Remembering 9/11: Glen Cove Ferry

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was 22 years old and living in my first apartment in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. My parents just moved down to North Carolina that June and my sister lived in Colorado; my brother was living in Rockland, so I wasn’t completely alone, but I kind of felt that way. On September 10, I started a new job as a deck hand on a ferry that went from Glen Cove on Long Island to downtown Manhattan. It was an amazing job, and super easy. We left Glen Cove at around 7:30 AM and got to the downtown dock an hour later so the high-end customers could get to their desks before the morning bell rang at the stock exchange. To reduce fuel costs, we docked at Liberty Landing in New Jersey instead of shelping back to Long Island and waited until the evening run at 5:30 PM. Like I said, super easy, and I got paid for that entire time. It was a great job, on a great day. A friend of mine from school who helped me land the job and I watched the buzzing downtown of Manhattan with the Twin Towers as an amazing backdrop on a beautiful, cloudless day, very similar to the one that followed it when all hell would break loose. September 10, 2001 was a day of promises and new beginnings for me.

I was not scheduled to work the next day, so I slept-in. I was woken up by my phone ringing, several times. Finally I picked the phone up around 10:00 AM. It was my boyfriend — now, my husband — calling me. “Where the hell have you been? I’ve been calling and calling. Your mom even called me.” It takes me a bit to get my faculties together when I wake up so it was a while before I could say more than “Huh, what?” He went on to explain what happened. I know it may seem unbelievable that someone could be unaware that that all hell was breaking loose a mere five miles south of her, but all was peace in my neck of the woods until I heard the military jets flying overhead. When I finally got my TV to work and found the news, I was in shock. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. What do you mean planes flew into the Twin Towers and they collapsed? How is that possible? That doesn’t happen in real life.

I checked my answering machine and saw I had 67 messages. They were from my mom, freaking out and trying to find out where I am. From my sister, my brother, aunts, uncles, and friends, all trying to find me. Friends asking if any of their family members had contacted me. The frantic note in everyone’s voice made it all the more real that wow, this is really happening. I finally dressed, called the ferry office, and told the dispatcher that I could come in if I was needed. She didn’t hesitate: “Come in,” she said. So I threw on some clothes, packed a bag (because I didn’t know how long this would be) and headed out the door.

Even getting from the Bronx to Long Island was surreal. My boyfriend lived on Long Island, so I trekked out there often enough, but they’d shut down all entrances to the city. As I went over the Whitestone Bridge from the Bronx to Queens, I saw the entire Queens side was blocked off by cops; they weren’t letting anyone go west towards the city. I finally get to Glen Cove just as the ferry was docking. The two deckhands on this run were school friends of mine and I asked them how they were. They launched into the story of what they saw, in the way freaked-out people tell a story about a crazy experience. They told me how they were just docking at Liberty Landing when they saw the first plane hit the tower. Their first reaction was “Wow, air traffic control really messed this one up.” It wasn’t until the second plane hit that they realized that this was an attack. The captain told everyone to undock the ferry and head out into the river, where they spent the next several hours plucking people out of the Hudson who had jumped in to escape the debris from the falling towers.

The maritime community’s contribution to 9/11 rescue was enormous and deserves more acknowledgement. My friends and the rest of the shaken crew who had worked that morning were sent home, and the rest of the replacement crew and I hopped onboard with volunteer medical staff and some fireman to head back downtown to see if we could be of assistance. The ferry got to the dock on the east side of the Battery, by South Street Seaport, around 7:00 PM. When we asked if anyone needed the medical staff, we were told they weren’t needed, mainly because there weren’t that many serious injuries on 9/11: people either had minor scrapes, bruises, and smoke inhalation, or were dead. Not much triage was needed. They did take the fireman.

My job was to walk the dock and see if anyone needed a ride back to Long Island. There were many people there covered in dust. Traumatized people, that would come up to me and ask if we were going to Brooklyn or New Jersey but I had to tell them we were only going back to Glen Cove. During those two hours, so many people told me their stories. Everybody had one and needed to tell somebody what they’d experienced. At one point, I was surrounded by a group of five people, all animatedly talking in the way New Yorkers do about what happened, how they all came to this dock, and how they thought they would finally get home.

What I mainly remember was the smell of the city that night. I really can’t explain it but that smell remained downtown for almost a year after. Also, I’ve never seen the city so empty and devoid of life as I did that night. We were by South Street Seaport, which should have been bustling with life on such a beautiful night, but all we saw were lost, weary-eyed strangers looking for a way home.

After a while, we collected a few stragglers and made our way back to Long Island. We still had all the medical personnel who had who had found that they weren’t needed, which was unnerving in itself. We made it back to the Glen Cove Ferry Terminal, but I couldn’t get back to the Bronx, so I was stuck on Long Island for the foreseeable future. I went work at the ferry for the next week as we were “on call.” I asked the captain what that meant and he said we may be needed to fish bodies out of the river. That was not what I wanted to hear, and I dreaded the moment that we might be called into action; thank God we never were.

The fallout that week was horrendous. We had cars left in the parking lot, obviously from customers who’d been killed in the towers, and had to call the family members to pick the cars up. I ended up staying at my boyfriend’s house. During that week, we learned that a good friend of his, a fireman, had been killed, as had a friend’s father, also a fireman. I think that was the worst week, when the missing were determined not to be missing, but dead.

The weirdest part was that, the following Monday, we were back in action. We were on the ferry, bringing the good folks who worked downtown back to the city like we always did. We dropped them off amongst the smoldering ruins of downtown Manhattan, docked at Liberty Landing, and watched the big, smoking hole where the Twin Towers once stood until it was time to pick up our customers and take them home. Life, certainly, went on.

The ferry service closed down three weeks later. It wasn’t a very cost effective service: the fuel consumption was crazy expensive and it was an experimental run anyway. So, three weeks after 9/11, I was unemployed, though everything worked out for me.

September 11 is a weird thing for me: I can’t watch movies about it, I refuse to go to the 9/11 Museum, I don’t look at pictures; I have an intense emotional reaction whenever it comes up, so I just avoid it. But I started thinking that — while this may have been an intense, traumatizing experience for me, my friends, my family, and anyone else who was in New York that day — my kids know nothing about it. They don’t even know the Twin Towers even existed, except in pictures. It’s strange, and it made me realize that I am going to have to get over myself when they’re old enough, take them to the 9/11 Memorial, and tell them about what happened. Tell them who did it, and what we experienced We mustn’t forget and the young people need to know what happened.

Image Credit: “WTC smoking on 9-11” by Michael Foran. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

There are 22 comments.

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  1. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    That’s a very sobering story. I bet writing it down helped you. I can’t even imagine. I only saw it on TV, and it was traumatizing enough.

    • #1
  2. Ball Diamond Ball Member
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Absolutely you still have a lot to deal with. Keep in mind that freaking out is a normal response to badly abnormal situations.
    Doctor’s orders.

    • #2
  3. Ball Diamond Ball Member
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    I can’t help but marvel at what might have been, if Katrina had hit New York City, and 9-11 had been an attack in New Orleans.

    • #3
  4. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Thank you for your story Mate De.

    • #4
  5. MLH Member
    MLH
    @MLH

    all i’ve got is: wow.

    • #5
  6. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    .

    • #6
  7. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Mate De: Many others have much more harrowing experiences than I on that day, I just wanted to share my experience.

    I visited NYC in December that year with a friend. They had erected a viewing platform to look over the area, completely surrounded by plywood walls. Thousand of brochures, pictures of lost loved ones, anyone just hoping that maybe they had survived. My friend and I walked around looking at all the photos, beautiful people, children, all we could do was just cry. We shed a lot of tears that day and both of us developed a deep rooted hate that we have never experienced in our lives. We were both social workers, wanting to help people. But we now spend our efforts spreading the hate for islam. There is noting good in that evil monstrosity excuse for a religion. Our citizens are so ignorant about islam, that if Pamela Geller hadn’t formed a protest there would be a mosque sitting on that spot.

    • #7
  8. Max Ledoux Admin
    Max Ledoux
    @Max

    Thank you for sharing your experience, Mate De.

    • #8
  9. Mama Toad Member
    Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    I watched the video BoatLift this morning with my students. Powerful.

    Mate De, I lived in Riverdale from 1994-1996, and my sister lives in Glen Cove today.

    Thanks for sharing your story with us.

    • #9
  10. Matthew Hennessey Contributor
    Matthew Hennessey
    @MatthewHennessey

    Well done.

    • #10
  11. Mollie Hemingway Contributor
    Mollie Hemingway
    @MollieHemingway

    Thank you for sharing.

    • #11
  12. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    It was sobering for me when, in 2011, my daughter came home from school and said she wanted to show me something. She fired up YouTube and brought up a compilation of news reports from 9/11; apparently they’d watched it in school that day. For my daughter, it was a gripping episode from history, and she was so fascinated that she wanted to share it. She couldn’t have understood that for me, or anyone my age, seeing those images (without warning) was like a punch in the gut.

    I visited Lower Manhattan for the first time last month. I visited the 9/11 memorial, walked through Battery Park, and took the ferry to Liberty Island. Now suddenly these accounts of 9/11 mean more to me than they did before, because now I can visualize that place in my mind. I’ve been there. I can still only imagine what it must have been like on that morning.

    • #12
  13. Pilli Member
    Pilli
    @Pilli

    I cannot imagine what it must have been like, standing on a window ledge 100 stories up, a raging fire at your back, knowing in a few minutes your were going to burn to death and summoning the courage to jump.

    I cannot imaging what it must be like today, standing in front of a jihadist with a sword, knowing you are about to be beheaded and summoning the courage to say, “No.  I believe in Jesus.”

    I agree with Kay of MT.

    • #13
  14. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Pilli:I cannot imaging what it must be like today, standing in front of a jihadist with a sword, knowing you are about to be beheaded and summoning the courage to say, “No. I believe in Jesus.”

    I agree with Kay of MT.

    I do too. I think we should be going more Old Testament here. And no more Muslim immigrants!

    • #14
  15. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    New York might as well be a foreign country to me. I had never heard of the Twin Towers before they were destroyed. I had met as many Pakistanis and Swedes as New Yorkers.

    So I imagine 9/11 means about as much to me as it will to your kids. It’s just strange to think of war being brought to our shores, having lived during an era of extraordinary peace and prosperity.

    • #15
  16. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Kaylett, her husband and baby son had spent several weeks in NYC about 1988-89, and her favorite place was a restaurant at the top of one of the towers. She took a lot of photos, sent everybody post cards, delighted with the views, intrigued with the area. She had heard my stories of living in NYC when I was younger than she. My native CA daughter. I was working on my computer when she called me the morning of 9/11 from NM, told me to turn on the TV.  I turned it on in time to see the 2nd tower hit. We stayed glued to the TV and cried. A most devastating day for us. When I visited the area in Dec. I just was not able to take photos. Every time I lifted the camera the tears prevented me from focusing.

    Its hard to imagine someone growing up in the US and not knowing about The World Trade Centers. “The north tower was opened in Dec. 1970 and the south tower in Jan. 1972; they were dedicated in April 1973.” Two of the 5 tallest buildings in the world at the time they were destroyed.

    http://www.infoplease.com/spot/wtc1.html

    • #16
  17. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Kay of MT:Kaylett, her husband and baby son had spent several weeks in NYC about 1988-89, and her favorite place was a restaurant at the top of one of the towers.

    Its hard to imagine someone growing up in the US and not knowing about The World Trade Centers. “The north tower was opened in Dec. 1970 and the south tower in Jan. 1972; they were dedicated in April 1973.” Two of the 5 tallest buildings in the world at the time they were destroyed.

    I used to take a helicopter from the top of the World Trade Center over to Laguardia. I have a picture of myself with the towers behind me. The new skyline still looks weird to me.

    • #17
  18. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    This was excellent, Mate De. Thank you for sharing it.

    • #18
  19. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    I lived in Boston – the receptionist came running to tell me to turn on the radio – we thought it was an accident – then came the 2nd plane – two had flown out of Boston – airspace closed – night after night after night rolled the pictures on local news as word came out of people killed, customers of my husband’s, friends of neighbors – firemen lined the streets for weeks holding out boots taking up collections for the families of the fallen – blood drives everywhere – and heartbreak. I cried for years on this day – could not watch any footage – the following year the receptionist could not even look at me she said – it was like Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. I bought Newsweek and other publications with GWB’s picture on the cover – his resolve to go after the evil – he carried the badge of a transit worker every day in his pocket throughout his presidency.  Have things improved? No, and we have no idea who is entering our country’s borders or that of our allies in Europe. We have given Iran the green light and lots of money. I just saw a picture on Drudge where a lightening bolt just hit Mecca – and a picture of a rainbow where the Towers stood yesterday – signs and wonders.

    • #19
  20. Mate De Member
    Mate De
    @MateDe

    Thanks for the comments all. 9/11 is usually a rough day for me but sharing my experience was definetly cathartic for me. i really appreciate you taking the time to read my post.

    • #20
  21. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Mate De:Thanks for the comments all. 9/11 is usually a rough day for me but sharing my experience was definetly cathartic for me. i really appreciate you taking the time to read my post.

    A lot more people have read this than have posted back Mate De. Some of us just can’t talk about this on this day. I went down to the local fire department several hours ago to contribute to the “boot” and found found 2 boots this time, instead of one. They had both been filled with bouquets of red roses. Instead of just dropping the money in the boot, actually had to put your hand past the blooms, …

    • #21
  22. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Kay – I agree – some things you cannot put into words.

    • #22

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