planes hit. He's been demonized by some who blame him for the slow pace of development but I don't think that's fair. He actually built a new Tower 7 in four years, starting not long after the smoke cleared from the pit. He's started construction on Tower 4 and says he's ready to begin buildings 2 and 3 but at Ground Zero, nothing is easy.
Silverstein, who's 78, calls the past eight years the "most frustrating" of his life, dealing with a laundry list of hurdles, complications, lawsuits (some filed by him) and arbitration battles with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a government agency that owns the 16-acre property. Both sides say they hope to resolve the latest battle soon.
In the meantime, the P.A. is hard at work on Tower One, formerly known as "Freedom Tower", which is finally rising above ground next to a platform that will be home to a park, museum and twin waterfalls in the footprints of the Twins that fell. Tower One is expected to be finished in 2013. The Memorial should be open on the 10th anniversary in 2011, the Museum in 2012. Completion dates for the rest of the project are murky and dependant on many things, including the economy.
9/11 affected me deeply and changed my life in many ways. Reliving it is difficult but I agree with so many others who argue it's imperative we never forget the events of that day, the sacrifices made and the remarkable contributions that followed.
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