My Experience 9112001 1L Law Student in NYC

My Experience: 9/11/2001, 1L Law Student in NYC


Esse Tuke is a native NYC gal. It’s in my blood. I grew up in Brooklyn and suburbs of the city. NYC is a city that lives and breathes like no other. In 2001, I was anxious to get back home to NY for law school after graduating from University of Maryland-College Park.

I had just started my first year (1L) of law school at Fordham University School of Law. I was living in the McMahon Hall dorm on 60th Street in Manhattan with 2 roommates. That day, my friend Ana and I had plans to go see John Stewart’s live taping of The Daily Show. It was taped only 2 blocks from our dorm. The weather was gorgeous, sky blue and accented with fluffy clouds.

However 9/11, unfolded very differently than expected. My dorm roommate awakened by telling me that a plane just flew into the World Trade Center.


I am groggy and not understanding what she’s telling me. So, I get up and we go to the TV. The three of us watched in utter disbelief as the second plane hit the second building. Jaw dropped. Heart dropped.

Then the collapse.

Then another collapse.

Simply Stunned.

So much confusion. The people? What is happening? Are there more planes? Are we safe here? Classes? Where do we go? There was no plan for any of this. We were glued to the television for hours trying to get any answers.

I tried to call my parents at their home in Rockland, just over the Hudson River and North a bit. But the phone lines in and around Manhattan were completely jammed, for many hours. They had no idea if their child was ok for nearly 12 hours.

Finally the call went through and I had never heard that sound in either of my parents voices before….such excited relief, anxious relief. I was ok. But so many other parents, friends, siblings, partners, loved ones never got that call.

By afternoon, we ventured out into the NYC streets to just see what information we could glean ourselves.

WOW. It was an NYC I had never seen. The visual of the mass exodus of people, from all walks of life, suited and all, walking northward in Manhattan. Away from the towers, away from the smoke, away from ash. There were no buses or trains running, bridges were closed. We were all shut in on this island and many needed to get home, somehow.

Restaurants, so of them, had their doors open. Feeding people for free, providing water and snacks. Goodwill and a feeling of brother/sisterhood was New Yorkers first response. Literally strangers hugging and crying. It was a sight and a feeling I’m grateful to have experienced.

Within days, military tanks barreling down 5th Avenue. Surreal.

I stayed in, studied, watched TV, sooo much TV. So much agony 24/7 on the news. So much crying. The stories, the lives, the heroism, the survivors.

Finding out that one my good girlfriend’s Dad lost his life in the towers that day, I sobbed for their family. Attending his service back home in Rockland was a beautiful event. So many people came to honor a great man and support his family. Japhet Aryee is survived by his wife, amazing daughter, Ayikaile, (my high school basketball teammate and sis for life) and 3 sons, lifting his name high. Rest well.

The black smoke from ground zero polluting the NYC skyline and reminding us of the tragedy lasted for weeks, it seemed like.

As I ventured out in NYC the months thereafter, I was deeply affected by all of the “Have You Seen ….” fliers still up 2 months later, 6 months later, still hoping. 🤍.

My 20 year old memories are insignificant compared to the pain still endured by those at ground zero and those many loved ones who survived and are still process grief. My deepest condolences.

Edit: It took me 20 years to write this or even talk about it, didn’t realize just how much trauma is around this day I still carried.

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