This day nine years ago at 7:00 am, I arrived at the Merck MSO Building construction site in Rahway, N.J. It was just another day as a site engineer for the construction of a $400 million state-of-the-art pharmaceutical pilot plant.
I was sitting in my office in the construction trailer on the west side of the building, when at just before 9:00 am someone announced that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers. No one seemed particularly surprised or upset as we all assumed it was a small plane involved in a “typical” flying accident. I put down my coffee, grabbed my hard hat, safety glasses, radio and clip board and headed out of the trailer.
Except for the flare stack at the Exxon Bayway refinery in Linden, NJ, the MSO Building was the tallest structure between Rahway and the New York City skyline. I decided to climb to the roof for a look-see. The MSO building was approximately 120 feet tall which gave it a perfect line-of-sight view to downtown Manhattan and the World Trade Center approximately fifteen miles away. It was a beautiful sunny September day, so visibility was excellent.
As I climbed the steps and approached the mechanical penthouse, I noticed everyone seemed visibly upset. Some stood silently, while others spoke on cells phones frantically to whomever they could reach for information. I arrived just moments after United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower of the WTC. Smoke was now billowing from both WTC North Tower, struck at 8:46 am by American Airlines Flight 11, and the recently impacted WTC South Tower. I looked at my watch. It was 9:05 am.
I stood there for a moment in shock. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I pulled out my cell phone and called my mother. When I reached her she was tuning back and forth between news channels hunting for information. By just after 9:40 am reports were coming in that a plane had struck the Pentagon. This turned out to be American Airlines Flight 77 which struck at 9:37 am. “We are under attack”, I thought.
I stood and spoke to my mother for another 20 minutes searching for information. At 9:59 am what appeared to be a very large explosion at ground level of the South Tower threw dust and smoke up from the base of the building. From our vantage point, both towers were obscured from view within seconds. Over the next few moments, as the wind slowly cleared the dust and smoke, we realized one tower was missing from view. We all stood there in stunned silence.
My mother also in shock from what she was witnessing on television, relayed that another plane seemed to be missing somewhere over Pennsylvania and it may have also crashed. This turned out to be United Airlines Flight 93. It was now just before 10:30 am.
Then as if reliving the nightmare from thirty minutes earlier, the North Tower was obscured from sight in a silent cloud of grey debris. There was no question what had just repeated itself.
Two Thousand Nine Hundred Seventy Four people from 90 countries perished as a result of hatred for this great country and that terrible day on the Eleventh of September 2001. Twenty Four more are still unaccounted for. I will never forget…
Marc “Wiggy” Kovacs