To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.
--- George Orwell
Saturday, September 11, 2021
Tens of thousands of stunned, dust-covered office workers surged over the Brooklyn Bridge toward me, the devastated skyline at their backs. It was midmorning, September 11, 2001. The second World Trade Center tower had collapsed 20 minutes before; New York’s two tallest buildings reduced to rubble. I had heard on the radio that as many as six other planes had been hijacked. This later proved untrue. But at that moment, no one knew what might come next.
At 10:45 that morning, City Hall Park was dusted with four inches of ash. Clouds of smoke and dust choked the streets off lower Broadway. A couple of loud “BA-BOOMS” shook the air—exploding ordnance in the arsenal that the U.S. Secret Service kept in its World Trade Center bunker, I learned later. As I stood dumbstruck across from the Woolworth Building on Broadway, a maniacal, motley-clad man in his 30s came out of the clouds. Pushing a cart loaded with bottles of drinking water, he looked like an extra from the film “Mad Max.” He had pulled a red T shirt over his face, completely obscuring it, and was wearing a pair of outsized aviator glasses. I asked him where the Red Cross was and where volunteers should report. “Just pick up some water and give it out,” he shouted, handing me some water bottles and a paper facemask. “God bless you, sir,” he said over his shoulder as he disappeared into the smoke. “God bless you.”
We passed the Federal Reserve Bank, home to a few billion dollars in U.S. gold reserves. There, the acrid fog was so thick we literally bumped into a phalanx of guards with assault weapons at the ready. The adrenaline level was very high all around.