My 9/11 Story and the Rangers - 18th anniversary of that tragic day
I know the Rangers won the fifth place game in the Traverse City tourney 5-3 over the Blues yesterday. Plus, Adam Huska, Karl Henriksson and Tarmo Reunanen all starred in the victory. In addition, training camp is about to open. But given the date on the calendar and that it's the 18th anniversary of that tragic day, I thought it would be appropriate to post the blog I ran several years ago again this year.
It was a glorious Tuesday morning, not a cloud in the sky and the sun was shining brightly. My Jets had been blown out Sunday, the Giants lost on MNF and the Mets were making a charge against the Braves, but my main focus that morning was getting into Penn Station and seeing several of the Rangers rookies, who were appearing by the Amtrak terminals. The reason? For the first time, the Rangers were moving the start of training camp from Rye to Madison Square Garden.
Holding practice at MSG was in itself a change, as midway through the summer, the Rangers planned to hold training camp at Chelsea Piers. They were going to house their players at the Marriott World Financial Center and had reserved rooms there. But the locker rooms at Chelsea Piers proved too small, scuttling that plan, moving them to MSG.
I caught my usual 7:02 train into New York and headed over to Amtrak in order to get some autographs, meet some Rangers and take part in the activities they had set up. I got a couple of foam pucks, one of which is still sitting on my desk, as well as a bandanna that says Rangers' training camp 2001 on it. in addition, I had players such as Dan Blackburn, their top pick in 2001, and Garth Murray, the team's third round pick, sign three placards, one for me, or really my daughter, Mia, who was born that February, and the other two for Victor Wald to give to his daughters Dani and Alex.
Victor was a life-long Rangers fan, who recently had just started recently started working at Avalon Partners in the north tower. At 49, he and I became fast friends when he was joined the fantasy baseball league in the early-90s that I had started in college. Victor and I both were passionate Mets and Rangers, and while we differed philosophically on religion, he was an ardent supporter of Israel and one of the most well rounded persons I knew, with his knowledge ranging from art to classical music to opera and the like. In addition, he was the first non-family member I called after the Rangers won the Cup in '94 and my daughter Mia was born in February 2001.
I was slated to meet him that day for lunch, as he was busy in the AM, but since I worked at 2WFC, it was going to be easy to meet in the World Trade Center's concourse. Prior to heading down to the office, I stopped at the Krispy Kreme near Amtrak and caught the train down to the Trade Center. About 15 minutes after I arrived at my office, the news of a plane hitting the trade center came across the wire. Some of us went downstairs to the WFC concourse, but were told that there was no immediate danger and to go back to our desks. I looked on CNN and initial reports were that a small plane hit the Tower.
I called my wife to tell her I was okay, she said, that's nice, me too, and then informed her of what happened, at which point she turned off my seven-month old daughter's cartoon and turned on the news. I hung up and no more than a few minutes later, we felt, on the 14th floor of 2 WFC, the whoosh of the second plane going by and heard as well as felt the thud of it hitting the South Tower. From where our side of the floor was, if you walked straight down to the end of the building, we faced the tower, so needless to say, at that time we all realized this was no accident. I grabbed my bag with the signed Rangers' placards, and surprisingly enough, the Krispy Kreme one as well, and we all headed down the staircase and out to West Street.
After looking up and seeing the damage, as well as individuals jumping from the towers, myself and Fred Carrini, who I owe a tremendous sense of gratitude for helping me get through the day, started walking up West Street to try and avoid any big buildings as none of us knew what would happen next. We had no intention of going to midtown and stayed next to the West Side Highway. We stopped at a street vendor to get a water, at which time, the rumors of a plane hitting the Pentagon were confirmed, and as we continued uptown, we saw both towers fall.
We found a working pay phone and I called my wife, who told me to head to her great aunt's on 56th and First, which is what we did. That worked out fortuitously as my sister was living a block away and my dad ended up there from midtown. We spent the afternoon there, attempted to give blood, but were turned away because they had too many donors, and waited for news on Victor. At about 7pm, we decided to head to Penn Station, which was a ghost town, and whichever train came first, we would take it and get a ride home from the other. Fred's came first, so after going to his house, I got a ride back to Merrick and attended a communal prayer service before heading home. Most of the night was spent pacing the house, but the one thing I did do was sneak into Mia's room and watch her sleep for a while, thankful I made it home, but still no word from Victor.
The next few days were spent trying to get news on him, which was minimal. What we did find out, and what was incorporated by Richard Bernstein in his book "Out of the Blue" was that Victor struggled to make his way down before running into Harry Ramos and Hong Zhu on the 53rd floor. Both stayed with Victor for a while, before Zhu left after being told by a fireman to go and he would help Victor while Ramos stayed. The belief is that Victor and Harry made it to the 36th floor before the tower fell. In the Jewish Religion, like in many, the alphabet has a numerical equivalent. The equivalent for life or chai in Hebrew in 18, so I guess it's fitting that it was on floor double-chai both passed away.
Victor's remains were found on November 22 and he was buried on November 23, which would have been his 50th birthday.
My youngest daughter's Kyra's third Hebrew name, Abigail, is the female version of Victor's hebrew name, Avigdor
Victor's daughters, Dani and Alex, are both married
Victor and Harry's name are by N-63 in the 9/11 Memorial, if you go, stop by and say a prayer in their name. My family's cobblestone in honor of Victor is in Tree Row E, Tree Number 103, Cobblestone 17373
RIP Victor Wald, beloved son, husband, father, my best friend and Rangers fan. May your memory continue to serve as an inspiration.
Apologies if this was not your usual blog and will be back with pure hockey in the next one.