Please… NEVER FORGET 9/11. Give yourself 5-10 minutes and read.
– Jim Lysaght
Founder and Executive Director
Red Nation Rising NFP
Finding Refuge After 9/11
Nicole Lysaght was 15 minutes late to work on Sept. 11, 2001.
She worked in the south tower of the World Trade Center on the 65th floor for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, as a paralegal.
That morning she was supposed to be on a conference call, so when she woke up late at 7:58 a.m. she rushed to get out the door of her boyfriend’s Kew Garden Hills apartment in Queens New York.
With the clock ticking, Nicole’s boyfriend, James, raced to the subway stop at 71st Avenue and Continental in Forest Hills, so Nicole could catch the E train, a 40-minute ride that would take her directly to the underbelly of the World Trade Center.
Without time for a hug or kiss, Nicole sprang from the car to catch a train around 8:30 a.m.
The subway train began to snake its way underground to the WTC.
8:46 a.m.—The first plane crashes into the north tower of the WTC.
Like any other morning, the commuter train occasionally lurched to a stop. But soon the intercom announced there had been an incident at the WTC.
At the time, the announcement didn’t faze Nicole. Nothing was out of the ordinary, yet. The next announcement was equally unhelpful.
9:03 a.m.—The second plane crashes into the south tower.
“There are no more trains going in or out of Manhattan due to an incident at the World Trade Center.”
Nicole was still more concerned about making her conference call than some incident near her workplace.
Before reaching her usual stop, the train’s conductor forced commuters to walk to the first car and to exit near 8th Street. Now she was really going to be late for work, so she decided to place a call to her secretary. When it was finally Nicole’s turn to use the pay phone, she dialed work but the line was busy. That was strange. So she called her boss. The line was busy.
Adding that to the list of things gone wrong for the day, Nicole decided to make the trek to work on foot.
Then a boy walking past told her a plane had hit the WTC. Again, to Nicole, this didn’t seem like a big deal. She often saw sight-seeing helicopters circle the towers, so she figured this time one connected with the side of the building and crashed. She continued to walk but noticed there was no traffic.
9:59 a.m. South Tower collapses.
10:28 a.m. North Tower collapses.
That absence of traffic seemed very odd for Manhattan, which is constantly awash in floods of tourists, workers and residents. Nicole noticed people looking up to the sky. She wondered what was going on and somebody told her, “The buildings are gone.”
Confused, she asked what buildings.
“The trade center fell down—they’re gone.”
Nicole looked up and saw a cloud of smoke rise in the distance, and finally, she understood the gravity of the “incident” at the WTC.
“Oh my God, everybody that knows me thinks that I’m there.”
Gone, But Not Forgotten
On Sept. 11 2001, al-Qaida terrorists hijacked four planes and crashed two of them into the Twin Towers of the WTC in New York, killing 2,753 people. And for Nicole and her boyfriend (now husband, James), the dead included a list of acquaintances, friends, coworkers and James’ cousin.
Though it’s been 10 years, for Nicole the memory of that day isn’t distant.
“To me, it feels like yesterday. Every day is Sept. 11—like it could be. It just feels very close; it just doesn’t feel like it was 10 years ago. It feels like it was just yesterday because you can go back into that moment in an instant.”
Although she is grateful for those 15 minutes of being off-schedule that protected her life, she is haunted by guilt. She was one life, a young woman without children just starting out. Heartbreakingly, she feels guilty for surviving when mothers, husbands, wives and fathers were taken from their loved ones that Tuesday morning in September. To this day, she feels unworthy of sharing her story with the rest of the world.
“I just really, honestly, feel like it’s not a story. There are so many people that so many horrible things happened. Nothing happened to me; I’m fine. Nothing is wrong. I have beautiful children, I have a nice husband, I’m fine,” Nicole said. “…It makes me feel really bad to even talk about it because I don’t think it’s a story. I just don’t.”
On the Monday following the attacks, Nicole’s company set up a makeshift workplace for surviving employees in Manhattan. Nicole didn’t show up that first day.
The possibility of another attack was all she could think about.
When she did start work at the makeshift office, bomb threats were a constant worry. That was torturous for those employees who survived the 9/11 attacks by walking down the 65 flights of stairs.
After a few months, a fully functioning, permanent office was in place. Before committing to the routine, with James’ help Nicole mentally prepared herself for life back on Manhattan. The two got their “sea legs” back with a visit to The Cloisters—an art museum in uptown Manhattan.
Nicole went back to work but James traveled with her on her commute for a few days. He would take the train with her, walk her to the door, then get back on the train to begin his day.
Although Nicole and other New Yorkers were back to work, there were constant reminders of what happened. Almost every day, there was a memorial service for a fallen first-responder at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Church, which was close to Nicole’s new office.
The memory of Sept. 11 lingered around every street corner and during every subway ride. In an instant, Nicole could be taken back to the fear and vulnerability she experienced that day.
“You’re going to lunch and there’s a funeral procession for someone who died on Sept. 11…You couldn’t get away from it.”
One day in 2007, Nicole was convinced New York was under attack again. She heard a loud explosion and saw what she thought was smoke coming from the street. She rushed out of the building and placed a phone call to her boss alerting him to the situation and telling him to evacuate. It was only a steam blast, coming out of the sewer. After that, she began to worry about the psychological effect the attacks had on her.
“And then I felt like I was crazy. I was like: I’m a crazy person who’s making people get out of buildings because of this explosion,” Nicole said. “After that, I was like: I think I need to talk to somebody because I think I’m kind of harboring this stuff. I can’t live like this.”
She couldn’t open up to a therapist and for more than a year got no help. She didn’t even talk about 9/11 with her closest friends. A few years passed and Nicole’s new employer, Dover Corporation, decided to relocate to the western suburbs of Chicago. She and James decided to leave New York and the constant reminders of 9/11.
James said, “We were here for about a week or 10 days and my wife and I had not yet had the, ‘So what do you think of this place?’ chat. We were sitting at the light at Park and Roosevelt. The light turned green, but the large white van in front of us failed to proceed for a few seconds. In New York, I would have been on the horn instantly. Here I did nothing but turn to Nicole and I said, ‘I’ll tell ya one thing about this place, it is nice knowing that van is not going to blow up in our face.'”
“It was the first statement made comparing New York and Glen Ellyn. My wife completely opened up. She deeply exhaled. She said it was the first time she realized she was happy something in her life was missing. She’d been living in terror for nine years.”
“Glen Ellyn has allowed us to exhale,” he said.
Love in the “Glow of the World Trade Center”
For Nicole and James, the Twin Towers were an iconic symbol of their relationship.
The two met when they were only 14. Nearly 10 years later, they ended up working in the same office together and reconnected. They continued as friends, but a few years later dinner quickly turned into a date.
From then on their relationship grew in the shadows of the WTC.
“We really started our relationship in January 1998, in literally the glow of the World Trade Center,” James said.
In 2000 Nicole, began working in the WTC while James was in law school. Even when they were apart in Manhattan, they could each see the Twin Towers and always felt part of each other’s day.
“I’d be on the phone with him and he’d be going to school and he’d be like, ‘Oh, I see you,’ and I’d be like, ‘I’m waving.’”
The WTC seemed to always be hovering over their deepening relationship.
Later on, the two spent a lot of time at James’ apartment in Battery Park City. The romantic hue that reflected from the buildings was enough light for them to read books at night.
The couple were in love and life was good. They still weren’t sure they were the marrying type. But that all changed after 9/11.
When James returned to his apartment after dropping Nicole off that morning, he freshened up in the bathroom. A few minutes later, he heard a plane had hit the WTC.
Like Nicole, he initially thought that it was a small plane. He carried on with his morning and made eggs and coffee. He briefly thought about Nicole and where she might be; he figured she was safe if something hit the building because she could not be at her desk, yet. He assumed she wouldn’t be on the ground outside the building because the subway was protected from falling debris and employees reached the WTC underground and then took an elevator up to work.
Then Nicole’s mother called James. She was worried. He assured his future mother-in-law everything was fine.
He continued to flip through TV channels to survey the damage, he glanced at his watch; it was 9 a.m. He tried to calculate where Nicole was right then. His best guess was that she was probably at the WTC underground, just about to go into work.
At that moment, while watching TV, he saw another plane slam into the second tower.
He said he almost threw up. James knew this was no accident and he began to worry about Nicole’s safety. Where was she? Could she be at her desk? He was almost certain she was not in the building. Does she know what’s happening?
A flood of calls from friends and family came in, asking him about Nicole. When his dad called from Florida, James barked at him for tying up the line. He wanted to keep it open in case Nicole called. But after both towers fell, his dad called again. His father tried to console him. His dad thought James was in denial for believing Nicole could still be alive. James hung up. He refused to believe she was dead. He began to cry at the possibility of losing her.
An hour later Nicole called.
That’s when he knew he would marry her. The thought of losing her was too much to bear.
On March 26, 2006 the two wed in New York City. With the towers missing, the two went to Ground Zero, to pay tribute to the place that brought them closer together; the place that had become a significant symbol for their relationship.
Then in 2008, the symbol of their relationship reappeared in an unimaginable way—Nicole gave birth to twins.
The family is settling into life in Glen Ellyn, a quiet change from the bustling streets and skyscrapers of New York. Raising their daughters in a post-9/11 world isn’t easy.
But Nicole is trying to soak up every happy moment. Because she constantly reminds herself that tomorrow is never certain.
Written By: Samantha Liss
Founders Note: I can never forget 9/11/01. I have other tragic 9/11 related true stories which might shock people. But those are for a different time.
The journalist who wrote this piece, Samantha Liss, did beautiful work for a local digital paper. She’s amazing. My wife Nicole opened up to Sam in a way she hadn’t really opened up to me. Nicole related details I just never heard. It was an incredibly cathartic experience for both of us and helped our family.
The New York City which exists today is not the New York City highly romanticized in traditional media. The changes in New York have been happening for decades. It’s not good. Actually, it sucks. Blame Blue Dems and RINOs.
My Dad used to say, back in the 90’s before 9/11, New York City was one of the last remaining bastions of communism in the world. Maybe NYC is not communist, per se, but certainly it rots from Big Gov Blue Dem Progressive Liberal socialism. Dad was right.
The Blue Dem / RINO disease spread to NYC’s outer boroughs and even Long Island. It’s disgusting. They infect New York State. They are spreading to cities and towns wherever you read this.
Stop them. Stop them now, wherever you may be.
I urge you this because the Muslim feudal animals responsible for 9/11 did not kill New York. Yeah, they whacked us. But they didn’t kill New York. The Blue Dems and RINOS did.
Please get up — and RISE — everywhere. Centrists, Conservatives, Libertarians and Patriots UNITE to the RIGHT.