20 years after 9-11

Published September 10, 2021, 7:52 AM

by Fil C. Sionil

Tomorrow is the 20th year of the tragic act of terrorism, the 9-11.

Where were you on that fateful day? Me, along with business journ colleague Marianne Go, was having dinner with visiting Philippine Ambassador to London Edgardo B. Espiritu at L’Opera Ristorante in Bonifacio Global City. The Italian restaurant had a lot of patrons that night. I could distinctly recall that a few tables away from us was the group of former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos celebrating the late deposed President  Ferdinand Marcos’ birthday.

Since cable subscription was pretty much a rare commodity and a bit expensive at that time, the classy restaurant had placed TV sets in strategic areas to update nosy diners, like me, of the news happening around the globe or if there was a scheduled PBA game. The TV was tuned-in to CNN.

Sipping freshly brewed coffee, I was about to savor the House’s best dessert, tiramisu, when suddenly I was flabbergasted by the sight of an American Airlines plane ramming its way through one of the Twin Towers in the World Trade Center complex. From where we’re seated no sound could be heard. I thought the scene was a trailer from an upcoming movie. Several minutes later another aircraft shattered the second tower. That abruptly ended our dinner.

Twenty years hence, I sought out Gert Chavez-Dreyfuss, a former colleague covering the banking and finance beat for BusinessWorld, to share her thoughts of the dreadful incident, then and now.

Gert was then working as sub-editor for AFX News wire in New York. Luck was on her side that day. I yield my space to Gert’s narrative: 

“On Sept 11, 2001, I was  about to go to the subway station on my way to work, around 9:00 am, when I received a call on my cell phone from a colleague in our Washington DC bureau telling me not to come to the office because there had been an explosion.

Our office was on the 52nd floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center complex. (note: The hijacked aircraft made its way to Tower 1 at 8:45 a.m.) 

Oblivious. I didn’t know what was going on at the time. So I headed back to my apartment in Queens and turned on the television. I was truly scared when I saw the news. I was horrified thinking that I could have been in that building had I decided to come early to the office. But for some reason, I changed my mind and decided to come a little later. And, had my colleague not phoned me, I would have taken the train and most likely got stranded like many New Yorkers.

The idea of remote work was not yet in vogue at the time. So we were all taken to AFX London and that was our office for a few months before moving to another office in New York City on 3rd Avenue, 49th Street.

Indelible imprint. I know of two colleagues who reported for work early that day. They were lucky, they were able to evacuate before the building collapsed. But one of them, a Swiss lady, was badly affected by the tragedy. The tragedy left a strong and lasting imprint on her. She decided to leave New York.

The other person who reported early was an Irish woman. She told me that her last memory of the day was that of firefighters going up the stairs and assuring everybody that everything will be alright. Of course, it did not happen. Based on news accounts a number of firefighters perished.    

Haunting, lingering creepy feeling. Twenty years later, the wounds have healed. As time passes, almost nobody talks about it until it’s 9-11.  However, the memories remain fresh. New towers have been built in place of the collapsed buildings. Still, I get a little anxious every time I have to go to those buildings for events or press briefings. At the back of my mind is fear that there might be another terrorist attack waiting to happen.”

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