The sight and sound of the second plane are such a memory, and a major symptom of September 11, 2001 itself was that, throughout the day, whenever I closed my eyes, that sight and that sound played over and over in my head. As I have written in my song cycle, "September 11 Songs," "From that moment on/All planes will always be/that plane/All roars will always be/that roar." I could not sleep that night until CNN got their hands on a video shot by a tourist and broadcast it. The video was shot from a position and angle that were very close to my own, and seeing that video actually helped; in a way, it gave me permission to sleep, as if it had been my duty to stay awake and keep my memory alive, and now that it was available to others through the video, I could let it go. An excerpt from that video has been transformed into a GIF file that is playing in a continuous loop at the top of this page.
The original video, including the sound, is available on the CNN website (for quite some time I have only been able to get the stream by selecting Windows Media Player).
Before the second plane came, I was looking around and I noticed a gentleman behind my right shoulder holding a consumer video camera. I had long assumed that this gentleman was the source of the video. I now know that that assumption is incorrect.
In my confusion, I told Kyle Gann that I "watched the horror from Liberty Park," which is how he reported it in The Village Voice. Liberty Park is actually the name of the park that the Statue of Liberty stands on; I was on the sidewalk in front of Battery Park; the ferry to Liberty Park leaves from there. I apologize for this error and set the record straight here.
I received an e-mail inquiry from someone about my position, and the position of the tourist, who has been identified by someone as Michael Hezarkhani. The person who wrote the e-mail proposed some crackpot theory that the video was actually shot by a CNN newsman from a boat. Given the short time interval between the first plane and the second plane, this is either enormous stupidity or insane conspiracy theory nonsense. There was no time for CNN, or any other news organization, to get a camera into position in time - unless they knew in advance what was going to happen. That this mysterious newsboat would be positioned in a location where the Statue of Liberty Ferry would hit it only increases the absurdity of the suggestion. I endeavored to create a map explaining to the person where I was and where the tourist was.
Some time later, I was with my children on my way back from a visit to Governor's Island, and used a cellphone to take some pictures from various locations. Unfortunately, the pictures just didn't work out - the other buildings in the video didn't match the other buildings in my photographs. I returned to Battery Park and took more pictures from other locations. From that investigation, I created the following map:
The map also shows my "flee route" (in blue) after the crash; this route is obscured by tree cover in satellite photos of Battery Park. Circle D is the position of the food vendor I encountered, and you can see that I ended up in an excellent position to observe the Statue of Liberty Ferry that was pulling in at that moment.
As I noted at the top of this page, my memory was not a memory of a memory, but the memory itself, and so I could remember exactly the view of the eastern face of the WTC building, which is slightly different from the view in the CNN video. From this slight difference I had inferred that the tourist was very close to me but at a slightly different angle; it turns out that, from a point of view of our line of sight of the World Trade Center, I am right, but slightly wrong. The tourist I remember may not have even had a view of the second WTC building and the second plane's impact, because of the proximity of the building corner at 1 Broadway. As can be seen from the red lines and arrow, the tourist who took the CNN video and I did have a very similar view of the WTC (note the compass orientation on the map), but that tourist was much further back south than I was, and I never was in a position to see the cameraperson.
I have taken many photographs from Battery Park, I'm including here only the two most pertinent.
If you watch the entire video (not just the animated GIF above), you will see the tree cover that I photographed, which was undoubtedly a little lower 6 years prior to the photograph being taken.
Finally, for people who are truly clueless, below is a larger map showing my position, the tourist's position, the location of the World Trade Center, and the approximate route of the second plane, which I have described as coming over my left shoulder. Anyone who has ever driven near an airport (or seen "Wayne's World") can attest to how loud a large airplane, passing only a thousand feet or so over your head, can be.
Some additional notes:
Link back to My Personal September 11 Page.
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