I was born 70 years ago in Schenectady. I lived there until the mid-1970s when I moved to NYC to pursue a career in TV and film production.
By the 1990s, I was making an effort to permanently make my home in upstate once again. Before moving back here I had built a company that had its base in NYC and a branch in the Capital Region. Most of my time was spent in my office and shop in Glenville. I would usually drive to NYC a couple of times a week for meetings and consultations.
At the time, I was in the early stages of a romantic relationship with a woman who lived in Schenectady. I lived in Alplaus.
September 11, 2001 was a beautiful late summer day. I headed out early to get to NYC for some meetings, the first of which was with a client at 9:30 on Worth Street in the shadow of the nearby WTC — Ground Zero. Afterward I planned to head uptown to my office.
I was very close to the city when I decided to stop at the last Thruway rest area for a cup of coffee. While in the rest area lobby I glanced up at the large TV they had on display. There was the “Today” show with Katie Couric in front of a video feed of the WTC with smoke pouring out of its upper floors. The first plane had just hit; there was absolutely no information at that time about what had just happened. I was debating about continuing on my way into the city, and as it turned out smack into Ground Zero.
I could not reach my clients, so I called my office to find out what was going on.
“DON’T come into town!” I was advised. Had I left a few minutes earlier or not stopped for that cup of coffee, I would have been at Ground Zero about the time the first plane struck.
As it was, I was on track to be there as the second plane struck. I left the rest area and found a way to make a U-turn and head back home. I called my girlfriend to let her know I was OK. While on the phone, the news of the plane crashing into Washington, D.C., erupted.
Her brother lived in D.C. She tried frantically to reach him and check on his welfare.
It took a while but eventually we were assured he was safe.
When I got back to Schenectady, she and I spent some time meditating on what what just happened. The next day we were house hunting together.
I’d like to mention with admiration and pride my co-workers and associates in the film production industry who, without hesitation, jumped in to provide generators and lighting equipment to assist the rescue effort in its earliest hours. I often wonder if any other city could have responded to and survived such a violent attack the way NYC did. It made me an even stronger lover of that city. But I am most grateful for having the friendships and sense of community that awaited me here, back home.
-Ray Simboli, Burnt Hills
More Remembrances: We remember; The Daily Gazette’s special Sept. 11 anniversary section