September 9, 2011 (ten year anniversary) By Steven Greer, MD
No story told by a living person about September 11th, 2001 can compare to the events experienced by those who were on the hijacked planes that crashed into a Pennsylvania field, the Pentagon, or were trapped in the two World Trade Centers towers later to perish in gruesome deaths. Nevertheless, I would like to document my story before the memory fades.
For some reason, even though I write quite a bit every day, I have never sat down and written about my experiences. A relative called me today and encouraged me to do so for the sake of family history.
I suppose that I have been trying to pretend that the 10th anniversary was not approaching.
I recall vividly the morning of 9/11 because the sky was so blue. There were no clouds in sight, and the humidity was low. It was a perfect day. September was always my favorite time of the year.
I was on my way to the airport to catch a US Air shuttle to Washington, DC to attend a cardiology medical conference called the TCT. My flight took off around 8:00 AM and was uneventful. No news was announced by the cabin of anything being wrong.
I got off the plane at Reagan International and saw about ten people gathered around a terminal TV monitor looking up at it with extreme interest. The World Trade Center Tower 1 was billowing smoke. I tend to assume the least serious scenario in a crisis like that and assumed that it was just a freakish accident.
Minutes later, I was in the taxi line and heard that the second tower was hit. I knew then that it was terrorism, but no one panicked. We all got into cabs and went on our ways.
I recently found something extraordinary. I was able to open old Microsoft Outlook .pst files from 2001. I read for the first time in a decade my actual blackberry messages from that morning on September 11th.
I was receiving normal Wall Street research emails in the morning. At 9:03, my hedge fund boss sent me an email, “test”.
At 10:08 AM, my sister emailed, “What is going on? I can’t get thru on phone, all circuits are busy. Go home”. Strangely, I see no sent emails from me. The circuits might have been overloaded.
In the cab, I called my mother to tell her that I was safe because I was not in New York. Just a few minutes later, I saw the smoke from the jet-plane-bomb that struck the Pentagon.
I seemed to have been in the middle of both hot spots. Out of the frying pan and into the fire, so to speak.
My cab then got stuck in traffic as we got closer to Downtown Washington, DC. People were rushing to safety on the streets. So, I got out of the cab, took my luggage, and walked to George Washington Hospital’s ER thinking I might be of some help as a surgeon.
I called our hedge fund execution trader back in New York, Kevin. He was simultaneously on the phone with someone at Cantor Fitzgerald, which was located at the top of the WTC. I heard him say, “I gotta go”.
Kevin had heard on the phone the Cantor Fitzgerald line go dead. The WTC tower was collapsing and people were dying, but I did not know it at the time.
On the way to the hospital, I popped into the rundown lobby of a cheap hotel and watched the towers burning on a small TV.
This is how clueless I was. When the first tower collapsed to the ground, I recall thinking, “Oh well, it was ruined anyway and unsalvageable. They would have had to tear it down anyway.”
I had no idea that people were still inside and perished before my eyes. It seemed that hours had gone by. To me, certainly everyone had gotten out by then.
I reached the hospital and walked in. The head ER attending doctor managing the triage, a lady, I cannot recall her name, asked me in a concerned way, “Who are you?”. My luggage could have been a bomb in their minds. They cleared me through and I went to a back room and waited for the arrival of mass casualties.
No injured people arrived. The nature of the Pentagon plane crash and strong flames meant that most of the people had died instantly.
I stayed at the hospital for many hours. When it became obvious that I was just in the way, I left on foot to find a hotel. I had not planned on staying overnight and had no reservations.
The only hotel that I could find was the luxurious Four Seasons in Georgetown. I remember being upset with them because I felt they were price gouging.
I could leave this part of the story out and be more politically correct, but it is a true event. That evening, I ventured outside into the streets of Georgetown. I recall seeing a cafe with some Muslim men outside smiling, cheering, celebrating as they smoked a hookah pipe. I stared at them from across the street. They saw me and waved. I knew very little about jihad and the hatred of America that many Muslims felt. I was confused as to why they were celebrating.
I was stranded in DC for a few days since all air traffic was prohibited. A surgery resident friend of mine from NYU was in DC doing research at the NIH and we hung out a bit. I felt guilty being “stuck” at the Four Seasons while such tragedy was unfolding at home.
When I finally got a rental car and drove back to New York City, I recall first seeing the Manhattan skyline from about 60 miles away in New Jersey. The smoke from the smoldering Ground Zero was visible that far.
It burned for months, just like hell on earth.