Rizzo on 9/11

My friend (and Bob's PhD advisor) Mario Rizzo talks about his personal 9/11 experience in NYC that day.


  1. Though nobody has solicited documentation of my experience, or asked where I place blame for the events, I don’t mind mouthing-off, so-to-speak.

    In early part of the summer of 2001, I wanted to get a satellite internet service set up for my TriBeCa office. I had a little problem, there was a tower blocking my view of the southern sky.

    At 8:46 am on 9/11/2001, I was in the process of taking a dump. I was the only person in the office that morning. While getting myself ready for what I thought was going to be a miserable trading day, I heard a jet obviously flying closer to Manhattan than anything I had ever heard. I hit the floor of the bathroom, a lot of good that would have done. I heard a boom, and all the glass and iron in my building shake. I didn’t bother to dress myself and went to my window to see what happened. After chanting “holy shit” a few times, I decided to get on the phone. I called my father to give him the scoop, it wasn’t even on CNBC yet. “Man, you’ll never believe what just happened…”

    A little later, while I was standing on the fire escape, I saw a huge explosion, all kinds of shit coming my way. I learned subsequently that one of engines from the second plane dropped pretty damn close to where I was. I figured it was a helicopter that blew up, or something, but since I had CNBC, I quickly found out it was another plane.

    I felt pretty bad for all the folks in the towers, and I felt a need to try and do something for them, maybe I just wanted to be a part of it, just to get closer, because, in retrospect, I can’t figure out how the hell I could have helped… who knows what motivates people in such situations… but I wussed out. My wife, an architect, was instant messaging me from her office in Connecticut. I asked her if she thought the towers would fall down. She and her colleagues thought that the buildings would stand, but I didn’t buy it, I stayed put. I had the best unaided view of the unfolding drama, I was just beyond the fringe of the thick smoke, but lots crap was raining on my fire escape. I recall the people running below looked like they were in a Japanese monster flick.

    When the first tower was collapsing I ran to the rear of my building and stood in a steel door frame. The building shook some, but it wasn’t so bad. I watched the second tower collapse in its entirety. I was never really in much danger, but I was still one confused dude. I didn’t know how I was going to get home. Were there going to be nerve agents released in the subways? Were they going to blow up the bridges next? Would Grand Central Station be safe?

    I had a shot of Glenfiddich , and started walking north. I had another drink in a bar in Murray Hill. I walked to the 125th Street station, and caught a train to Connecticut. I didn’t go to work for a few days. I remember eating a lot of ice cream. During every morning commute for the next few months I had the feeling that I was going to be killed on that trip. It sucked, and in those days New York was a pretty damn depressing place.

    I put the blame on ignorance masquerading as learning, which is another way of saying Religious Superstition. And as for the response, it was emotional, much of it was stupid, and it was human, very human, one collective 9-11 Freakout. The propensity for Freakouts is part of the human condition, but I feel we’d be much better off if we didn’t cloak them with religious superstition.

    If you made it this far, I’m sorry that I didn’t edit, or even read this document through.


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