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Left Coast / Right Coast: Flashbacks

As this year is the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I got to thinking about things that for one reason or another jumped back into my consciousness. First: While we were not in New York on September 11, 2001, many of my friends and family were.
Gold family on top of World Trade Center Tower 1 - 30 years prior to the attacks. Photo credit: Mike Gold.

By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur "living the dream in the Pacific Northwest."

We all have things in our past that will on occasion re-surface. As this year is the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I got to thinking about things that for one reason or another jumped back into my consciousness.

First: While we were not in New York on September 11, 2001, many of my friends and family were. The attached photo is of our family on top of the North Tower about 30 years prior to the attacks. We had just finished having lunch at "Windows on the World" – on the 106th floor and went up to the roof to take in the view.

One thing that this photo brings back is how little “security” there was up on that roof. Anyone could have easily just jumped – as there was nothing but the small three foot high railing you see in the photo. Today, if you go to the top of the Empire State Building, there is a 10 foot high fence with razor wire on the top to prevent anyone from jumping.

Among my family stories was one from my first cousin who was in mid-town on September 11, 2001. As the buildings fell, thousands of people walked uptown to escape the smoke.

My cousin watched as a barefoot woman approached her. She had walked all the way uptown from the buildings (about three miles) having lost her shoes in her escape.

My cousin gave her the shoes she was wearing then walked barefoot across the 59th street bridge – so her husband could pick her up in Queens (as mass transit had ceased operating).

Several of my high school classmates perished on that day. However, as it had been 40 years since graduation, I can’t say that I really “knew” any of them other than a name.

About eight years later, I was on the west side of Manhattan as the "miracle on the Hudson” airplane was crash landing on the river. I remember thinking: “Gee, that plane seems awfully low.” Within minutes of the landing, there were hundreds of first responders picking up the passengers who at that point were standing on the plane’s wings as the aircraft was sinking into the river.

Sullenberger’s coolness under pressure included setting the plane’s settings for a water landing. (Apparently, those settings blocked off many of the openings on the underside of the plane – allowing it to remaining afloat for a longer period of time).

Auto crashes: When I was in grammar school, I used to walk the approximately half mile from home to school. I had to cross several fairly large streets – none of which had traffic lights. I remember one day walking and hearing a loud crash. As I approached the corner, I saw a Studebaker car on its side, with the front windshield smashed. Whoever was driving had been thrown through the windshield and apparently was okay as they were not there when I arrived.

What I do remember was a bag of bagels lying on the street with the contents strewn all over the roadway. I remember thinking that my mom probably would not have been happy had I brought those bagels home, so I just left them on the street. By the time I got across the street, birds had already begun to pick at the bread. (Only a kid’s mind would work that way – “Hey, free bagels.”)

A college friend and I drove to Montreal (from Troy, New York – only about four hours away). I had at that time, my very early VW bug. As we were driving along a street at about midnight, we came upon a couple where the woman seemed “out of control." She was screaming and fighting off her boyfriend’s attempt to calm her down. So we offered to drive them to the local hospital.

So the boyfriend managed to get her into the back seat – and as we drove away she managed to kick the rear side window out of its track. Fortunately, after dropping them off, we managed to pop the window back in its track. I don’t think many would stop today to offer help. There we were in a foreign country apparently “kidnapping” a young woman off the street. With our collective sensitivity to legal matters, I could now imagine we’d still be in a Montreal jail for kidnapping. I still breathe a sigh of relief at our fortune in not getting into trouble.

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