BY ANAYA VANCE
Eighteen years ago, the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, was the day the U.S. was attacked by terrorists. The crashing of four hijacked planes resulted in significant damage to the Pentagon and the collapse of Towers One and Two at the World Trade Center.
Terror and confusion filled the people of New York that day. One of those people was Sacred Heart professor Christopher York of the Management Department. What he thought was going to be a beautiful summer day in September turned out to be one of the most horrific in our nation’s history.
“At the time my wife Marilyn and I had just put our daughter Sarah on the school bus in Battery Park City, right across from the World Trade Center. As we got back to our apartment, we heard a noise coming from the Trade Center property, and we found out a plane crashed into the North Tower,” said York.
Initially the press presumed that the crash had been accidental, but those assumptions were soon proven wrong.
“I took my video camera up to the top of our building to see what was going on,” said York, “and as I was recording, I heard this loud roar and, lo’ and behold, another plane flew right over my head, bearing towards the South Tower, and that was when we decided that this had to have been an act of terrorism.”
York’s wife hurried to get their daughter from school and bring her back, but another turn of events had occurred.
“Just as she and her client were passing the South Tower, it started to collapse. She thought she was going to be buried from the collapse of the building, but her client pulled her away.”
Marilyn and her client had covered themselves with their jackets, laid flat on the floor and waited it out.
“The building had collapsed straight down and crushed everything that was in it and grounded up into a fine powder.”
Following the collapse of the South Tower, the North Tower went down as well.
“The attack essentially eliminated our entire neighborhood.”
As Professor York was waiting for Marilyn and Sarah to return, he was ordered by a firefighter to evacuate Battery Park City.
“They had no plan to evacuate us. They just needed to get us out of the building. By the side of the Hudson River, hundreds of small boats and working harbor crafts gathered around the edge of the lower arena. People jumped onto the boats, nearly breaking their legs.”
When he got onto a boat, they were taking all of the refugees to Liberty Park, NJ. Fearful for the safety of his wife and child, York was also terrified by the possibility of there being another attack as the boats crept across the Hudson River toward safety.
“We were taken to a military base by New Jersey’s national guard and were constantly being moved to make room for more refugees. I got moved to about three bases in New Jersey and we were told there was no way back into Manhattan because everything was closed down and damaged.
“As I got to the third base one of the most miraculous things happened: I suddenly heard my name called by one of my neighbors in this mass of humanity, and she’s yelling at me, ‘Marilyn and Sarah are okay.’ And that’s all she needed to say.”
Fortunately for York, he was able to reunite with his family, but thousands of other people were not so lucky.
For those who did and did not survive the tragedy, Sacred Heart University’s Chapel of the Holy Spirit hosts an annual Remembrance Ceremony. Fr. Ed Stewart of Campus Ministry said, “We will remember all those who died on 9/11, as well as their surviving loved ones. I think it’s an important thing to call to mind a tragic moment in our history and to remember those who are no longer with us.”