Fond Memories and the Pain of Reality
by Joe Roche
A Submarine Veteran's forum posting after the 9/11 attack.
It’s been twenty six years since I walked out of 2 World Trade Center for the last time. After twenty one years with them I had just handed in my resignation to my boss at the New York Telephone Company to start my own wiring company.

Looking back to those days for the first time since September 11, 2001, I try to get a feel for what it was like then, so long ago. My memories of working in the “Trade Center” are fond ones. The towers were just so immense as if to defy description. Unless you were familiar with the structures they remain unbelievably huge and seemingly un-navigable.

I remember the hole in the ground, (six stories deep) when they were digging the foundation - wondering just what was going into that massive hole. Ten years later I was working in one of the buildings that helped fill that hole; 2WTC. We referred to all the buildings in the complex as the “Trade Center”.

Fast forward 13 years…

My last two years in that complex were good years. I would enter the city from Hoboken, via the PATH subway. I remember the doors of the cars opening as we entered into the WTC stop when hundreds of people would exit the subway cars heading for the escalators that took us to the lower level.

I remember the newsstand where everyone would buy their lottery tickets and the bar on the other side of the escalators, sort of hidden, that some guys would rush into for an eye opener before they got to work to face the pressures of the market - or whatever demons they had to deal with. Then like a herd of cattle, thousands of people would board one of the twenty or so escalators that rose out of the bowels of the lower level some 150 to 200 feet to the concourse level.

I remember mornings looking at all of us on the rising staircases; awed by all the people that went through this building during the morning rush hours and wondering how many people traveled through the buildings in a day. I believe more people transited this complex than many cities had people.

The main concourse was a self-contained city in itself. I remember having my shoes repaired at Dragos’ shoe repair shop; the banks; the clothing shops; the florists; the Marketplace Gourmet take out deli; and the bars. But mostly I remember the people; commuters coming in on the subways from Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens.

The E & F subway’s pulled almost into the WTC lobby. People walked up from the Staten Island Ferry and rushed in all directions, because they were late - or rushed just to keep up with everyone else. Because, that’s what people do in New York City... rush.

I remember the people I worked with installing and testing the telephone system for the new Commodities Exchange going in on the 7th and 8th floors of 4 WTC. It was a very big job. I spent two years testing circuits for New York Telephone to turn over to American Satellite, a small communications company not unlike MCI, on the 110th floor just below the roof of 2 WTC - which was four floors above the rentable spaces. I remember riding a freight elevator down three floors to the observation deck on a beautiful morning - just to look out over this wonderful city that New York is - to be able to see Brooklyn and Long Island Sound to the east, and northern Manhattan and the Ramapo mountains in Jersey to the west.

I remember watching as our five foot test cords swung back and forth against our test frame during high winds as the building swayed to and fro. The buildings were supposedly built to sway 8 to10 feet either side of center or maybe more. I believed it after watching those test cords moving back and forth. I was satisfied just knowing that fact and not to have seen it first hand from the observation deck.

On a very windy day - if the elevators weren’t slowed down - they would bang the sides of the shafts as they plummeted from the 106th floor to the SkyLobby on the 77th floor. Then the trip from 77 to ground level would also scare the hell out of you. By the time you returned from lunch they would have slowed the cars to a slow climb and descent, thereby guaranteeing a smoother less frightening ride which lessened the risk of anyone hurling their lunch.

Years later my oldest son followed me into 2 WTC. He was working for a brokerage firm on the 92nd floor and had been in the building during the 1993 terrorist attack. I am very thankful that he was working for a different company in a different building (1 Liberty Plaza, just across the street from 2WTC) the day of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He lost many friends on 9/11 that were still working for the company he left.

One late summer evening our entire family celebrated my oldest son's 40th. birthday at an Italian Restaurant on Hudson and Chambers St. called Acapella - just a few blocks north of 1 WTC. I vividly remember standing outside the restaurant after dinner with my grandson that evening and pointing to the WTC complex and telling him both his dad and I worked in that building at the same time and I use to go down to his floor from my perch on the 110th floor to see him in action on the Over The Counter desk. My grandson thought that was pretty cool.

Four days later the Towers came down and the world as we knew it changed forever.