A pilot from LaGrange remembers the aftermath of 9/11 in New York City.
Joey Hart flew into New Jersey a few days after the air space over the United States was reopened after the terrorist attack of September 11, 2011. During an interview with Daily News staff Monday, Hart described his reactions when he first heard about the attack and then his experiences when he and a friend had walked the streets near the devastated World Trade Center area a short time after the event.
“At the time of the attack, I was in LaGrange, just on Bull Street, helping a friend with his restaurant, when another friend of mine called me to tell me what was happening in New York City. Flying airplanes for a living, you think at first that somebody had made a mistake and then the next plane hits, and then the Pentagon, and then you know,” Hart said.
Hart along with a friend of his had to fly into the area shortly after the air space was again open for commercial air traffic.
“When we went to the area, on TV it seemed so small but when you start walking it, you realize how large of an area it really was.” He said it took a couple of hours just to reach Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.
“People were still walking around handing you photos of people that they were missing,” said Hart.
There were also signs of hope and gratitude.
“A firetruck would be passing and everybody would stop, clap and shout hurray for them. It was amazing, the folks there got it,” Hart said.
Hart said the scale of devastation was impossible to fathom.. He said the damage to the surrounding buildings was equally horrific as the damage at Ground Zero.
“When a two 100-plus story buildings collapse, all that debris has to go somewhere. There were just piles of rubble scattered everywhere.”
Hart said he could still smell the fires smouldering underneath the rubble that continued to burn as rescuers continued to search for survivors.
Hart also shared a stack of photos that he and his friend had taken during that trip. Most of the photos were black and white and as he was laying them out on the table, recalling details concerning the individual shots, Hart was still visibly shaken.
Hart, 37, has been a professional pilot for 13 years. At times, through his job he still has to fly to the New York City area. Although he hasn’t had the opportunity to yet, he plans to visit the new 9/11 Memorial in the near future.