A Decade Later: Prospect Park Tennis Center Remembers 9/11

September 11, 2011

Sports, Top Stories

Ten years later New York is still rebuilding, the Pentagon has been repaired, and those lives that were lost are still remembered. 9/11/2001 was a dark day in history. I’ve only read about, or seen kamikaze missions in movies, but, never would I have expected to see something of that nature in real life. Some say the government is to blame, and then there are others who support the conspiracy theorists, but I know we can all agree it was an unfortunate occurence. The victims and families of those lost on that day were innocent people from all walks of life. Everywhere you go someone has an interesting past, present, and future. In one of the most diverse cities in the world, I’ve manage to gather the stories of 15 individuals/co-workers from: Africa to Russia, South America, and the United States, about the impact that day had on their lives and the lingering affect of the aftermath. Here are their stories….

Sam Amoteng, Maintenance Supervisor:

I was in my country Ghana, and then I heard it on the news, they said planes crashed into the World Trade Center. I heard that 3,000 people died. I was so shocked, so surprised that this happened. I was in Accra the Capital of Ghana, it was during the afternoon. I was walking in the street, then a radio announcement was made. I saw people listening to what happened on the news, so I stopped to listen also. They said that planes crashed in the World Trade Center. Everybody was surprised, a lot of Ghanaians live in America, so I didn’t know if it was my people, my family or someone. It’s so sad. You know people who could do something like that are no good. They killed innocent people, they were just working and the all of a sudden BOOM!!! It’s crazy. In Ghana everybody was sad because there are a lot of Ghanaians living in America. Everybody was so sad and confused, thinking that could be my family. Five Ghanaians died on 9/11. It is so terrible to think how a plane can fly into a building. Right now, those people are gone and they can’t come back. The country now has to move forward, they want us every year to remember , and remember. I know it’s so sad and painful, but they have to move on. I do plan to watch the memorial on television. Now there’s a lot of security and cameras in the city and everywhere is so tight-knit that nothing is going to happen. If you want to come in the country they have to check you, where you’re coming from? What is your background? Right now, I know American security is very good. Since the new president has taken over right now the security is very good in America. Everything you do you have to be careful, they’re watching you. Don’t think nobody is not watching you because they’re watching you.

Yelena Driker Finance Supervisor:

I was driving my car on Woodhaven Boulevard in Queens, and from the bridge I saw smoke coming from the first tower, then I saw smoke coming from the second tower, I was in disbelief. This can not be true, I must be dreaming. I was listening to the radio in the car and they reported that an aircraft has hit one of the twin towers, and a half an hour later the radio reported another aircraft that went into the second tower. I could not believe my ears. People were stopping their cars, jumping out and watching. I was trying to stop but my husband who was also in the car said “no, no, no, go, go!”. We got home a half hour later and we watched television. I was contacting my kids, my family from Russia, and Israel were calling us, but it was like almost two hours where we couldn’t use the phones. My oldest daughter was attending class in Stony Brook College, and my other daughter was at school in Forest Hills Queens. So, I was just thinking how to get my family together. The news reported a plane had went down in Pennsylvania, and another plane went down at the Pentagon. My kids were scared, especially the youngest one. What happened shouldn’t have happened, and maybe I’m wrong, but I blame the government. Sometimes you think twice before going somewhere, is it safe to go to other countries or not? I hope that we are safe, but it can happen at any time. It is very difficult, anybody can do something at home and how do you know what they are going to put in the car, or in a bag, or anywhere in the street, you have no idea. Unless we can prevent it they will do something, they will try some way, maybe not exactly New York, but they never will let it go. We have to go on with our lives. We can not live without hope that by somehow, by some miracle we will be ok, but I don’t think they will ever let it go. We have to go forward, we have to go on with our lives and hope that everything is going to be ok, but we can not relax about it and say nothing will never happen. We can not say that.

Paul Campbell Director of Prospect Park Tennis Center:

It’s a day that I’ll never forget as many, many, many people will never forget. I was in my car with my wife driving to drop her off at work and I remember seeing the smoke. There was a lot of traffic and we thought wow “there’s a lot of traffic this morning”. Initially it looked like it was a fire in New Jersey, and then it became more apparent what had happened. Most people were in a state of shock. My generation hadn’t gone through anything like that and certainly my kids hadn’t gone through anything like that, so there was no precedent for us, it was an unprecidented event. I remember after 9/11 there was a certain amount of exodus from the city. I think a lot of people felt New York City would never recover, in fact it recovered very quickly and recovered in a very strong way, and I think it’s a testament to the resiliency of New Yorker’s. I think that New Yorker’s have a particular kind of resiliency, I think you almost have to have it to live in this city. I always feel more safe in New York than any place else which is a strange thing. I’m never particularly worried about the threat of terrorism I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, but it’s not something that really weighs on my mind. That day happened to be our 25th wedding anniversary. So, it’s always a bitter-sweet day, September 11th. Ever since that time, and ironically, I remember asking a friend where he thought we should go for dinner on our anniversary and he said “well I would recommend either Windows on the World or the River Cafe”. We didn’t make reservations for Windows on the World, but I was about to. I remember that night with my family, I’m not into lavish gifts, so, I remember I had a surprise for Susan, I had created a photo album that really chronicled the 25 years that we’ve been married with some photographs from each year. I’m not a big memorial kind of guy, I planned to go visit it at some point. I’ve been to the Vietnam Memorial, my brother was killed in Vietnam, and that was an incredible moving experience for me. I think the Vietnam Memorial is probably the best piece of outdoor sculpture ever created. I think it’s important because it’s important to so many people who’ve lost love ones in 9/11 and were effected by 9/11. I never thought it was particularly important to build another huge skyscraper in that spot. If that site had become a park it would have been okay with me. I feel very fortunate that my family has seemed to survive the incident intact. I don’t feel any vengeance or anger I feel sorrow. Those are memories that don’t go away.

Kenya Williams, Assistant Program Coordinator:

On 9/11 I was in my apartment Downtown Brooklyn next to the bridge, the projects right there. I was getting ready to take Sonja, my daughter to daycare. And her father called me, he was outside. He said “Kenya a plane just hit the Twin Towers”. Where I use to live you can look out the window and see the buildings. So, I ran to the window and I was looking out the window, I said “oh s***”. I was like “wow” amazed, looking at these people jumping out of windows it was just crazy. One of my cousins ran home across the Brooklyn Bridge and had all of that white powder on him. He was alright, just shaken up. The next day I had to go to work, I worked in the Prospect Park Picnic House and it seemed like I noticed all the airplanes that fly above the building and I just kept looking at airplanes. The situation now, you don’t know what to think. You don’t know what to believe. If they’re going to do it again or is it going to happen again. You kinda get kind of scared like when your on the train if something is going to happen. Anybody could have been there, anyone of us could have been there and we would have been all gone. It’s just unexplainable. I can’t live in fear, but something can happen. The city now, they’re watching over us more, but anything can happen. We are human and there are people that can make mistakes while watching over us. I’m not scared of a situation like that, but you never know what can happen.

Chevoun Anthony Bookkeeper/ Front Desk Staff Supervisor:

9/11/2001 was my birthday. I had to work the night-shift that day so I figured I’d sleep in. As I’m in and out of my sleep, I heard the announcement made that a plane hit the World Trade Center, but I thought they were referring to the 1993 bombings, so I just brushed it of and I continued sleeping. Then a few minutes later my sister that worked at the airport called me and said did I hear a plane just flew into the World Trade Center. It didn’t even dawn on me that it was a terrorist attack. I turned on the news and tried to watch the news, but the television blanked out on me. When I finally got the news I watched how the whole thing played out and when the plane hit the second tower that’s when I realized that this is not a random act, this has to be a terrorist attack. I was very sad because the year before I went there to buy a dress with my sister and never really went upstairs to see the full tower, I guess I took it for granted, living in New York for so long. My mom at the time worked at Brooklyn Hospital, she called me too that morning and said she was looking out the window of her hospital and she could see people jumping. She said that broke her heart, and all the nurses were screaming, it was terrible, a terrible day. I remember the meteorologist was joking when I was up earlier, he was saying that we have a big cloud in New York and I remember that morning it was a beautiful morning. The weather was beautiful, and he made a joke about the cloud. And I remember that when the towers fell that day there was a cloud. It was just ironic that he said that a few minutes ago joking and it actually did happen. It was very sad. I was there with my son he was two at the time. I didn’t want him to see what was going on because I didn’t know how it would affect him so I let him sleep. I couldn’t move myself from the television because I think I was in shock more than anything. I couldn’t believe it actually happened. My little sister, we were worried about her because sometimes she can’t deal with stress. She has a problem and we were worried about how she would deal with it, and she worked on Vesey Street. She was right close by. We couldn’t get in contact with her. We didn’t hear from her until about 9:30 PM. She walked to Jersey and then she got a ride back. That was the only person we were worried about the most. My family that was out of the country living in Guyana saw it on television there and they called us to find out if everyone was okay. When I talked to family members there, they were in shock. They couldn’t believe that people could be so evil that to take down a tower and kill innocent people for whatever problem they have with the government. I feel really bad for all the firefighters and policemen. All of the service men who were out there helping who are now sick and they are having so much problems getting help, and the government is dragging their feet. Even to rebuild the towers too, took a long time because there was a lot of political nonsense. I think the city has to move forward we can’t stay back in 2001 we have to move on. Things happen that’s part of life, and somethings are hard for us to accept and hard for us to deal with, but at the same time we still have to move on in our lives. We can’t let one incident hold us back.

Brian Nortey, Front Desk Staff:

When 9/11 happened I was eleven years-old I was in the sixth grade. When I heard about it I was in gym class. I had a gym teacher named Mr. Ricks, he had the radio playing before we did anything in gym class. He was like “guys the Twin Towers fell”. We were like “what?”. We didn’t understand how the Twin Towers fell. Then he was like “a plane hit it”. We didn’t understand, we never thought of a plane hitting a building. At first we thought it mus t have been an accident or something it wasn’t that serious. We realized it was serious when the principal came on the loudspeaker and said we need to evacuate the schools and leave the classrooms, everybody has to go home. The procedure was basically like a fire drill. At that moment, that’s when they started calling people’s parents to come pick them up. The first thing that came to my mind was my mom because my mom worked in Manhattan. I knew one of the buildings she worked in was close to the Twin Towers. So, it was a very scary moment for me at that time, not knowing where my mom was. I saw my mom come home, and I’ll never forget, she had this purple dress on and it was all covered in brown dust, all over her. At that point I just felt relieved and scared at the same time. Me I’m an only child and my father passed away when I was younger, so, if anything had happened to my mom the fact of me being an orphan at that age, and not having my mom that was the scariest moment of 9/11 basically. We just brought a brand new tv at that time, like a day before. The first thing we started watching on the television was the news about 9/11. My mom was telling me what was going on because she experienced it. She was basically saying how it was a scary moment for her “at a point you couldn’t runaway from the smoke, it was really dark and you couldn’t see”. She really felt scared and she thought she was going to lose her life at that point. She couldn’t breathe through all the smoke, and she was with her co-workers and they got in a little circle and were going to pray. It’s something that nobody will ever forget living in New York. You will always remember the moment and the place you were at the time. My feeling towards it is that it was a senseless crime of terrorism that happened to New York.

Nigel, Tennis Pro:

I was in Manhattan, and the train stopped a little after 9 AM, I would say probably after the first plane hit. They started getting the message out in the subway, and that the subway station was closed. Everybody was asked to get off the train, when I got off of the train I met a policeman explaining that a plane had crashed into one of the towers. I was strolling around the Chinatown area, saw the crowd moving towards the towers so I started going in that direction too, you know, curiosity. And then in about 5 to 10 minutes everybody started running in my direction. I started running and ended up in Midtown near Midtown Tennis, so I just went there and followed the news and everything, and actually they closed all the bridges and everything. I was kind of stuck in Manhattan for the rest of the day, and I was kind of panicking because my kids were in school. They were closing the schools in Brooklyn so it was real chaotic. You couldn’t make cell phone calls, that was kind of scary. They eventually opened the bridges around 6:30PM, then I managed to get home across the bridge and from there I found my way home, but it was kind of real pandemonium. I thought it was going to be worse than that. I thought there was going to be more bombs and stuff like that, I was panicking. The threat never goes away, all you can hope for is the information gathering of the people on the ground is accurate. The threat is going to be there everyday, I just hope the intelligence people get it right.

Alan Edelstein, League Coordinator/Tennis Teacher:

I was in Manhattan at the time of the attacks, I was on 23rd street and 8th avenue. I went into a stationery store to buy someone a birthday card, and while I was looking around I heard on the radio, I couldn’t make it out exactly what was happening, but it sounded like to me there was some collapse and I thought it was some financial… like the economy had collapsed, not a building, I wasn’t paying close attention. I left the store. It was a bright beautiful morning, and I saw people starting to gather around cars and listening to the radio. So, I guessed whatever was on the radio must have been important. And, as minutes went by I started walking further downtown, then I heard from someone who was listening that there had been an attack. I kept walking down in that direction and I saw smoke. I went to a friend’s house in the Village and saw on television what was going on. There was a strange sense almost like people weren’t processing the information. I remember going around the Village and by now it was later in the morning or maybe even lunch  and people were watching on television while they were having lunch. They didn’t quite seem like they were realizing the enormity and no one really could at the time. That was a vivid memory of people just going about their business in some ways. My son was at the time 10, so I made sure he was ok and my ex-wife had him safe, and my brother lived very close to the site and I was concerned about his safety. I heard from him in the evening. The first thing that comes to mind is the resiliency of New Yorker’s to be able to pick up and lead their lives the way they’ve always have in the face of an incredible event like that. I think memorials are an important thing to remember important events good and bad. There’s no way you can eliminate danger of any kind in your life, it just doesn’t work that way. I’m guardedly optimistic, but with the knowledge that we’re very far from solving the problems that fuels the anger of terrorist, not only Arab terrorist but any terrorist.

Adrian Clarke, Tennis Pro:

That morning we were all at the hospital with our son who had gone to get something done with his foot, and while we were at the hospital which was on the west side of Brooklyn by the East River, the news came that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Like most people we thought it was just an accident. My son was in high school at Murray Bergtraum which is right by the Brooklyn Bridge. We sent him to school. We dropped him off at the subway station and watched him go down and head to Manhattan. Very shortly after we heard about the second plane, then we saw all of the emergency vehicles and realized then that something very terrible had happened. So, my wife had went to work and she was also working in Manhattan. The other two kids and I were in Brooklyn. I remember my wife and my older son who were in Manhattan had a very difficult time getting out of Manhattan and didn’t get home until late that night because they had to walk from the city over the Brooklyn Bridge. I remember going early in the day and picking up my daughter who was five years-old, and bringing her home and trying to gather everybody at home. I just remember all the panic at that time especially thinking that we had sent our son on to Manhattan after the first plane had crashed because we didn’t think that anything had happened. My son and my wife walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, and actually the one thing from that whole experience is that my son has had this cough ever since and we’ve tried to get him to go to the doctor and get it checked out because we said it might have had something to do with that all the debris, and all that. I was teaching tennis at the Wall Street Racquet Club and I don’t think our club ever re-opened because a lot of people who played there died when the towers fell because so many people actually worked in that area. Shortly after the club actually closed, they could never get over what happened down there. My concern actually tends to be a lot more with the people who worked during the clean-up and the people who’ve died and gotten sick from it. I think like most New Yorker’s probably, you know that something can happen, you know that people are planning things but you’re not going to stop that from allowing you to live in New York for certain reasons. Since I’m here in New York it’s not going to stop me from going out. I think like most New Yorker’s you just do what you think you want to or have to do.

Brian Merzel, Front Desk Staff:

I was in the eighth grade, second period, math class when I heard the news about 9/11 and what happened. At first I didn’t believe it because some kid just randomly ran into the classroom saying “they blew up the Twin Towers, they blew them up”. Personally I didn’t believe it and neither did the rest of the class. We turned the radio on just to see if it was true, some of the news stations were saying “terrorist had blown up the Twin Towers”. So, I got scared of course, but if you knew my mother within a matter of minutes she was already at the school trying to pick me up and get me to leave. She picked me up, I came home. I’m kind of scared, and I actually see from my house in Coney Island, smoke up in the air. Then I turned on the news and I see crazy sights, like people flying out of the buildings, running, just like havoc. It was just a crazy sight. Reality I guess started settling in, and then I started overthinking, and thinking to myself will this happen again tonight, tomorrow, again just not knowing what and when it can strike. I guess most kids would want to use that as an excuse to stay home, but I guess I was thinking logically that it didn’t matter whether I stayed home from school or not. I was going to be scared no matter where I was. If  I learned anything from that day, life can end at any second so live life to the fullest. Considering that I was 13, 14 years-old, cause at that point hadn’t even experienced a family member passing yet.

Eduardo Gil, Tennis Pro:

During 9/11/2001 I was in Woodstock, New York. I was teaching tennis in Woodstock, everybody was around on the tennis courts then the owner/ director of the tennis camp came out stopped the camp, and he said, I remember this, he said to all of us “We’ve been attacked, we’re at war”. This was in the morning around 8: 50AM, he said “We’re at war we’ve been attacked. There has been attacks at the Pentagon in D.C., in Pennsylvania three planes went down, planes have been hijacked”. Everybody was in shock people just went to the televisions. I was living in Woodstock, I had friends in the city, but not that many.I didnt know anybody working in the Twin Towers. Violence spreads violence it’s just a simple formula, I think the whole foreign policy was completely mishandled by the United States in my opinion. I don’t think they made the world any safer after 9/11 by invading countries. I think they completely did the wrong thing, then again that’s just my opinion. I always feel there could be retaliation from a retaliation, it’s like a never-ending cycle.

Eric Johnsen, Senior Front Desk Staff:

I was home sick that day waiting for the washer repairman. At 10 AM, my daughter called saying ” it’s raining paper over here”. The television had nothing but a blue screen, they were out completely. I put the radio on to find out what happened. There were people who I knew who escaped. My company was at Seven World Trade and had moved to Jersey City. A father I knew gave his daughter his last kiss. I still feel safe it doesn’t matter where you live, anything can happen anywhere. Problems can happen anywhere, you don’t expect anything. There’s always people out there that are going to try to do something. A retaliation can happen at anytime.

Edmond Plass, Tennis Pro/ fomer Maintenance Supervisor:

I lived in Brooklyn at the time of 9/11/2001. I was at home in my basement just watching a show and my show was interrupted with the breaking news of the attack of the planes flying into the World Trade Center. I was stunned, I was in disbelief and mostly I was shocked. I couldn’t understand how a plane would hit a building, I know it’s a tall building, but I couldn’t imagine a pilot would not see the building and fly into it. And, after that I was just glued to the television watching. Shortly after that a second plane went into the next building then I realized it’s more to it than just pilot error. I was shocked and I just watched television for the rest of the morning. My wife and child was there, my child was only two. My wife, she was also shocked that this can also happen and we just watched television together for the rest of entire day. My wife was worried about her mother who worked a block away from the World Trade Center. We were just waiting to hear from her. We finally got a call from her then we picked her up in Brooklyn. She was covered in dust. She stayed at our house for that night and the went home the next day. I couldn’t come to grips with what was going on, and why people would want to kill themselves to get there point across. The President George W. Bush got on the air, and I found him to be very annoying because his explanation as to what happened was to get revenge on the people that caused harm to America, and the best thing I can do for the country is go out and shop, which I couldn’t believe that’s how he would try and comfort me in the distress that I had. I still can’t come to terms with huge buildings like that, that didn’t come down in the initial crash, but collapsed onto itself. If a plane traveling that fast crashed into a building and didn’t topple it over, I can’t believe that the building wouldn’t fall onto itself, naturally, it doesn’t make any sense to my mind. I still feel sad, but I’m mostly confused. I’m not afraid, but people are always going to continue to try to get heard by whatever means they feel necessary. I’m not a person whose afraid of dying I just think that as long as people have egregious things done to them there’s always going to be people trying to retaliate.

Paul Curtin, Tennis Pro/Program Coordinator:

September 11th, the morning of September 11th, I was packing bags to catch a flight that day to Denver to visit friends and I heard that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Towers. I thought of the reports I read about of the plane hitting the Empire State building in the 1930’s and thought it was just assessment gone astray, and continued packing. Later I heard that another plane, and it was not a small private plane but a passenger jet airliner crashed into the other tower. I knew everything was different and wrong. I was scheduled to fly with my girlfriend at the time she called me up and said ” What’s going on? Do you think the airports are going to be shut down?’ and I said ” I don’t think we’re going anywhere”. This is not an accident when it happens like that, then we heard the awful news…. At that time I worked at a tennis club in Long Island City and you could see the view of the towers at the edge of the property there, it was on the East River. And, a long-time summer lifeguard there, Chris Santoro, was a rookie fireman, and he was there that day, one of the first responders, and was buried under the rubble trying to rescue people. I received a phone call from Europe, from a friend of mine who lives in Paris. It was an eerie sense walking the streets of New York and the reality was setting in. The question was: Was this the beginning of something bigger? Was it an attack that was somewhat contained, in it of itself, and was it going to continue even somewhat intermittently for the next period of time? It’s amazing the downtown area has been rejuvenated in the fear that it was going to become a ghost town. New York is a target and I do think the days of a nuke in a knapsack are not far away. I sadly, don’t think this is the last time there will be attempts. In the long run there’s maybe hope that the world will be a better place, but there’s always going to be hatred.

Barbara Jean Phillipe, Maintenance Staff:

September 11th, 2001, I was actually on my way to work. On my way to work I don’t listen to the news and the radio so I didn’t really know what’s going on until I got to work. Everybody was pale and somber-like and that’s when my boss told me that one of the Twin Towers had already collapsed. I was with my sister-in-law at the time, we lived in Brooklyn, but we worked in Queens. I felt like I needed to protect myself and my family, I actually asked friends that knew how to use a gun if they could teach me how to use a gun, at that time. I felt like I needed to have something that could protect us and keep us from harm. But, of course I couldn’t get anyone to help me or teach me how to use a gun, so that thought went out the window. There after that, one of the guys we worked with, his brother was a security guard at the towers, he died. A close friend of mine, she was on an interview to actually go work for corrections that day and she was actually in the city. And when the towers went down that cloud of smoke that was so dramatic that day that they showed on television, she was in the path of it, that smoke. She’s ok now, but a little while after that she said she experienced a little bit of anxiousness and trauma. I just pray that the United States protects us of course, against anything like that coming so close to us again. I think the United States is too involved in foreign politics. I think that politicians should be more involved in whats going on in the United States, we have people here that are hungry, without jobs, that needs support, and all the money is going towards fighting this war. There’s so many vulnerable points in New York that they can hit. I don’t think that they’re going to sit back and just … especially, with Bin Laden, they know for a fact that he’s dead now… no. I’ve never actually went to where the Twin Towers came down to see what it looked like after the towers came down. So, now that they have rebuilt it, yeah, I would like to go back and see what they’ve done there to honor the people that have passed away, basically they died for the country. So many people have been lost because of this whole thing and it’s still going on and it’s really a sad situation. I wonder if President Bush or any of the other political parties knew if that this would be going on now after 10 years, still going on. Would they have made the moves they did towards the east?

This song makes me a little emotional, one of my favorites!!!



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4 Comments on “A Decade Later: Prospect Park Tennis Center Remembers 9/11”

  1. kaw77 Says:

    Kuwan great job getting these stories from everyone. It touch us in the same way but different. Thank you


  2. steve Says:

    Very touching pos. I enjoy hearing from real people. My wife worked in two wtc. Her company Marsh & McClenon lost a lot of good hard working people. She was late for work that day. That’s the only reason she wasn’ there. Keep up the good work cuz. This blog is going to be huge.


  3. Stuart Says:

    Great job, Kuwan. I love the idea of getting all these different perspectives


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