Freeze column: A final thought on 9/11

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 19, 2011

By David Freeze
for the Salisbury Post
Traveling to New York City has always been exciting to me. Over the years, I have visited quite a few times. There were various reasons, some to do with running, a few for business, and more for pleasure.
Many of those pleasure trips were to see my beloved Yankees play. Such was the case in late August, 2001. One of my many girlfriends and I had been invited to the city and the games by our friend Beth Patterson Masters. Beth is from China Grove, grew up here, then moved to Atlanta and eventually settled in Summit, N.J. She is the daughter of Frank and Norma Patterson, who with Beth’s sisters Carolyn and Susan, all made up a family that remain very important to me. Beth and I are big Yankee fans, and she has been fortunate to have season tickets along with her husband, Kent, and son, Jake, for many years. On this particular trip, Beth also helped us find a great deal on a hotel room. She had a coupon that gave us a very affordable room in an area new to us.
This is where the story really begins. Our flight from Greensboro had us arriving at the Newark airport late on the Friday evening. The flight was delayed, bashing our original plans to catch the last part of the Yankee game that night. On the shuttle ride in from the airport, the driver was listening to the game as he negotiated with tremendous traffic going through tunnels and crowded streets. Amazingly, I remember that Mike Mussina pitched for the Yankees and they won 4-0 in a very important game. Can’t remember who they played though. So we relaxed and were excited that we would soon be at our hotel room after a long day of work and travel.
Our shuttle dropped us off in the financial district of New York City. It was my first time seeing the base of the Twin Towers at night. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Our hotel was the Marriot World Trade Center and was actually in a part of the towers. I found out later that the hotel had been damaged in the original World Trade Center bombing in 1983. Upon entering, we found a beautiful hotel and very nice room. Our view overlooked the street below and the New York City Yacht Club on the East River.
Over the next two days we explored the area. This portion of the city was deserted on the weekends, and most of the shops and restaurants were closed, set to reopen on Monday when the workers returned. It was possible to have a whole block to yourself, something seldom seen in the rest of Manhattan. We both ran some in the area too, and found it beautiful. Best for us were the beautiful views of the East River and Brooklyn on the other side. I ran west to see the Hudson River too. Flowers and shrubbery had room to grow, and we marveled at the huge buildings all around. Most were much newer than those found in other parts of the city. We stood together and marveled at the Towers, the tallest buildings in a city full of tall buildings.
We went to the games, and watched the Yankees win one and lose one. We visited the nearby South Street Seaport and rode the Staten Island Ferry. Our trip home on Sunday night involved a long wait on the tarmac at the airport, but an uneventful flight followed. It had been a good and safe trip. Our lives went back to normal.
Beth Masters was with her husband in the World Trade Center area celebrating her birthday on 9/11. She saw the second plane hit the tower, and was among the spectators who ran for their lives as the buildings collapsed. She lost sight of Kent as they ran, but they found each other on the way to the ferry near the South Street Seaport. Authorities were closing the island of Manhattan, just as they left on the last ferry back to New Jersey where their son waited at home. Many of her neighbors died that day in the tragedy.
On that day, like many Americans I couldn’t look away from the TV. I recognized many landmarks in the area, and felt connected to the many workers who suffered and died that day in the terrible tragedy. Since then, I have followed the building of the memorial to those who perished, and have visited the area multiple times since.
It was the day that changed America forever. We were both glad to have had our time in the area. I hope that America never forgets. I know that I will not.