Home » OPINION » Columns » ROSS REILY: On Sept. 11, it’s the silence I remember

ROSS REILY: On Sept. 11, it’s the silence I remember


It’s still hard to watch.

In fact, most times I will turn my head or focus on something else when the images come on the screen.

It was 17 years ago that my wife and I stood on the streets of New York and watched, in stunned silence, as the towers of the World Trade Center fell to earth.

They are images that are burned into my brain so indelibly that when similar images flash on a television screen, there is almost a sensory overload.

And while the footage and photos that have been and will be shown during this anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center will focus on the destruction and the physical event of either the planes crashing into the buildings or the buildings crumbling to the ground, it is the rest of the day that I thought about this morning.

Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 11, 2001, in New York was like a ghost town. The usually bustling streets were reduced to a few lonely wanderers looking up and around.

After so much frightening activity that morning in which there were traffic jams and people running down the streets screaming and shouting, Tuesday afternoon was just plain eerie.

Nearly every business was closed with nearly everyone having retreated to their homes to see what was going to happen next, and asking, “Is there more to come?”

What was left was a scene straight out of a bad movie with blocks and blocks and blocks of near empty streets.

That night, we walked for, what seemed to be, miles just to find an open restaurant. The Blue Moon Mexican Cafe, however, was packed to the gills. After we were seated, everything was almost normal. There was the roar of the voices in a packed restaurant, the racing around of the overworked waitresses trying to get to too many tables in a short amount of time.

But when President George W. Bush appeared on the television screens in the restaurant, a hush fell across the room. I’ve never experienced such silence before and haven’t since. The only audible sounds were Bush’s voice and the occasional clink of a dish or silverware from the kitchen.

Every eye was fixed on the screens. Every ear locked onto his words.

We didn’t know what to expect, and, really, neither did he, but we listened.

When the president’s message concluded, the restaurant slowly reverted to it’s pre-speech activity, although slightly toned down.

After dinner, our walk was in near silence. There was the occasional person on the sidewalk and an occasional restaurant open, but New York had been brought to a standstill.

That’s what I remember today, the tension, the not knowing, the anticipation of the City That Never Sleeps on a night that was sleepless for many around the country.

» Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.


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About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.

One comment

  1. A week or so afterwards, a friend of mine was walking downtown on a familiar part of 7th Avenue during the morning. She couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Then she realized there was sunlight.

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