The New York District Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was uniquely affected by 9/11, because we were in the World Trade Center. Some of our people saw jumpers plunging from the top of the Trade Center and landing in the planters in front of our building. Others were caught in the dust cloud from the collapsing buildings as they tried to run to safety. A few were hit by flying glass as the windows of the buildings exploded. Fortunately all of us survived.
We did not have a permanent office until 2002, and worked out of borrowed space from the Labor Department. At that time, we were easily upset by the sound of sirens and of anthrax threats.
Even after we moved to new space, we remained sensitive to potential threats. There are more security measures in New York City now, at the airports and in office buildings. Police are present in the subways, sometimes in large numbers. They carry rifles. Sometimes large numbers of police cars and emergency vehicles swarm in a particular location, to simulate a response to a threat. All of these measures are reminders to us of 9/11, and none is fully reassuring.
The shock of 9/11 has subsided, but it is still with us. We think about how we would get home from our current location, if there was another attack. We have small provision bags in our desks for an emergency. We consider whether a parachute is an option if there is a fire lower down in our building, and we wonder whether that could have saved the people trapped at the top of the Trade Center. We are moving on with our lives, but we will never forget.
Reik is an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission mediator in New York.