Only two blocks away from where the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center, Aaron Dickens says ”New Yorkers struggle together and New Yorkers survive together”
RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - September 11, 2001 was a difficult day for Americans no matter where you were in the country. However, an anchor with us here at KOTA Territory, Aaron Dickens, was living in New York City at the time the towers were attacked leaving him with lasting memories that affect him still today.
”New Yorkers struggle together and New Yorkers survive together,” says Dickens. “It seems like such a short time ago. I just cannot believe it’s been 20 years.”
Aaron was a 19-year-old sophomore in college just walking to class when, “All of the sudden I heard a big pop.” He says he was two blocks away from the trade center, “and all I saw throughout the whole street was office papers. That’s what I remember. All those office papers coming down. Everyone just kind of stopped. My instinct was to just get out of there right away. I just had a bad feeling about it.”
His bad feeling led him to the subway and off to class where no one, not the students, not the teachers, knew what was going on.
“People were screaming, running. That’s when I started to see the panic,” where he and his class made their way to Washington Square Park.
“We watched both of the towers on fire and the first one collapsed and you could hear the cracking.”
He says it collapsed in a huge plume of smoke.
“It was utter and complete chaos at that time, and the smoke filled lowers Manhattan for months and months.”
He was out of his dorm for 6 months staying with family friends in New Jersey. He says it took three days to get in touch with his parents.
“What I had on back was it. I didn’t have my clothes, my computer, I had nothing. The smell of burning down there, the smell of destruction. It was a bustling downtown and then overnight it was completely gone, says Dickens through tears. “There was nobody left. People missing on the church and it was just... it was terrible.”
Dickens says that he shys away from the museums, ceremonies and name readings, because it still feels fresh 20 years later.
He says sought counselling after the events and says he’s gained a great deal of respect for first responders, because “when everyone else was going down, they were going up and they didn’t ask any questions.”
He encourages anyone that is too young to remember the tragedy to visit the museum and to remember to give everyone involved the respect they deserve.
“I’d just like to thank everyone who sacrificed their lives and helped clean up New York. It was a tough time. So many people died,” says Dickens fighting through past emotions. “It’s just years and years afterwards there were so many sick people that I did stories on as a journalist. That whole area was devastated for years and years. [The area] Bigger than a football field, deeper than a football field. Hundreds of thousands of people who contributed to this and they should be respected,” Dickens says with tears in his eyes, “because they risked their lives to make New York and America a better place. I really believe that.”
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