Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sept. 11--Joe Calendrillo's Story

I received the following from Joe Calendrillo, Linda's cousin and the son of Michael Calendrillo who I've written about before at my Lightning and Ashes blog.

Joe read my post on "Sept. 11--The Short View" and wanted to tell me what that day meant to him.

Here's what he wrote: 

That was a day that is ingrained in my memory. Only a handful of us made it into the office that day, and when you work in Television, a "skeleton" staff on a day when the whole Nation is tuning into News coverage is not a good thing. 

We were on the air 96 hours straight with 9/11 attacks coverage, and those of us who made it into the Operations office that morning went non-stop until about 10pm that evening, when some of our overnight staff came in early to relieve us. A few of us went over to the Empire Hotel, where our Comapny had secured a few rooms for us, as the City was on lock down. Some of my co-workers just went right to their rooms and fell into bed. 

I was amazed at how eerie the City that never sleeps was that night, on Broadway no less.  It was a ghost town at 10pm. No one in the steets, no one on the roads, just emptiness. We walked the 4 blocks in silence, exhausted from the constant answering of phones in the office from co -workers, producers, directors, etc....

When we arrived at the Hotel, I had to have a drink at the bar. I walked into their big bar area, attached to a Steak house in the Hotel. There were people just sitting at the bar, staring at the big screens, who of course had the News coverage on. At least it was ABC so I felt vindicated, as if our hard work paid off!! No one uttered a word, except " Barkeep, I'll have another..." All you heard was the sound of ice clinking in a glass, or beer bottles being opened. It was surreal. I had a drink, a double actually, and a short while later, fell into bed in my room. Awoke very early the next morning, showered, and went right back to work again. 

This morning, 11 years later, I was on the express bus on the way in to work, and I thought back to that horrible day, and the weather today was EXACTLY like it was on 9/11/01. A beautiful, dry, clear day, bright blue sky. My bus drives right past the site of the old WTC and the new Freedom Tower that is almost completed, in that very same spot. 

This morning, I thought back to all the different phases I've seen that area go through the past 11 years. I said a quick prayer for all those lost on that day, at that site, as well as the others, and it made me realize how fortunate I am. Everyone knew someone who perished that day, either in the buildings, or Fire fighters who were killed trying to save them, but this City never once folded under the stress of the attacks. Maybe it's that New York "attitude" but, the City is still standing strong, somehow!! 

That next night after work, Sept 12th, I remember my sister Lisa and I taking the subway into Brooklyn, it was the only way out of Manhattan, the buses were not running, nor was the ferry, so we had to take the subway to Bay Ridge and catch a local bus to Staten Island. My Dad was at my house, with my wife and my two sons, waiting for us to arrive so he could drive Lisa home. When we walked in, there were lots of hugs, a few tears of relief, or exhaustion maybe. 

Then Dad said something I won't forget, he simply said..." People always wanted to know what War was like, well, now they know...." 

That morning of 9/11, for what it's worth, I had just gotten past the WTC buildings right before the planes hit, and was on my way uptown, not knowing anything until I got close to the office and heard people in the streets speaking about what had transpired. Sorry for the long e-mail John, it's still so fresh in my memory 11 years later.

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