Remembering September 11, 2001.

NYC: Sept 10th 2011

The WTC’s are behind the tree on the right. Photo taken: September 10th, 2001.

It was September 2001. My girlfriend Megan at the time, along with my ex-girlfriend Victoria and her boyfriend Matt had all taken a trip to New York City. Victoria and I had made an agreement years before that if Michael Jackson were to perform anywhere we would be in attendance; she would pay for transportation and I would pay for concert tickets. At the time it seemed as if she might get the short end of the stick; Perhaps a flight to the other side of the world coupled with me being able to possibly get “comp” tickets realistically became a cheap flight from LA to NYC and ridiculous ticket prices at $2500 per ticket…zero chance for guest list. Not to mention, two (2) shows: Madison Square Garden Sept 7th & 10th. And obviously we were going to both.
We had attended the show on the 7th and I remember observing the security to see how difficult it would have been to bring a camera into the show. It was announced and posted that no recording devices of any kind would be allowed into MSG. When the second show had come around, all day leading up to the event I had a terrible feeling in my gut. Because we were on our way to see MJ all of my attention was focused on the concert. I began voicing how uncomfortable I was and how I believed something awful might happen to MJ that evening. I was going on and on about how laid back the security was at the event a few nights before and how easy it would have been to bring a knife, gun, etc into MSG.
It was amazing to have finally seen Michael Jackson perform. Afterwards, Megan & I made our way to a little vegetarian restaurant on the lower west side. It was so delicious we discussed returning to this vegetarian restaurant for breakfast before our flight in the morning. Thankfully, we didn’t quite make it back… in the morning anyways.

It was Tuesday, September 11th. We had woken up late and our driver had not arrived to pick us up yet. We were staying with my friend Erica and she also had a few other friends in town for the week. They were all still sound asleep as we made our way out the front door and down the steps to meet our car. Our original booked flight was a United flight from JFK to LAX on the early morning of Sept 11. We found cheaper flights and changed just a week or so before. Our car was supposed to pick us up around 8am. When that didn’t arrive by 8:30 we called for a different car. By 8:45am we were getting into our car and we were on our way to Newark. Everything seemed normal as we were driving away from her house and then came the first announcement over the radio… “Early reports of a huge explosion, possibly a plane, a number of floors on fire of WTC1. It appears an airplane has crashed into WTC1″. I remember Victoria’s boyfriend Matt kept mumbling an unusual name I hadn’t heard much of previously….”grumble grumble..osama bin laden grumble grumble..” To which our driver, of middle eastern descent, kindly responded “oh no sir, it’s only an accident.” We were crossing over into NJ and could see the smoke lofting across the island. Moments later we would listen live on the radio and soon verify with our own eyes…the unthinkable. Now both Matt & our driver were agreeing with one another and cursing “God Damn Osama Bin Laden!” From this point forward for the next week or more, everything became a blur.

Our driver still attempted to drop us off at the airport. As we arrived to the entrance we were met with an armed military guard standing, in full fatigues holding an automatic weapon, blocking the exit for the airport and signaling us to continue driving while yelling “Airport’s Closed–MOVE IT!!!”
As you can imagine, we didn’t know what to do or where to go… as we were now driving on the NJ side uptown along the water with the towers out to our right and slightly behind us. The radio was still on and we were hearing announcements of all sorts; multiple bombs, explosions, bridges and tunnels all wired with explosives, the entire island was under attack, and now even the Pentagon??? I received no miss calls on my cell phone but I watched my voice mail notification climb past 40+ voice mails in this short time. I had continually been trying to call back home to the mom to let her know we were not on those flights. For all our families back home knew we were on a west bound plane that was leaving early am on the 11th. Finally my phone started ringing and I was able to connect with the mom. I don’t recall how long we spoke for or even what we said other than letting her know we were alive, stuck in NYC and trying to make sense of the chaos that was occurring just outside our car window. All of a sudden a loud scream pierced my ears…”ohhh my godddddd” Victoria screamed from the back seat and what was once a burning & smoking tower was now crumbling to the ground effortlessly and what appeared to be without much resistance. It Just pancaked straight to the ground and a giant cloud of smoke began to crawl over and across Manhattan. We told the driver to take us back to Erica’s house so we could figure something out.

We returned to Erica’s to find all of them…still asleep. I remember waking somebody up, though I don’t know if it was Erica or someone else staying there that week, and tried to awaken them without startling them too badly–” you know how there are 2 giant World Trade Center buildings downtown… well, only one of them is still standing right now” We turned on the TV and gathered around to watch those gruesome images over and over again. Speculation over what may have occurred was on every station. Some of us went to the roof to watch from there and that’s when the second building collapsed. I’ll never forget the image my brain finally began to realize once the smoke slowly cleared. I was looking directly through to the other side of where WTC’s once stood. Insanity. At this point nobody knew what was going on or what more possibly could happen and that is when Victoria announced… “We are going down there to help those people!” Arguments began, tears flowed, emotions ran very unstable and high. Even with the NYC radio announcing that all tunnels, bridges, subways, etc were potentially wired with explosives and more planes were on the way, we began what would become an all day trek downtown, back and forth from west side to east side to avoid road blocks, to eventually get to Wall St and help those who needed help. We figured blood would be needed and we were healthy to assist in any way. When we got to Times Square it was exactly like the scene from Vanilla Sky. It was empty. No cars, no people, no cabs. The only movement was the occasional service vehicle (firetruck,ambulance) or bus (filled with fireman & construction workers) and they were all heading towards downtown. Nothing was coming back uptown. No ambulances was the first thing I noticed. Around West 14th the streets were really shut down and getting any closer than that was proving to be difficult but after walking around barricades and continuing on our mission we kept getting closer and closer. I remember stopping where I believe was Chambers & Greenwich(or Broadway). There was a direct view down the street of where the towers once stood and that is when I first saw the steel beams still sticking 5-6 stories into the air.

As we got closer the debris was everywhere. Thick layers of cement dust covered everything. I watched a man walk aimlessly carrying a brief-case totally covered in soot. Matt picked up some paper trash off the street and it had World Trade Center as the heading address. FBI and yellow police tape was everywhere. There was a “jet engine” that had landed in a school yard. I have never seen so many black empty staring eyes. Total disbelief. We finally found the Red Cross station. They informed us there was nothing we could do to help as they had no materials; no needles, bags, syringes, etc.

It had taken us all day to make it down there. It was now evening. We wandered and just were grateful to have one another. The Incubus guys were just starting a tour and were staying at the SoHo Grand on Broadway. We met up with them and we all began sharing stories, emotions & experiences from the day. Brandon had a room with a view and a very loud alarm clock just outside his window. They all watched from blocks away. We said our goodbyes and wished them safe travels and returned to Erica’s house. Empty.

Air Space Closed

The following days we attempted to rent a car to drive cross country to get back home since air space had been closed and all planes, except for government and military, had been grounded. We couldn’t find a rental car for less than $3000 for 3 days. And at America’s finest hour capitalism prevailed. I got into a few heated arguments over the phone with these spineless, fascist douchebags but got no where. The ladies finally took over the phone calling and were eventually able to get us a rental car for only a fraction of the rapist fees. But we still took it in the ass because they could charge as much as they wanted to and the demand was very high. We left from NYC and with a perpetual driving system only stopping for gasoline/bathroom, we managed to get back to LA in record breaking time. 34-35 hours drive time. At one point I woke up and found Victoria losing her mind, staring into the unknown, speeding well over 100mph. We were all experiencing sleep deprivation, post traumatic stress syndrome and to an extent we were all right smack in the middle of a bipolar manic swing. Starting in NYC on September 11th and continuing along the way at each of our gas stops, I would run in and buy a local newspaper. Every front page were images from the catastrophic event we had just witnessed. There were US flags increasingly on every bridge overpass, and the night time sky full of stars without other blinking lights from planes were some of my memories.

We made it safely home and I had to jump straight into the studio to finish mixing the Home Town Hero record. We were in Studio City and I remember the immediate sense of panic that flushed through my body when I heard the very first plane take off from Burbank airport and fly directly overhead. It was an unusual sound. It brought back waves of horror if only for the few moments it took me to realize everything was… OK.

To all the lives innocently lost on Sept 11th, 2001 and thereafter. It disgusts me that you were used as a pawn and died for your heroic efforts. Until the TRUTH sets you free, I will Never Forget.

I took this photo on Sept 10th 2001. The evening before. The towers stand beautifully tall.


One Response

  1. Jade Lemons

    Amen Ray. I enjoyed reading your story of Sept 11th, 2001. Amen. Until the TRUTH is revealed, I will never forget either. Hope all is well.
    – Jade Lemons


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