Compared with the stories of some New Yorkers, my own 9/11 story pales, but it informs everything I write and feel about the tragedy.
That morning, I was midway to Grand Central Terminal on a train speeding along the Hudson when the conductor came on the public-address system and said, “A plane has just hit the World Trade Center.“ And, sure enough, looking straight down the river, there was one of the Twin Towers smoking. Then, a few minutes later, pulling into Grand Central, came another announcement: “You’re not going to believe this, folks, but a plane has just hit the other tower.”
My first thought was: “What floor does Jon Albert work on?” I recalled it as being horrendously high. I had just talked with my friend the previous night. He was on the board of the local Little League, I was a manager. I had coached his son Stephen for several years, and wrote about Jon and his boy in my recent book, Joy in Mudville. In fact, I was coaching his son that month on my “fall ball” team, and his dad was one of my assistants.
Only much later, when I learned the flight paths of the two jetliners, did I realize that as I was hurtling south on the train along the river, at least one of the hijacked planes flew directly overhead. Nearing the city, I might have even heard it.