NEW YORK - Commuters in expensive suits rushed in and out of coffee shops and to their offices on Wall Street. Occupy Wall Street protestors slept on the sidewalk. Tourists took pictures. Then, something out of the ordinary: At 8:46 a.m. Tuesday, the bells at Trinity Church, near Ground Zero, began ringing, and they didn't stop. That was the moment when the first plane crashed into the first tower on Sept. 11, 2001.
Eleven years later, a new World Trade Center has reached its full height, 104 stories, and is slated for completion by 2014. The terrorist attack has changed not only the physical landscape of lower Manhattan, but has also brought one moment of pause in a city that never stops moving.
"Family members or readers?" staff for the memorial service asked passersby at the intersection of Trinity Place and Liberty Street, near Ground Zero.
Now past the 10th anniversary, this is the first year at the 9/11 memorial that politicians didn't take part in the anniversary ceremony - only family members participated in the traditional reading of the names of the victims.
On the sidewalks that never stop moving, one man stood still. Eleven years later, survivor Tim Frolich, 48, of Brooklyn made his first visit back to the site. He stood by himself on the sidewalk, looking silently at the Engine 10 Ladder 10 truck parked across the street. For several minutes, he didn't move.
Frolich worked for Fuji Bank in the South Tower, the second one the planes hit. His office was just a few floors below the point of impact, but he was a volunteer fire warden, so he had gone up to evacuate people after a plane hit the first tower. Fifteen minutes later, a plane hit his tower. The way the second plane tilted as it came into his tower left the stairwell he was in intact, so he and those he was helping down were able to escape. Stairwell A, where he was, became the conduit for the very few survivors above the impact zone. As he came outside, he said he saw Brian Clark and Stanley Praimnath behind him, some of the handful who escaped the upper floors.
Outside, Frolich said he couldn't hear because of the explosion and he was covered in dust. He saw bodies and he saw people jumping. He had his back to the tower and a medic was helping clean his eyes out when the medic told him, "You need to start running." The tower was collapsing.
As he was caught in the dust cloud, Frolich ran and said he told himself to get ready to die. In the darkness, he couldn't see where he was going, but firefighters were running down the street and knew to feel along the buildings for doorways. One firefighter came alongside Frolich and pulled him into a garage by the Millennium Hilton, and in the darkness they tumbled down a stairwell, crushing most of the bones in Frolich's foot. The firefighter told Frolich he'd come back with help, and he did. They carried Frolich to a bank several blocks away, where an ambulance eventually picked him up. Since then Frolich has struggled with health issues - surgeries to his crushed foot and a mysterious autoimmune disorder that has required him to undergo chemotherapy. He assumes the disease is a result of that day, but he can't prove it.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Frolich and his wife Irene's only daughter was in kindergarten. Now she is a junior in high school, and she has started asking about his experience. Usually on the anniversary, Frolich said he does his best to avoid televisions.
But this anniversary, he finally talked himself into coming back to Ground Zero, to the sidewalk across from the Engine 10, Ladder 10 fire truck. Frolich said the firefighter who helped keep him safe that day was part of Engine 10, Ladder 10, and he heard later that the man died that day.
"That's why I'm standing here," Frolich said. He didn't have a sign, a pin, a photo, anything to distinguish himself from the crowds. He was just a New Yorker who took a minute to pause and look, like dozens of others. "It's about the day, it's not about me."