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Reflecting back to September 11, 2001

POSTED September 11, 2014
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

TORRINGTON: We write a story each September 11 as we recall the events that played out 13-years ago when the world as we know it changed forever.

I never knew anyone who perished that terrible day but feel a terrible sense of loss, a palpable, pit in my stomach kind of loss.

Was watching a show “Voices from inside the Towers” on the History Channel and listening to the people who survived or the families of those who did not talk about their experiences before, during and afterwards the day and their strength is truly remarkable.

As tributes are read at Ground Zero by incredibly strong family members or friends, I can’t help but to flash back to the day itself.

I was still with Frito Lay at the time, working my route in the Danbury area at Deeps Grocery store. It was a brilliant, blue sky Tuesday that had all the markings of a typical day.

The store had a radio station playing above us and even in the restroom, where I was and first heard a traffic report that said it appeared a small plane may have hit one of the World Trade Center towers.

They speculated that maybe it was a traffic plane that got too close and crashed but it was not deemed serious in the first couple of minutes.

I continued to work and made my way from Deeps to a small deli up the road where I was stopped in my tracks as I walked in and saw one of the towers ablaze on a small television in the store.

I, like everybody else who knew of anybody who might be in the area, started to think of which family members might be in or near the trouble zone.

My nephew Jamie Bull had been working on elevators in New York City for several years and was sometimes in Lower Manhattan.

Where was Jamie?

My mother and sister Pat were on the Jersey Shore that week and while the events started to play out with multiple hijackings reported around the country, my first instinct was to get out of Danbury and back home to Torrington to take inventory of where everybody was and make sure the family was all accounted for and safe.

I made a b-line back to our Naugatuck office, dropped my truck off and headed home to Torrington.

My wife Deb was working at Wamogo High School at the time, my daughters were all in school but all I wanted was for the family to get back under one roof.

I got in touch with my mother in Jersey at one point and found out that Jamie was across the river in New Jersey that day working, not in lower Manhattan, a big relief.

Jamie would later send us pictures of the towers burning from across the Hudson River.

By the time I got back home, time was lost on that day so I don’t remember when I got in, both towers had fallen.

You could not help but cry.

My first reaction was, like scores of others, “How could we help?”

I grew up about ninety minutes from the City and always considered it my own. A small town country kid who had the world’s biggest playground just a quick car ride away.

Never had been inside the World Trade Center though. Was not a big fan of heights but loved the view as I crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge on our way to a visit to the city that never sleeps.

In a disaster, blood would be needed for certain, I thought. We could head down and help the Red Cross, because with the amount of victims that the hospitals would be treating, the blood supply would be badly depleted.

We could help search for victims or tend to people as they made their way on foot over the bridges to Jersey or to Connecticut.

That remains one of the most startling images of the day, the exodus of thousands on foot that never seemed to end.

You also didn’t know if the whoever was attacking us was done. Reports streamed in of more missing planes and when word came out that the FAA had grounded all aircrafts in the country, anything in the sky became something that caused fear in your soul.

Not seeing planes the next day or so was one of the strangest sites I’ll always remember. With Bradley Airport just 45-minutes away, the skies are filled with plane trails most days.

It became apparent pretty fast, especially after the towers fell, that there was not going to be much need for blood. Not as many were coming out of the rubble as we had hoped.

We had never seen, in our lifetimes, something so horrific from New York to the Pentagon and on to that field in Pittsburgh.     

Our city, my city, New York, had been attacked and changed forever.

If I felt a profound sense of loss without knowing a single person who died that day, how on earth would anyone who lost a loved one or friend or colleague feel?

Unimaginable. I can’t even grasp how they must have felt and still feel today.

I talk and write about sports for a living.

I honor those brave emergency services personnel, fireman and police by feeling for their families that I will never know, but feel right along with them, even if it’s on a miniscule scale compared to their pain.

We owe it to all of them to take time out of our busy life’s’ to remember the ultimate sacrifices they made, not thinking of themselves at all when they ran inside two burning 100-plus floor buildings, knowing there was a good chance they would not be coming out.

I think about my own granddaughter, Skyy Elizabeth, who at nearly 10 years old, will be learning about September 11, 2001 from the history books, television and the memories of her family.

Later today, I will go to Torrington High School to take some head shots of the Raiders football team, who kick off their 2014 campaign on Friday night at rival Naugatuck.

They were between the ages of 2-4 when the events occurred and have grown up in the post 9-11 era, one that is certainly different and less innocent than that bright, crisp Tuesday morning when the country cried.

Sadness is due on a day like today, it reminds us not to forget, which not I’m sure we could ever, even if we tried.

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