By Aram Arkun
NEW YORK — I got up late that day and was taking the express bus to work in midtown Manhattan from Forest Hills in Queens. When the first plane crashed into the North Tower (Building One) of the World Trade Center (WTC), nobody knew what had happened. We thought it might be an accident. We saw the second crash from a distance and realized that it had to be much more than an accident. One person had a radio and searched for news. As we approached the Midtown Tunnel, the bus was stopped and made to turn around by the authorities. Manhattan was being isolated and all traffic into the heart of the city was halted. This was unprecedented and we began to worry about the scale of the danger taking place. Some became scared of what might happen next. On the trip back, we could see the smoke billowing from the towers, and the collapse of the South Tower of the WTC. When I eventually made it back home, my wife, who at that time was not working, was in tears, not knowing what had happened to me. Her sister-in-law had called from Moscow, saying she heard that buildings were collapsing in New York, and asked how we were. I rushed to the television to see the footage of the collapse and learn more about what was going on.
That day of attacks on civilians on American soil became unforgettable for me, though my own experience was not as immediate as that of many others. A feeling of inviolability was lost. While heavily armed soldiers or national guardsmen guarded strategic points in the city, I was shaken to see, for the first time in my life, armored vehicles in Manhattan. Makeshift memorials throughout the city added poignancy to the air of New York already laden with the dust of the remnants of the WTC. That dust hung heavy in the air for several years.
For most Americans, and most particularly for New Yorkers and Washingtonians, 9/11 turned into a defining event indelibly engraved on people’s psyches. Everybody can say where they were that day and can tell a story of his own. Novelist and critic Peter Sourian compares it in this sense with the Kennedy assassination. Armenian-Americans, like all other Americans, were a part of this. Some were victims, others survivors and the rest witnesses of one sort or another. A number of Armenian- Americans individually or through their institutions have or are contributing to the understanding and legacy of 9/11. This article can only present a few examples from this ongoing story and will not attempt to discuss the Armenians who were killed in the attacks.
Survivor Jon Simonian
I worked at the Hartford Steam Boiler insurance Company, whose New York offices were on the 30th floor of World Trade Center Building Two. That morning, I got to work about 8 a.m. My normal routine was subway, pick up a newspaper, coffee and hard roll and start the work day.