My friend Bernadette Hoban was attending a business meeting at 120  Broadway, near the World Trade Center, when the first plane hit the first building. She worked for a large insurance company. She never told the full story of what happened that day. Until yesterday when she posted this account on her Facebook page.


The sky was blue, the air was crisp, by all accounts it was a beautiful day. I parked my car on the roof of the Battery Park garage facing the twin towers. I called a friend and remembered telling her how beautiful the Twin Towers looked against the blue sky. I then walked up to broadway in line with others hustling to work. I Slipped into 120 Broadway and up to the 11th floor and into Lebenthal & Co to hold a breakfast presentation to their brokers just like I did every second Tuesday of the month. Halfway through the meeting, the door blew open, the lights flickered and someone shouted that a plane hit the WTC. Everyone scattered, some ran to the windows to see what happened, others ran to their desks to call loved ones. Being that I was an office visitor,  I went out to the reception desk and tried to make a call to my sales desk in NJ. Phone service was already spotty but I finally got through to speak to my business partner Antonette Roig. We immediately started talking over each other with questions, she was asking me where I was and me asking her what’s going on! The last thing I said to her was that I felt like the whole city was blowing up and then the phone went dead. It would be hours before we would speak again.  Looking back, it wasn’t the best way to end the call. 

My only thought was to get out of NYC and back to Brooklyn. Walking back to the parking garage it felt like I was zig zagging through statues of frozen people but I kept going, I just needed to get back to my car. For some reason I felt safer if I was in my car and driving. 

In the elevator of the parking lot,  I met NY Knick star Charles Smith. He was so tall and I remember looking up at him and saying “you’re a NY Knick”, you’re Charles Smith. He smiled and “yes I am”. He then asked me where I had to go? I said Brooklyn and he said he needed to get to New Jersey. We chatted about the best way out, we wished each other well and went to our cars. We were the only people in the place, it was so eerie. 

Once out of the garage, I saw a woman I recognized from Bay Ridge. Her name was Marilyn and she was taking a break leaning up against a wall trying to catch her breath as she suffered from asthma. I told her to get into my car and I will get her to Bay Ridge. By now, debris was filling the sky falling onto my car and streets. It was complete chaos with sirens and first responders coming from all directions. 

My first approach home was the tunnel but when I got to the entrance via driving down the street wrong way, I saw that the inbound lanes of the tunnel were filled with abandoned cars. People just left their cars and ran blocking additional traffic to enter the city. This caused the first responders to drive through the outbound lanes to the city. 

I made a wild U-turn and headed north towards the towers. My new friend Marilyn thought I was nuts but I had to go north a few blocks so I can turn around on West Street and head back towards the FDR. Red lights didn’t mean anything, we just kept moving and I found myself heading up on the entrance of the FDR and towards the Brooklyn Bridge. 

It was us and another car heading north and then a NYPD highway car came up behind us. I went faster because I felt he wanted to shut the bridge that I wanted to get over. I think the the guy behind felt the same way and even though the lights and sirens were on, we kept going. Once on the ramp, the cop was still behind us and then he stopped and blocked the ramp to traffic. We were the last two cars allowed over the bridge! 

People were already escaping on foot over the bridge. There were hundreds and hundreds of people walking over the bridge. On the ramp we encountered three women, two who ran out of their shoes. We stopped and persuaded them to get in the car. They were visibly upset and just wanted to get to Brooklyn. I promised them I would get them there. 

Driving over the bridge was a crawl, visibility was very poor and you can feel the crunching of the debris under the tires. By this time the first tower had fallen, it was really bad, the smoke was rolling everywhere and you could see it literally turning corners around the buildings and down the streets. 

Halfway over the bridge, we heard loud noises and felt vibrations.  I thought someone was going to blow up the bridge. The entire car was screaming and praying out loud, God Help Us, dear God Help is was the chant of my passengers. 

Then from the south side of the bridge we saw F16 fighter jets. I didn’t know who they were until I saw the USA Star on the tail. I was so relieved that it was the USA but then quickly saddened to think we were officially under attack. Until then I wasn’t sure but seeing the F16’s I realized this wasn’t a terrible accident but rather an attack. I remember saying out loud over and over again “who would want to do this to us?”

We got over the bridge and dropped the three women off on Flatbush ave. Somewhere along the line, my friend Vince called me to see if I can find his wife who was on a bus in the tunnel but started to walk back towards Brooklyn with some of her bus buddies. His wife was a chemo patient and he was very concerned about her walking in the tunnel. 

What are the chances of finding anyone on a day like this? Well, I circled back to the tunnel entrance and noticed a few people resting on a wall near a gas station not far from the tunnel. Sure enough, it was Nan and her bus buddies. They loaded into the car and I took them to my house as it was impossible to get to Staten Island at this point. 

Back at the house we sat in silence watching the news trying to make sense of it all. It was probably 8 PM by the time Vince was able to get to my house to pick them up and get back to Staten Island. 

18 years later and I still sit in silence trying to make sense of it all. 

-B Hoban