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Terror Outside Our Window

Please forgive us if we at TWICE take a pause from our usual coverage of the trade to reflect upon the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. TWICE joins with all Americans and all people of goodwill everywhere to send our heartfelt prayers and condolences to the victims and their families of the terrorist attacks against our country. Our prayers and admiration also go to the many rescue workers, health care workers and volunteers who have struggled to find and heal survivors who are in the rubble.

Like all Americans we at TWICE will never forget that day. Tragically, a few of us at TWICE saw the disaster firsthand from our office windows on the 11th floor of 245 West 17th Street.

At the end of a brief meeting with TWICE’s publisher Marcia Grand, she gave me a New York tour guide she picked up at LaGuardia Airport when she returned from the CEDIA show. She pointed out that J&R Music World, located on Park Row a few blocks away from the World Trade Center was part of the “Shopping Express” tour. “Maybe we could call them and do something with this,” she said.

I got back to my desk with the guide in my hand and heard the phone ring. While my mom was on the phone, frantically telling me that a plane crashed into the World Trade Center, I simultaneously heard screams from the front of TWICE’s offices.

I scrambled to the front of our floor, which faces the southern tip of Manhattan, with several TWICE staffers. What we saw was shocking: A large plume of black smoke engulfing the World Trade Center’s North Tower, the one closest to us, around three miles away. We turned on an office radio to hear what was going on. I can’t remember if any of us huddled around our office windows uttered the words “terrorist attack” out loud after we saw the giant hole in the North tower. We all hoped, like probably many watching the catastrophe on TV, that it was a horrible accident.

At that point senior editor Joe Palenchar got out of the elevator, went to the window and told us that he saw and heard a large jet flying too low over Seventh Avenue as he reached West 17th Street. As the minutes ticked by managing editor John Laposky asked for one of our digital cameras to take pictures of the astounding scene. I ran back to my office, gave him the camera, and then tried to log onto the Web to get more information.

Those few brief minutes before the second 767 hit the World Trade Center’s South tower turned out to be the last of a bygone era, a time when Americans felt safe from foreign invaders and thought this country was invincible to an attack on our own soil.

While I struggled to get onto the CNN or AP Web sites for any information, I heard screaming and yelling that was worse than before. I ran to the window again only to have just about all of my colleagues explaining to me all at once the horrifying thing they had just witnessed. A second 767 hit the South tower and a large plume of orange and black smoke was bursting from the building. As we gaped at the scene there was screaming, yelling and confusion on the 11th floor.

Some of us yelled, “How can they put out the fires? How can they evacuate the buildings? Look at the debris falling off the buildings?” Ironically minutes later one of us blurted out, “If they can’t rebuild them, how do you knock buildings like that down?” Within an hour and a half that question was moot. The inconceivable happened. First one tower collapsed, then the other, killing and injuring thousands of innocent people. Waves of shock, rage, anger, fear and numbness mixed with sobbing and tears. Some wondered about loved ones that worked near the area and tried to call to find out if anyone they knew was in harm’s way.

As the country tries to find more survivors, heal the injured, bury the dead and begin to rebuild, one has to agree that this is not only a new century, but also a new era. “Everything has changed,” many have said in the media. You probably heard that sentiment echoed by friends and family.

And that assessment is probably true. The enemies of liberty, freedom and free enterprise are not just rogue nations but powerful groups that live in the shadows of human society. The challenge for us will be how to deal with the new order. We will have to change airline and airport security, probably endure frequent ID checks when traveling cross-country or cross-town, and probably make many other sacrifices too numerous to mention.

But if we allow those dark powers in the shadows, which abhor freedom and liberty, to strike fear in our hearts, change our way of life, change the way we do business, then they will have won a complete victory over us.

In the coming days and weeks, as we all try to achieve some sense of normalcy in our everyday lives, we must all fight back the only way many of us can, by getting back to work and getting back to the business of living. If we don’t do that, we will lose the bright promise of the 21st century and the victims of these attacks will have died in vain.