It was 7 a.m., a clear and warm day.
As a surfer, he loved taking to the waves early in the morning from late August to early October and would jump at any opportunity to do so.
Even before heading to Manhattan to teach students about Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Ross often found himself out in the Atlantic paddling for rides.
On this day, the six-foot swells looked like glass. Ross was excited. He decided he’d ride a few waves before rolling into his Manhattan school to teach English class. He would surf for a half-hour then hit the shuttle to 116th Street. Then he’d hop on the A train into Manhattan like he had many times before, he told himself.
While out in the surf, however, Ross quickly realized this was a rare opportunity to ride waves that hardly ever hit the east coast. They were “perfectly shaped” and “perfectly powered,” he thought. How often can you say that in New York?
He was catching rides with his nine-foot Stewart long board. He was carving - even getting barreled one time. This was out-of-sight.
It was so good he had to call out of work.
“I never knew that playing hooky could save my life,” he said. “But my intuition saved my life. I don’t know why. It just did. Maybe I’m supposed to be here a little longer to do something. I don’t know what.”
This is only one of countless stories we hear from people in New York City who experienced 9/11 in their own way.
Everyone you speak to will tell you where they were that day, who they were with, and what they were thinking.
When it was clear to most that the Twin Towers would soon become an imprinted memory, a hush startled the city of New York. In the wake of the September 11th attacks a new moment arose.
A collective gasp of horror that pulled people from the darkest moments of shock, awe and devastation to something else. Something bigger.
Above the cowardly thugs who destroyed thousands of lives and the New York City skyline, a new embodiment seemed to take hold throughout the city that never sleeps and the tireless efforts to revive spirits emerged.
The ripe fury, the explosive chaos, the terror were all-too-real. So was the union of people from all over the city.
Those who tried to help; those who did all they could that set the example of what America really is: A union of differences that converge when times are tough and gain autonomy when times are smooth.
What 9/11 was for so many was destruction. The iconic buildings down, thousands of firefighters and policemen and employees working in both edifices perished. It was pandemonium of horror and a surreal clarity, a mind-numbing experience that makes you question your whole existence.
But it was also a rebuilding of the character and strength of the city.
Now, nearing the seventh anniversary, there are constant reminders of 9/11 at every corner. In Rockaway, there is Richie Allen Street to commemorate the brave local firefighter who gave his life in the tragic event. In Maspeth, we see the 9/11 memorial site that offers tribute to those who sacrificed it all. In Brooklyn, they race through the Battery Tunnel each year to commemorate the path that Park Slope firefighter Stephen Siller traced as he selflessly ran to his death to help others.
And as we edge in toward an ominous remembrance, we can never forget the lives lost – and we won’t.