Three Boroughs, Three Bridges and Some 9/11 Reflections

I wrote this post some time ago for another blog. Re-posting it here mainly for myself.

Like many New Yorkers, I tried to just go about my business this Sunday, September 11th, and my business on Sunday was to get my longest run of this training cycle done. The goal was 20 miles, I made it 19.25 before I called it a day. I feel pretty good about that.

Inspired by long distance voyager, I’m on a mission to run the big bridges of the city, this Sunday’s run was geared toward hitting one of the big dawgs – the Queensboro (aka the 59th St Bridge). To do that, I left my place, headed through Bed Stuy, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint and on up to the Pulaski Bridge.

Manhattan as seen from the Pulaski Bridge

I hadn’t run on the Pulaski since I ran the New York Marathon in 2006. The Pulaski’s a small drawbridge nowhere near the size of the big east river bridges, but it has its charm. It crosses over the Newtown Creek in the heart of industrial Queens. Like much of New York, isn’t much to look at, but it gets the job done. There are no tourists — just a couple of bikers, some polish kids, and me. I love this bridge.

Queensboro

After the Pulaski was the bridge of a thousand broken dreams in the New York Marathon – the Queensboro. For me, this was where the wheels came off in my running of the New York Marathon. I wasn’t alone. Many a marathoner begins to feel the pain on the uphill section of the Queensboro. It’s a testament to how far I’ve come in my running that I cruised across this bad boy in no time, stopping only to take these pictures for you.

The View from the Queensboro

It was a grey day in the city. The ceremony honoring those who died in the World Trade Center was going on downtown, but as I cruised down the east side of Manhattan, it seemed like any other Sunday.

I thought about that day ten years ago.

I was on the Q Train about to go over the Manhattan Bridge when the conductor said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. You could see it clear as day out the window of the train. A man in my car shouted “my mother works in that building” and rushed from our car. We were stuck on a bridge; he had nowhere to go. He ran anyway. A Hasidic guy sitting next to me said “Its terrorism”. I thought it must have been an accident, and that surely that’d put the fire out soon.

From the Manhattan Bridge

By the time I got off the train at 14th street, the second plane had hit and everyone knew it was a terrorist attack.  You could see the smoke coming out of the towers. I didn’t know what to do – so I went to work. At the time I was working in a video editing studio. We had a hundred videos monitors in the place, but not a single television. We all went downstairs to a dinner and watched the coverage with hundreds of other people on a tiny TV they’d brought out from the back. Thousands of people were streaming north from the financial district clogging Broadway with pedestrians.  Some would stop and watch the coverage before continuing uptown. Others just kept walking, trying vainly to use their cell phones.  Some people were covered in dust, others looked dazed, almost no one spoke.

I remember the television broadcasting an interview with a man who said he was trapped above the fire in one of the towers. He was fine, he said, but they just couldn’t get down. They just needed someone to come get them. Moments later, the tower collapsed.  It’s a strange feeling, being that close to something, only about a mile and a half away, and watching it simultaneously on television.

Once the towers came down, I felt a need to get home. Now. It was a beautiful day – clear skies and warm.  I started the march home with some of my co-workers and as we walked you could see Brooklyn ahead of us so beautiful and calm. Behind us, Lower Manhattan had disappeared into a cloud of smoke.

On the Pulaski

I got home to my place in Brooklyn and climbed on the roof with my roommate and my best friend. We watched the smoke rise up from the city.  I finally spoke to my parents, I drank a lot, and we sat there until it got dark.  A woman I barely knew came over and spent the night.  It was a surreal time and it now feels very, very long ago.

I crossed the Manhattan Bridge again on Sunday at around mile 15 of the run, I was hurting by then and still had a ways to go. I weaved through downtown Brooklyn, back up through Bed Stuy and home, glad the long run, and the anniversary of that horrible day were behind me.

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About seanv2

Scholar, gentleman, jock. I run the website Milo and the Calf. There you will find the Boston Qualifier Questionnaire where runners share their stories of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. You'll also find my thoughts on endurance sports, ancient history, Judaism, and hundreds of book reviews.
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