Remembering 9/11 and My Friend Doug
Like many native New Yorkers, I lost someone close to me on 9/11.
And even though it’s been many years since my childhood friend died during the terrorist attacks, I still think about him. I often wonder what might have been for a young life tragically cut short.
My friend Doug and I grew up together in Roslyn, a small town on Long Island’s North Shore. In fact, Doug was just one day older than me.
He worked for a financial services firm above the 100th floor of the World Trade Center’s south tower. Tragically, Doug was in his office when the planes hit and the towers fell.
Prior to that day from hell, Doug had big plans.
He had unexpectedly met his fiancée while commuting to work on the subway. In fact, Doug was engaged to be married in December of 2001. Doug and his fiancée had attended my wedding and I was looking forward to seeing them “tie the knot.”
While Doug’s future was bright, his wedding day never arrived. Instead, a memorial service was held in our hometown to honor his life and legacy — and mourn his untimely death.
Lucky at Love
The New York Times wrote the following about Doug in a tribute entitled, “Lucky Beyond the Odds”…
- “Doug Jason Irgang had the kind of jaw-dropping luck that could win a lottery, or save a life. A financial trader, he was there when the trade center was bombed in 1993.”
- “And he was on board the Long Island Rail Road train when Colin Ferguson went on a [shooting] rampage.”
“Mr. Irgang was even lucky in love.” — New York Times
- “Riding the №4 train to work daily, he noticed that the same young woman was reading his newspaper over his shoulder. This being New York, they barely exchanged hellos.”
- “Then one day, the woman scribbled her phone number on the newspaper and told him to call. He did. They were engaged a year and a half later, and set a wedding date for Dec. 22 .”
Doug’s story is just one among thousands. These are stories of innocence lost and dreams crushed under the rubble of the once iconic landmark.
Since then “Ground Zero” has been transformed into a somber memorial to honor the fallen and help families heal. Freedom Tower now graces the pristine skyline next to where the Twin Towers once stood.
Times may change, yet memories remain.
I vividly recall that nightmarish day.
I was working in downtown Washington, DC. Some of my co-workers were watching the live newscasts after the first plane struck the World Trade Center. Everyone thought this was a terrible accident at first, even the newscasters.
The disturbing scene of billowing smoke high over the skyline of lower Manhattan looked like the aftermath of a bomb blast.
How could this have happened, we all wondered?
How could a commercial jetliner crash into one of the most iconic buildings in America? It was a perplexing question, but not for long.
After the second plane hit it was obvious this was no accident — far from it. Rather, it was the worst attack on the American homeland since Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese during World War II.
President Roosevelt called the Pearl Harbor attack, “A date which will live in infamy.” The same can be said of 9/11.
My office building — then on the corner of 18th and L Streets, NW — was only several blocks from the White House. Thus, my employer swiftly evacuated the workforce as rumors spread about other planes targeting the nation’s capital.
Thereafter, the Pentagon was hit (pictured below). Then fear and chaos spread like wildfire. Panic quickly set in. Everyone was in a state of shock and disbelief.
This was our collective worst nightmare come true: America was under attack!
I contacted my wife and told her I was okay and on my way home. However, due to all of the uncertainty, I chose to flee on foot rather than take public transportation— as I thought the transit system could likewise be targeted.
I quickly walked to Massachusetts Avenue and down “Embassy Row” until I arrived on Wisconsin Avenue at the National Cathedral.
I recall the gridlocked traffic with cars honking, drivers cursing and “fender benders” occurring amid the chaos. Finally, I was able to hail a taxi and get home. My wife soon arrived too.
Later that evening, I heard the eerie sound of fighter jets patrolling the skies over the Washington-area.
America was now at war!