Packed and ready to go in midtown
NEW YORK - Remarkably, nobody seemed aware that anything was wrong when Steve Sobotta, marketing director for Actors Federal Credit Union, stood on the train platform in Queens on the morning of September 11. "It was a beautiful day," he said, "and nobody on the platform was talking about anything having happened," even though he realized, thinking back, the first plane hit the first tower about five to 10 minutes before he boarded the train. Actors Federal has offices in midtown Manhattan, on 46th street, very close to Times Square. Sobotta remembered arriving at the office about 9:30, changing from his suit jacket into a sweater, and beginning to start work on the credit union's newsletter. The copy and photos for the letter were due by that Friday in New Jersey and he wanted to have it ready. When he first came in to the office and heard what had happened his first thought was that someone had flown a small plane in the tower by mistake, or as a bizarre stunt. His first confirmation that something was more seriously wrong came when his wife called unexpectedly about 10:00. "I remember she asked me if I was at work," Sobotta said, "and I thought that was a bizarre question since I was sitting at my desk, of course I was at work." But then she explained her mother had called, from Milwaukee, to ask if he was safe. Do you have a television, his wife asked? Actors had just put in a new ATM very close to the World Trade Center and Sobotta had spent time the last few days inspecting it, and tinkering with the machine's signage, he said. His wife had been concerned that was where he might have been. After the towers fell, Sobotta reports that the day had passed in a daze. He remembered feeling "bizarrely" concerned about the newsletter, wondering how he would get it out. The streets outside were filled with debris and dust but largely empty of people. From his window Sobotta can crane his neck and see Times Square and on a normal day Broadway is a river of yellow cabs. "But there was nothing on that day," he said, "the street was empty." Rumors flew and someone said that Times Square might be a target. In case they evacuated Sobatta said he put his suit coat back on and packed up his sizeable collection of family photos, to be ready in case he had to go. He finally left for home accompanied by a co-worker who lived close by and knew a way they could get home that avoided the closed subway lines. When he got home, Sobotta said, his wife would hardly let him out of her sight. * For Texas CU League VP of Marketing Resource Vickey Morris, this kind of news was all too familiar. "I was here in the office working and I kind of heard on the radio on my way in that an airplane hit the World Trade Center but it went in one ear and out the other. Then as the other staff and art director came in they started bringing the whole story to me and we rushed in to watch the television in the office just fixed in amazement. It hit me really hard because I was working at FAA Employees CU in April 1995 and I actually felt the explosion in Oklahoma City and all the shock and disbelief I felt that day just came rushing back as I watched the television." * Navy Federal FCU Public Relations Manager Loren Moeller was getting prepared for a very important CU charity event. "I was at work and was actually in a meeting with someone from the D.C. League about organizing the Cherry Blossom run. So I didn't know anything happened until 9:30 a.m. Now we have these large break rooms with televisions that run CNN all day long. So when we got out of the meeting I noticed that the break room mini-blinds were pulled up, glass doors open and people were standing up watching CNN and that's when I found out."