This last piece was published by the NST on September 18, 2001 (17 years ago) on the 911 catastrophe.
“FRUSTRATED, EXHAUSTED AND YEARNING TO RETURN HOME”
From Noorul Ainur Mohd. Nur in New York City
NST September 18, 2001
That night, the events of the day came reeling back to my mind. I remembered seeing the billowing smoke and fumes at the surrounding area of the catastrophe from the New Jersey Turnpike. I also managed to take snapshots of the burning World Trade Centre from afar.
I also remembered sitting on the ground at the vicinity of Newark Airport, not knowing what action take next. A middle-aged lady seated next to me kept murmuring, “It’s unbelievable, it’s unbelievable.”
She looked at me and asked, “Where are you heading to?”
“Home — Malaysia. And you?”
“I’m going on a vacation to Florida. this is real messy,” she said. She paused for a second and asked, “Are you still coming to the United States?”
“Definitely,” I answered without hesitation.
The Newark Airport employees were helpful and entertained us all questions. It was announced that all routes into Manhattan had been closed.
All the roads and tunnels leading into the city – Lincoln Tunnel, Holland Tunnel and George Washington Bridge – were closed to traffic. I could not decide what to do next.
All those while, I was looking at people streaming into buses that would take them out of the area.
That night I watched the live telecasts, switching channels from CNN to CBS2 to NBC4 every now and then. my heart broke when a wife, Patricia Kelleth, cried over a telephone interview, saying that her husband was attending a meeting on the 90th floor at one of the towers that fatal morning.
On hearing of the attack, she immediately phoned him and managed to reach him. However, the minute he said “hello” the line was cut off.
Judith’s Mojica’s brother was one of the first rescuers at the World Trade Center. He entered the building after the first blast and was not seen or heard of again.
Christopher Canci was watching the television at the time of the crashes. He knew then that his father, Peter J.Canci, the New York City Fire Department’s highest-ranking uniformed officer, would be at the scene.
Later it was announced that Peter had died after one of the buildings collapsed on him.
It was while watching the live telecast that I saw an announcement that the PATH railway station was operating from Jersey City to Manhattan. At the rate things were going on, my instinct said that I had to get back to Manhattan or I would be stuck in New Jersey indefinitely.
I left for Manhattan the next morning. A taxi driver, a Haitian, said that he would never want to be on an aircraft, at least for the next year. I told him I was left with no choice since I had to be back in Malaysia to be with my family.
On Sept 13, I tried to call the MAS reservation line but it was busy. By 8.45am, I walked from 54th Street and First Avenue to the Citicorp building on 53rd Street and Lexington Avenue.
I wanted to donate blood.
The queue was not long. I walked up to a lady who was busy distributing pamphlets.
“How do I donate blood?” I asked.
She gave me the piece of paper and said: “Write down your phone number and home address. We will get back to you.”
“In a week’s time.”
“I’m afraid that I may not be around then,” I replied.
She told me to wait for a while and went to speak to a man not far from where we stood. She came back.
“Thanks for offering, but the waiting line is long and you will only be able to donate your blood next week,” she said.
I walked towards 42nd Street and Second Avenue.
On reaching the street, I stood right across the Israeli Mission which is located a block away from the Malaysian Permanent Mission. The building was heavily guarded.
Walking along 34th Street, I saw that the Empire State Building was also barricaded and cordoned off. I was told that there was a bomb threat.
Frustrated and exhausted, I walked home. I wanted to return to Malaysia — and soon.
- The writer is a Senior Project Co-ordinator of the Economic Centre, National Institute of Public Administration (Intan).