“I Am Okay” Email Correspondence on 9/11/01
On September 11, 2001, Bob Meadows, Jr. ’93 was working in New York City when terror struck. That day, and during the days that followed, he emailed friends and contacts at the College with updates. Today, as we remember the day that changed history, he has given us permission to reprint that email correspondence.
Subject: I AM OKAY
Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2001, 1:12 p.m.
I'm still here in my midtown office, but am fine. Both of my brothers (NYPD) were not on duty at the time of the terrorist attacks.
I will probably be here for quite a while—no phones working well, so email is best contact.
Spent a while under my desk—there was a bomb threat across the street at Grand Central Station, which is what my office window overlooks.
Gotta admit, I am pretty scared by all this.
Be well, and keep your fingers crossed.
Bob Meadows Jr.
Subject: I AM OKAY—DAY TWO
Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2001, 11:06 a.m.
Good morning from Manhattan.
I worked until 2:30 a.m., coordinating live feedpoints for my Canadian clients. I had a few minutes to walk last night, and the streets were nearly deserted. Salt trucks block main intersections, police are at the corners, and barricades exist. I began walking west so I could look all the way downtown . . . halfway there, I decided that I did not want to see what was no longer there.
My brother Brian is at JFK airport. Chris is guarding a mosque in Queens. My uncle, who lives six blocks from the World Trade Center, heard the first jet pass overhead, looked out the window, and saw it slam into the first tower. He was able to get my aunt and cousin, and leave the city. My girlfriend Crissi was out on Fifth Avenue around 17th Street, and saw the fireball as the next jet hit the second tower. My mother, who works out on Long Island, saw two F-16 jets buzz low overhead, rattling everything. Military aircraft have been flying overhead since yesterday afternoon. This is America—we are not supposed to see these things. Everything is still very surreal.
I slept for four hours in a hotel across the street, and I will leave for a bit shortly to find an open store to buy some clean clothes. We already had a bomb scare this morning on the corner by our office building—thankfully, it was a false alarm. Even before we knew it was a false alarm, nobody from our skeleton crew left the office—we have work to do.
I don’t know when I will get to go home. I may just sleep at my desk tonight—if I leave Manhattan, I doubt that I can find a path back in.
President Bush was correct in his speech last night—this is the darkest day in American history, but it is the chance for us as Americans to show what we are capable of. I caught a few minutes of the news this morning, and was strengthened by the people heading to hospitals to give blood, union members and ironworkers volunteering en masse to dig and look for survivors, and the effort that civilians are putting forth to help people that they do not even know. As one person put it, “if we can find one person alive, it is worth it.” These are Americans helping Americans, and it makes me proud.
So continue to keep your fingers crossed for everyone. It is going to be a long road, but together we can make it.
Thank you for your support—and I hope that all of you are not missing anyone in this tragedy.
Subject: I AM OKAY—DAY THREE
Sent: Thursday, September 13, 2001, 8:56 a.m.
The sun has risen again over the new Manhattan skyline.
Another short night at the Hyatt across the street, between Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building, two major landmarks in the city. Thankfully, my window did not look south over the destruction.
I was up at 2:30 this morning, took a quick shower, and back to the office by 3:00. I’ve been coordinating information, and trying to find where our satellite trucks can re-enter Manhattan.
NYC is still closed below 14th Street, and there are still constant sirens in the streets below. I did not bother watching the news last night—it’s all the same. I turned it on this morning to see the picture on the front of the New York Post—firemen raising a flag at the site where the Twin Towers once stood. The black and white photo was eerily similar to the image of the flag being raised at Iwo Jima.
I may be getting a duffle bag of clean clothes today from my girlfriend, although I have urged her if possible to avoid coming into New York City. Better safe than sorry. She was able to get into my apartment to change the outgoing message on my answering machine, and to delete the fifteen or so messages that all basically asked if I were alive.
Today is another day, and Americans are showing how resilient we are.
Hopefully everyone has their friends and family all accounted for. One friend has a cousin missing—a fire chief who was on site. Another friend's wife was speaking to a colleague in the WTC when the line went dead as the first jet hit. Other colleagues that we deal with based in Verizon's WTC office are missing.
Again, keep your fingers crossed.
Subject: I AM OKAY—DAY FOUR
Sent: Friday, September 14, 2001, 10:13 a.m.
It’s raining this morning, almost like the heavens themselves weep over the city of New York. I was able to get a solid eight hours of sleep last night at the hotel—a good thing, as President Bush is due in Manhattan today and that could make for another active day. I spoke with my girlfriend Crissi this morning . . . she was on a train heading into NYC, and I told her that with the President here today that I would feel safer with her being at home. I hope she decided to get off at the next stop and head back.
Yesterday was a draining day. I walked down to Penn Station, as there were no running subways south of 42nd Street. There was concern that the rumbling of subways could cause additional collapses of the weakened buildings downtown. Crissi brought me a duffle bag with some clean clothes, and a framed picture I had in my apartment of my two brothers in their NYPD uniforms. I wanted that with me here in my office. It was great to see her, and I had the chance to sit down for a quick breakfast and decompress a little.
When I came back to the office, I hung a large American flag in my window, which made me feel a little better. I was able to nap under my desk for about an hour and a half, as I was simply drained.
I was able to read a little bit—so many different things were going on. One report mentioned that Osama bin Laden had been trained years ago by the United States, and I thought that America must feel like Dr. Frankenstein once the monster that he created turned on him.
I also heard the reports that some of the passengers of the hijacked plane that crashed in Pittsburgh had been in contact with their families via cell phones, and were told about the attacks on the World Trade Center. These passengers decided not to go meekly like lambs to the slaughter—they banded together and fought the terrorists inside the plane, most certainly saving Washington DC from another attack. Simply put, it was a bunch of ordinary Americans doing the extraordinary.
Four of us from the office were actually able to leave last night for a late dinner, our first chance to actually sit down outside of work. We raised our glasses in honor of those lost or missing. Later, during that meal, we saw an 18-wheeler flatbed truck carrying stacks of empty body bags—another indicator of the grim situation.
So that’s where I stand this morning—ready for another day. Hope balanced on one side as they continue to look for survivors, fear on the other side knowing the risk for more attacks when President Bush visits.
Again, keep your fingers crossed—you all know that I am doing just that.
Subject: I AM OKAY—AND HOME
Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2001 23:12:21 -0400
Friday was the first day since the attacks that there was not a bomb threat anywhere near my office building. There was a feel of tension in the air though, just knowing that the President was in the city and that anything could happen. I actually thought that there was another explosion when I heard—and felt—a deep rumbling, but it was just the fighter jets patrolling over Manhattan.
By the end of the workday, things were winding down—enough that I could think about leaving the city and heading back to my apartment on Long Island. At 7:00 p.m. I looked out of my office window, and saw all of the people lining 42nd Street with their candles. Shortly thereafter, my director started yelling from his office next door to open the window, and I dreaded what the urgency in his voice could be for. But when I did get the window open, I heard something. Singing.
The people lining the streets were singing. I caught the last few words of “The Star Spangled Banner,” and heard the applause rolling down the street. All that I could do was cheer from my office and cry a little more. I walked into my boss’s office, and he was crying, too. Through our open windows, we could now hear the crowd singing “God Bless America.”
Ever since about an hour after the attack, my company had an open phone bridge between our main offices in New York, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Miami, Staten Island, and the occasional connection with London or Paris. This was a necessity, as I work for GlobeCast (the world’s leading provider of transmission and production services to the broadcast industry) and we needed our sales office linked up to our teleports and booking centers around the clock. My boss punched the conference call onto his speakerphone and proudly announced that what they were now hearing was the sound of New Yorkers singing. As I watched from the window, a line of police motorcycles passed by, followed by a line of police cars, then a long group of black trucks, and then more police cars and motorcycles. I am unsure if it was President Bush’s motorcade or one of the decoys, but if it was the real thing, I can only imagine his pride for what he was seeing and hearing. It was to these sounds that I was finally able to pack up my laptop computer and duffle bag, and finally leave the office for home.
By the time I got to the street the singing had ended, but there were still candles everywhere. I walked along 42nd Street and came across Bryant Park on Sixth Avenue. All along the steps to the park were candles. It was a bit of a windy night, but it meant nothing. As soon as candles were blown out, passersby would stop and relight them . . . not allowing our flames or hopes to darken. But one thing had darkened. I looked up and, for the first time, saw that the top of the Empire State Building was unlit. It was almost as if the building itself mourned for the loss of her two sisters downtown.
Once at Penn Station, I boarded my train and headed eastward. As we came out of the tunnel, I was able to see the south end of the city for the first time—the large gap in the buildings filled only by smoke. Seeing that emptiness with my own eyes hurt more than you could imagine.
And, for the first time since the disaster, I was able to step into my own apartment. I poured a drink, sat on the couch with my arm around Crissi, and did my best to relax. After a while I was able to unwind a bit . . . and then, I was able to finally sleep—finally, in my own bed.
Thank you all for helping me to keep going forward. This week has filled me with sorrow, but I am so proud to not only be a New Yorker, but proud to be an American.
Don’t uncross your fingers.