It could have been me on 9/11


Last updated 9/8/2021 at 6:35pm

Steven Schindler

On that morning, lying in my bed in Los Angeles, the phone started ringing. “Turn on the news!” I was 3,000 miles away, but as the saying goes, you can take the kid out of the Bronx, but you can’t take the Bronx out of the kid.

As the horrors unfolded: The second plane. The towering inferno. People jumping. The firefighters running towards the building. The collapses. I began to wonder. Who would die that I knew?

I had too many friends and relatives to count who could be killed. Firefighters, cops, financial execs, chefs, secretaries, subway workers, janitors, ferry boat deck hands. When you grow up in a working class neighborhood all those faces from those grammar school photos take different paths in life.

The phone started ringing again.

“Did you hear? Johnny Collins is missing.” Johnny was first a cop, then transferred to the FDNY to fulfill a childhood dream. He was one of the 343 firefighters who went into the tower and never came out.

“Did you hear? Wally Travers is missing.” Wally “Gator” as we called him was an executive at Cantor Fitzgerald. His office was above where the plane went into the tower. He and 657 co-workers never had a chance.

Then there were more; classmates from high school, and relatives of friends.

Sadly there were the deaths that came months and years later. My cousin, a firefighter, there at Ground Zero for weeks, dead from cancer. My best friend’s brother, who worked on a ferry boat rescuing stranded people on the docks- also dead from cancer.

To this day, I can’t help but wonder where I might have been on that fateful morning, if I hadn’t turned down the job offer of becoming a firefighter for the FDNY in 1979.


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