for this post, mr.K sheds his initials and takes the centerstage. he becomes I.
last week most of us would have read or seen in media or heard that five years have passed since the once tallest building in the world WTC came crashing down and gave a new meaning to 911. for many of the most who saw, read, heard it definitely was nothing much to ponder upon. for me, it was different as it made me have a "i was there" moment. so made me sit and post this account of my 911 story
the night before i had stayed up late at office and hence slept and woke up late. it was an important production release day. i had reached nyc couple of months back and all the work has been done and now it was to be moved live production and then everybody could have their heinekens and buds. the earlier night excursions made me miss the path train that i normally used to take everyday. i had to take the next one and maybe it was all destiny that i had to take that, cause the one that i missed was the last one to reach WTC station for that day and most people out of that train were just coming out of the station when the first plane hit the towers. fortunately, i do think that there was none out of that train who got hurt. so i was there in the next train hoping to reach office as early as possible, when the security announced that the train would stop in newport and would not go to wtc as there has been an accident at the destination site. i thought, hmmm interesting start to the day but i did not have any clue as to what is in store, took the train to the 33rd hoping i would get down at christopher and take a cab to downtown manhattan where work was. so i went on my plan. got out of the station and started walking downtown. walking in manhattan has its charm. it is a beautiful thing to do. the aroma of cofi, the bagels, the women, the empire and the wtc. but coming out of the station, the first thing i noticed as did everybody was that there was fire at the top part of wtc. rumors indicated that it was possibly a coast guard copter which hit the building. so i started walking with all vigor with nothing but production release on mind. no cab, just walked and walked till i reached city hall. and thats where i could see fbi officers along with nypd asking people to move away. thats where i stopped and saw the wtc burning and saw someone fall from the building. it was horrific. thats when it hit me that it was not just an accident but something disastrous. i always had my nikon slr with me and i took a picture immediately - (you could see it at the bottom) but then was asked to move by the officers. i had to reach my work but could not walk down broadway as it was cordoned off, so i took the tributaries and reached water street. water is about 6 blocks away from wtc. for the first time that morning, i forgot about production release, stopped at a corner, looked at wtc and wondered - "the guys who built it must have been really good, the building seems to have withstood the hit" and just about when i was giving the full stop to my thoughts, the first building fell down. i gasped, so did many near me - i couldn't fathom what was happening. it was like in movies, the tower fell down on itself and the boulders flew. i was stuck in awe and then realized that i would rather run now. the smoke covered downtown and rubbles on hand, hair etc..ran for a while and took refuge in the nyu building. thats where i could first time feel tension, real tension in the air. trust me, the eyes of everyone out there were filled with nervous energy. plenty of hot college girls but all everybody could think was "what the hell is happening". there was this bearded guy who came running like he had run from hell and he was the first one who told others that this was not just an accident but an act of "T". the tension in peoples hearts rose 100 notches higher. someone turned on the radio and there was the breaking news - "america attacked". 30 minutes we were holed up. the smokes just about cleared, everyone wanted to get out, i was no different - got out only to find the second tower go down. so back we went again inside the building. no one knew what was happening. everybody were thinking surely about GOD. then someone announced that there is a possibility that the whole lower manhattan could explode due to the poisonous gases from the steel structure and everyone need to evacuate as soon as possible. we walked out of the building, headed down. if anyone has seen the movie "siege" it was exactly what it was. only thing we did not have denzel and bruce along with us. i was thinking to myself, should i go along with all these strangers - there was this serbian guy who was totally new to nyc who was asking me directions. i guided him and then told myself the best way to be safe now was to reach the office. i did that and there was absolutely no telephone connectivity working. very few people were there. a lot of them did not turn up based on excellent advise from a certain mr.I from london :). i got a call from mr.I talking about what he is seeing in CNN. i don't exactly remember what i told him but it was something on the lines of "dude, its much more worse seeing it in person and somehow i have managed to reach office, but have no clue how we are going to get home back cause there is no transportation in nyc and we probably have to walk 100 miles to reach new jersey". the next few hours, i had made sure that i had called my siblings who were in other parts of usa at that time to tell them iam safe and also called up Hyderabad folks to inform that most of our guys are safe and sound.
finally after 4 hours or so, we heard the news that path is arranging ferry back to NJ from south street seaport. we got in to it and i can never forget how quickly the new york folks got the supplies. everyone was given a poland spring bottle and chocolate cookie. on the ferry, all we could see was smoke - there was one guy who was telling i never ever took a pic of wtc, always thought i could do it tomorrow and now there would be no tomorrow. in my case, that was probably the building that i took the most pictures - unfortunately one of them happened to be in it burning. just two weeks back, i was with few other guys at the top of the wtc and on that ferry cruise, it was all different. nyc had lost its charm. people had lost lives.
the next month and half was gloomy and dark. f16 were on nyc skies, men in uniform everywhere and swiss air went bankrupt :). this meant i had to get some weird crazy travel plans made , which made me travel via dubai. it was again another round of tension that BA told me that my luggage would not have a thru transfer to IA in dubai. i had one hour between the flights and i had no clue what to do except pack everything in my cabbin baggage. i still laugh when i see that it was 15 kgs hand luggage i carried that day. so there i was all set to fly out of nyc when cnn reported that afghan war has begun. all bridges in nyc were closed :). and my i-94 expiring that day. somehow BA did not cancel the flight and i reached JFK. they also made me happy by saying that they would do a through check in. i called up my siblings, told them things are just fine, sitting in the lobby sipping coffee and talking to a guy near me about something he wanted. next thing i notice there are 5 people waving their badges and taking the guy i was talking to for detention. it was all too much for me and all i wanted was to get in to the flight. they had sniffer dogs on my flight and finally it started an hour late. and i can't explain how much of a relief i had that day when finally after transiting via london and dubai, i reached hyderabad.
ps: 5 years later, i had again gone this time to usa. happened to work with a guy who used to work with cantor, who fortunately went late to his office that day only to see there was no office anymore and lost lot of his friends. and Ground Zero looks like a automobile junkyard. pity to think that there stood once the world's most inspirational building.