By Jacquie Kubin, Editor
New York City … The opening chapters to New York’s greatest modern story were watched, in horror, by millions.
But there are survivors, both the buildings that left standing and those able to walk away from our nation’s deadliest chapter.
Just across Church Street stands St. Paul’s Chapel. Completed in 1766 it remains as the oldest public building in “continuous use” and the cities remaining colonial church.
A historical list of who’s who has attended services at St. Paul’s. It is where George Washington worshiped, including on the day of his Inauguration on April 30, 1789.
His pew remains.
Today St. Paul’s story contains important chapters on its role as relief station following 9/11 – offering food, water, a place to sleep for the relief workers. The chapel now serves as a living memorial to the many men and women, particularly the police and fire department first responders who died in the attacks.
Towering over the Georgian Classic-Revival style structure of St. Paul’s is the modern architecture of the steel and glass Hilton Millenium Hotel and she has her own story to tell.
Staying at the Millenium Hotel it was amazing to watch the people of Lower Manhatten busy bustling about, walking past Ground Zero, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner in the hotel’s Church & Dey restaurant, closely overlooking the site. It was almost as if the backbone of New York is the cities ability to keep moving, to keep working, to keep living, even when the unthinkable had happened.
When the planes hit the Towers, the shock blew out the windows of the first thirty floors of the Millenium and the entire building’s interior was covered in the clouds of dust that billowed out from the destruction.
With Ground-Zero viewable from many of its hotel rooms, The Millenium stood silent sentry over the destruction, clean-up and now rebuilding of the site, even as the hotel was completely refurbished.
Today the Millenium has a story so very unique, but one that is shared with all those that survived that day, including Jason Tresh, who now walks past “Ground Zero” everyday to his job as director of the hotel.
“I was sitting in my office on the 55th floor of the Tower One working for Benchmark Hospitality when the first plane hit,” said Jason Tresh, Director of the New York City Millenium Hilton Hotel. “And it took a while before I could come back down here, but now here I am.”
So does Jason Tesh start his story. Director at the Millenium Hilton today, on September 11, his office was on the 50th floor of Tower One and on that day, he was getting ready for a day of business meetings when the plane struck.
Listening to his story you can’t help but be startled by his composure. The gravity of the events come through as he speaks of getting his employees out of the office, including one who felt determined to stay put and wait for instructions.
Jason is a young man. A strong man. A person others would look to for guidance.
Jason evenly speaks about walking down the stairs, of the almost silence and composure of so many, of how so many people stopped and helped those who needed help. Of helping a woman down those stairs. A woman he never saw again, but whose life he impacted at a time she needed someone the most.
He talks of meeting the firefighters, in full gear, on the fortieth floor where the vending machines could be found. Jason, and others, halted their flight to safety opening those machines, passing out sodas and water to the firefighters who had so many more floors to climb.
“Coming down the stairs, it was at a snails pace due to the amount of people trying to get down and the firemen trying to get up - the ordeal took almost an hour to get out of the building,” Mr. Tresh says. “Making it out of tower one that was the first time I recognized that Tower Two was also hit. It was obvious that this was not an accident but a terrorist act.”
When Tower Two collapsed, Jason and his colleagues were engulfed in the dust and debris.
Through his story telling, Jason reflects that he is, like so many others, lucky to have survived. There is also the silent moment of recognition that so many died.
Jason’s is just one of New York’s many stories of real people doing real, and un-real things. From those early immigrants that first came to her harbor to those that survived the unthinkable events of 9-11, New York is filled with great epics as well as everyday tales.
It is a place where you can find your own story to tell. Or listen to someone else’s.
Editor’s Note: The photo above was taken from the 50th floor of the Millenium Hilton, offering some perspective to Mr. Tresh’s, and others, flight from the towers.