It was a gorgeous morning in Easton as I climbed the stairs to the office of our family restaurant, General Taunkis to set up the cash register for lunch service. We were five months into the first year of being open and business was booming. My husband, Matt and I managed every other lunch service to avoid both of us doing “doubles” every day. On September 11, 2001 both my father-in-law and sixteen year old daughter were sitting at desks on their laptops. I was counting the drawer when John, my father-in-law, commented that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center.
I was shocked but not worried as my aunt had worked in the World Trade Center in the 1980s and had been extensively trained in emergency evacuation procedures, the drills promised that everything and everyone would be fine. My aunt was at work the day an Argentina airliner was guided away after radar signals indicated that it was on a collision course with the North Tower. She became adept at walking down many flights of stairs during her employment at The World Trade Center.
When visiting my aunt in New York City at her office, we’d eat lunch at The Skydive Restaurant, the cafeteria for World Trade Center office workers. It was on the 44th floor and rivaled The Chart House and The Royal Hawaiian Hotel’s Sunday brunch in its beautifully arranged food choices.
The idea of a World Trade Center was first proposed in 1943, but plans were put on hold until 1949. To help stimulate growth and urban renewal in lower Manhattan, David Rockefeller suggested that the Port Authority build a World Trade Center there. The Port Authority announced the selection of Minouru Yamasaki as lead architect on the project. Yamasaki’s original vision was twin tower like boxes, each 80 stories tall. As an interstate agency, the Port Authority was not subject to the local laws and regulations of the City of New York, including building codes, however, the building’s structural engineers chose to follow New York City’s 1968 building codes. The ribbon cutting ceremony took place on April 4, 1973.
During its existence, the World Trade Center symbolized globalization and economic power in America. The Twin Towers became an icon of New York City. According to one estimate, the World Trade Center was depicted in 472 movies. It was always a thrill to catch sight of the towers when driving north on the New Jersey Turnpike, elegant silver slabs, larger than anything else on the horizon.
General Tanukis didn’t have televisions in 2001. At 9:59, I was on the phone with my husband, Matt and he relayed the events as they happened; the moment the first tower fell. It was truly tragic and unbelievable, very strange to hear, not see the devastation. It was a little before midnight that I finally watched the reel of events of the day on tv.
It was early in Wyoming when I called my Mom, she was sitting in her kitchen drinking her coffee and had no idea that the World Trade Center had been attacked. Having lived through World War Two, she was concerned that the entire East Coast was being attacked. We reminisced about not enjoying the elevator ride to the top of the World Trade Center when we visited with my children years before.
My eldest son, an editor at The Washington Times newspaper was hard at work. The headline on that day was the word INFAMY with a photo of the towers falling.
Communication became more difficult as the cell phone network was rapidly overloaded. I was relieved to finally speak to my eldest daughter in Chesapeake City and my youngest son in Cambridge, both were safe but incredulous. They had been at work and hadn’t seen the footage of the events of the morning.
We decided to open for dinner and were surprised at the number of people who ventured out. The atmosphere amongst our guests was one of grief and disbelief. For months after, people seemed to be more patriotic and kind. Most cars had an American flag sticker on their rear window. A couple of trucks in Dorchester County had large American flags anchored to the cab, flapping in the wind. As Americans, we promised to “Never Forget” but life goes on, most of us remember every year, now twenty two years later.
Kate Emery General is a retired chef/restaurant owner that was born and raised in Casper, Wyoming. Kate loves her grandchildren, knitting and watercolor painting. Kate and her husband , Matt are longtime residents of Cambridge’s West End where they enjoy swimming and bicycling.