By Douglas Eaton
A majority of stories about 9/11 begin with people turning on the TV to see what was happening. In my case, a bunch of us from the office simply walked outside onto Broadway and 50th to look south. Juxtaposed with the beautiful fall morning was an ominous plume of smoke masking the view of anything downtown, along the sound of non-stop sirens, and helicopters and fighter jets flying overhead. Then we turned on the TV to see the horror.
At the time, we (my wife, Cheryl and 6-week-old daughter, Lizzie) lived about a half a block from the United Nations Headquarters on 46th and 2nd. All I could think about was that it too was a likely target, and I just needed to get home to my family. (On a bizarre and related note, 17 years later, my daughter was a junior at MSD on the day of the shooting. I remember having the same sickening feeling – a terrible attack, mass confusion, just wanting to get to her and make sure she was OK.)
Land lines and cell phones did not work, the stock market was in a free fall, nobody was sure where the leaders of our government were located, there were no details, and chaos prevailed. For about the next 10 minutes I was paralyzed, not knowing what to do or think.
I needed to get home, but no trains or buses were running, and as the entire city was gridlocked, no cabs were moving either. I ran across town to get home.
I found my family safe and sound. At this point, we needed to figure out what to do next. We knew that no more planes were flying, but were scared that perhaps there were bombs placed or gas attacks coming at the UN. We seriously thought about taking the baby and fleeing the city on foot.
Nevertheless, we chose to stay put, and fortunately, the attacks were done.
We loved the city then, and have never fallen out of love with it, but no longer felt safe there. There were ongoing bomb scares, and what became a common occurrence in America, anthrax attacks or threats of them. I remember feeling a pit in my stomach and backing away from anyone on the subway with a backpack.
We made the decision that ultimately, we would move out of Manhattan, but never making a final decision as to exactly where, due to a combination of inertia and procrastination, as the city returned to normal.
Ultimately, we got our act together and decided on Parkland, and moved here in June 2006. With the great schools, young families, warm weather, and many new Yorkers, it seemed like a great fit.
We became engaged socially, charitably, in the youth sports and business community and never looked back.
For us, one of the enduring memories of 9/11 was how we felt on that first night, crying together, as we watched the horrific news reports of people searching for their loved ones, and 1000 other terrible perspectives on the day. In the weeks after, you somehow felt a kinship with any one of the 8 million ”strangers” in the city, from that shared experience.
Manhattan is one of the most exhilarating places in the world, diverse cultures, great sports, schools, a robust business community and plenty of nice people with whom to form lasting relationships.
Although quite different in many ways, Parkland is also remarkably similar, with many of the same attributes and wonderful people, right here in Northwest Broward, our own little slice of heaven.