Fourteen years ago I worked at a pharmaceutical advertising agency in Manhattan. When I got on the G-train in Brooklyn that morning, I saw a woman I knew from Pratt. She was the first woman I remember seeing riding everywhere on a scooter. She was from Sweden, I think. After she sold her scooter, I noticed that a LOT of people were riding scooters. Businessmen were riding to work on them, and of course proto-hipsters were riding them to their favorite coffee shops.
We talked, and then we switched to different trains. I got out of the subway at 33d Street in Manhattan and noticed that the streets were mostly empty and quiet. Usually teenagers were hanging out waiting to go into the nearby school. As I walked to my work place I noticed workers hanging out in their trucks listening to the radio. I did think I heard something about an airplane hitting the World Trade Center.
By the time I got to work everyone was trying to get a TV to work. Way back in 2001 not everyone and every work place had WiFi. Rumors circulated that part of a tower fell, and maybe another plane hit the other tower. We eventually found out the reality of the situation when the one television in the office finally got a fuzzy signal.
One of the executives, an executive who usually spent his time yelled at people and who I had no respect for, told everyone to sit tight and let him know if we “needed anything.” It was easy to see he was putting on a fairly false veneer of the caring “fearless leader.” I got my bag and left the building.
I headed uptown in what was a parade of people who, like me, decided to start walking home. Buses and subways were not running. I headed across the Queensboro Bridge with a large mass of like minded people. The woman next to me was in a dress but wore no shoes. We were all fairly quiet and continually glanced back towards downtown and the large plume of smoke.
In Brooklyn the G-train was not running, but an empty bus showed up at it’s designated stop. The mass of people in the street swarmed around the bus door. The driver opened the door, stood there preventing anyone from entering and said, “I have to go use the bathroom first!” I thought moaning and complaining would ensue, but everyone just stood there quietly as she walked away.
A military jet screamed across the sky.
I didn’t know where this particular bus went, just that it was headed for my part of Brooklyn. When the driver came back from the bathroom I managed to get on. Just like the walk on the bridge, everyone remained mostly silent. When I saw familiar streets I got off, and walked another few miles in what I remember being a cool crisp day.
Now, I visit the new One World Trade Center just about every week in order to have 98 percent of my cartoon submission rejected by the New Yorker. I show my I.D. and security scans my little bag full of cartoon gags. They take a grainy picture of me that makes me look like a criminal. On the 38th floor, we get a great view from the cartoonist waiting room. We usually have a lot of laughs.