Michael Sylvia, Brooklyn, N.Y. (New London native)
Feeling great on such a beautiful day, I looked at my cell phone at 8:36 and decided to walk along the Hudson River instead of going through the World Trade Center to get to work in Tribeca.
The New York City skyline spread out before me in all its glory. I could only think of how proud my mother would have been of me at that moment - even though I never really knew her. Eula Faye Crocker Sylvia was a junior high Spanish teacher in Mystic who dreamed furthering her education, living in New York and becoming a translator at the UN. She was 23 years old when she died 2 months after giving birth to me. But I inherited her gift for languages and experiencing the world - the week before I had my first class in the New School’s Graduate Program in International Affairs. After my first class, I walked all the way home from the Village staring up at the Twin Towers and admiring the huge painting of Rio de Janeiro.
I’m convinced she was the angel on my shoulder that day.
A loud, low-flying plane -- or maybe it was cigarette boat from the races on the Husdon over the weekend - shook me from my reverie. It wasn’t until I started to walk back toward the West Side Highway at Chambers Street that I saw people pointing and looking up. When I saw the hole in the side of the north tower, the frustrated photo-journalist in me ran into a deli and bought a disposable camera. As I ran closer knowing I was documenting history, I called my family back in Connecticut to tell them I was okay. When I spoke to my aunt in Taftville, it hadn’t made the news yet.
I remember seeing someone in the flaming, smoking hole fall out of the building. The smoke smearing across the sky. The first First Responders showing up at the scene. After the second plane hit and a woman yelled, “They’re dive-bombing us!” I decided that Lower Manhattan needed one less person freaking out, and my office would be the best place to go in an emergency. It was from there that we watched the towers fall and the dust cloud rush up Church Street.
A friend from work who lived near Gramercy Park invited those of us who couldn’t get back to our apartments in Battery Park City over to his place. We waited and watched together.
When the trains started running again, I made my way back to the little studio I still rented on Tilley Street. My friends were worried about my PTSD -- I ducked and flinched every time a Harley passed or a train went by. My friends stayed with me, my mother’s family supported me.
A week later, when work asked for volunteers to go back to work for the City of New York, I didn’t hesitate. For the next two week while Battery Park City was unlivable, I stayed on a friend’s couch in Jersey City.
After 10 years of living in New York, it never ceases to astound me that I’m still here. I was able to channel my experiences into my studies and visited Brazil and Africa. I paid more attention to my family, especially my cousins and their children. I’ve got a successful career as an IT professional with the City. And I did it all because if I didn’t give this City my best after the disaster, the terrorists would have won.