Eight Years…

This song tells the based-on-truth story of someone who was saved from the Sbarro’s bombing on August 9th 2001. Then, after his return to New York, he missed work a month later to stay with someone while their father underwent surgery — thereby missing work that Tuesday morning at Cantor Fitzgerald, in the World Trade Center, in One World Trade Center, somewhere between floors 101 and 105.

Composed by Yitzy Waldner, lyrics by Chanale, sung by Michoel Pruzansky.
Video created and produced by Yossi Green.

It has become a custom on scjm for me to repost, with comments, my first email after my experiences of that day. I thought I would share it here was well.


This post reminds me why I keep at with with Avodah/Areivim and scjm. People from around the globe were personally impacted by my fate, were scared over a rumor flying around that I was ill because of the attack.

Ironically, I may have been. Not then. The following year.

On Oct 15th, 2002, I was laid off from the job I had on 9/11.

The following Monday night, my daughter plunked herself down to watch TV. On my foot. An hour later the pain in my toe was still unbearable, so we went to the ER. The ER doctor, taped my toe (which it turns out broke easily because the bone in it was never fully formed), and then told me that that lump on the side of my neck should be seen by a doctor. Tomorrow. Well, with that kind of ominous warning, I went. A mere 6 days after losing my job I found out I had lymphoma. It was caught very early, stage 1.

They couldn’t diagnose right away which form of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma it was. Both T and B cells were involved, and the B cells were both “large” and “small”. It took a while to decide on treatment. However, thank G-d and ba”H I marked 6 years of being in remission.

Notice that not only were the seeds for my recovery planted by my Maker before my birth (when He blessed me with that defective toe), He also arranged for me to be on a severance package rather than having to go to work during most of this period. The Almighty had the burden I was to carry exactly measured out.

This particular kind of lymphoma was since found in only two other people, both of whom word in “the pile” the weeks after 9/11. NYPD Sgt Michael Ryan, who was two years younger than me, died Nov 19th 2007. And Lt Brian Ellicott, two years older, died 10 days later. Hashem yiqom damam.

In December 2007, NYC started studying what might be this “third wave” of WTC related illnesses.

There but for having a malformed “pinky toe” that my daughter “just happened” to fall on and break…

Tir’u baTov!

Two apologies.

Because of recent events, my internet access is flakey. I may lose track of a number of conversations that I have been participating in.

Second, a number of you remembered that I work in downtown Manhattan. There was a rumor circulating in my neighborhood and around the AishDas email lists that I was G-d forbid in critical condition. So I got back to dozens of phone calls and hundreds of worried emails. I am simply unable to keep up with it. Particularly since I’m relying on an email connection that keeps on dropping out mid-email transmission.

I summed up my experiences in an email that I sent out to the email list that I run. Pardon my laziness in just reposting it here.

I really am touched by everyone’s concern, and feel quite badly at being unable to do better than this “form letter”.


[Someone wrote to that list:]

I just got off the phone with Mrs Micha (Siggy) Berger.

She told me that Micha, who works seven blocks from the WTC was evacuated immediately, but did suffer from some smoke inhalation and was treated briefly at Bellevue….

Actually, she said I went to Bellevue. But I went to give blood and help out. I wasn’t a patient there.

As for my smoke inhalation… I have a small cough. Because it started half a day after breathing smoke, concrete dust and asbestos for a couple hours, I went to a pulmenologist today. Otherwise it’d be the kind of cold none of us would think twice about. He put me on an over-the-counter expectorant to help me get rid of the shmutz. That’s it, folks. Don’t let your fears run away with you. (Although I found everyone’s concern quite touching.)

Since I ought to get the whole day off my chest (pun intended), here’s how it went:

The commute was as usual. I took the PATH into WTC, and walked Yoel Dukelsky to 2 WTC. (I was worried about HIM yesterday. B”H he left the 86th fl when 1 WTC was hit, and immediately headed down. He was on the 44th floor when 2 WTC was hit, B”H the flying glass missed him. When 2 WTC collapsed, he was already on Hudson St.)

I got to work, caught up on my email, and the building shook. Mind you we’re 1/4 mile to the south of the crash. And yet I felt the shock of the impact. I figured it was construction within the building, and kept on working. Siggy (my holier half) called about the 1st crash.

My co workers and I saw the 2nd crash, just when word came to evacuate the building. Our building is the southernmost one in Manhattan, barring the 1 floor Staten Island Ferry Terminal. It was therefore deemed an easy target. My brother, for example, was told to remain in his office until the air cleared.

My co workers and I milled around outside the building, trying to find people who brought radios. I said some tehillim. The flag at Battery Park was lowered to half-mast.

US Air Force planes flew overhead. We didn’t realize at first whose plane it was, so people started running. About this time, smoke and debris reached us.

I got separated from all but one co worker, a Chinese guy with a week command of English. I think he hung around me because he relied on my command of the language to understand what was going on.

We followed police instructions to go to the FDR. By this point, you had to walk watching the sky for falling metal. The air was thick, visibility was poor. I took off my yarmulka and breathed through it.

The FDR was a sea of humans walking north, and ambulances and police cars heading south. (Every Hatzolah group from Monsey to Boro Park passed by.) Busses that were taken out of service were filled with older people, people with asthma, emphysema and other breathing problems. We hung around to help people get on the buses until that quieted down.

Zhen and I made our way up the FDR. For the first part of the trip visibility was erratic. Sometimes the air was relatively clear off the water, other times (obviously when the buildings first fell) visibility was less than a block.

We took the FDR to to 23rd street, where we were finally allowed off. We found a public bath on 27th, where we went to the bathroom and washed off soot, and called our wives. (Even so, my hair and face were quite gray until the evening.) I decided to go to the Upper West Side, either to Lincoln Square Synagogue or if I could make it, to my brother’s apartment.

We headed up 1st to NYU Hospital – Bellevue. Zhen continued upbound, and I was on my own trying to figure out if I could do something productive since I had nowhere to go. I stopped by Bellevue, stopped by the blood bank and tried to volunteer. They wouldn’t take volunteers without screening them first.

However, this elderly woman with skin cancer needed to get to Queens, and she saw me heading north. So we teamed up: she, myself, her wheelchair and her parisol, and headed up to the 59th st bridge. Leaving NYU, there were hundreds of people on line in the lobby waiting to get to the bloodbank. The queue continued up the walk, down the sidewalk and around the corner.

Turns out the lady I was with wasn’t at NYU for chemo, she was at Bellevue for therapy for panic attacks. Now that was really easy — dealing with someone prone to panic while Manhattan was reduced to a sea of foot traffic. OTOH, it forced me to stay calm to have someone relying on me. At the 59th st bridge I was able to get her an ambulette.

I then meandered across town through Central Park to LSS. I made my way to their offices, where I just contacted my wife and my brother’s apartment and rested my burning feet.

Eventually the trains were running and I got to my brother. He had a friend who lent a friend of his a car to take to central Jersey. I got a lift with them home. That too hit a snag: The George Washington Bridge was open when we left, but was closed for a suspicious truck. We were stuck on the West Side highway for 2.5 hours.

But B”H I got home, that night. My kids were visibly relieved to see me. I threw some of my clothes in the laundry, others (including my yarmulka) were un-salvageable; asbestos removal was too difficult. I showered thoroughly.

To give you an idea how scared my children were — despite knowing in the abstract that I was safe — my son put up our Succah today without being asked. He got a friend to help. Just so that the job wouldn’t be left to me.

I have no idea when work will resume. Hopefully my charley horse will fade before then.


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