If the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, were to occur in modern day New York, footage of the day’s horrors would immediately flood the Internet.
Fifteen years ago, people did not have cameras attached to their phones, and most non-news footage of the towers burning and crumbling came from a small amount of citizen journalists who took out their cameras and recorded the chaos.
One of those people was Darren Meenan, a community college student from Queens, who was just a few months away from his 21st birthday. Meenan didn’t have class that day and was first alerted to what happened by a scream from his mother.
“My mom yelled up to my room saying that a plane had accidentally just hit one of the towers,” Meenan said in an email to Rare.
“I turned on the TV and watched the second hit live on the news.”
At the time, Meenan produced videos for Manmade, a BMX brand he created that showcased the area’s talents. Thanks to Manmade, Meenan had what he considered a top of the line camera for the period. He knew of a spot near his home in Douglaston, Queens, that overlooked lower Manhattan and grabbed his camera.
Once he reached the top of the street, Meenan began to record the burning towers and the reactions of the people around him
“You know how many people are inside there right now?” one man asked.
“I don’t even feel safe standing here right now,” a woman told Meenan.
One passerby even remarked that what had just happened was an outbreak of war.
For the Queens native, watching the towers burn was extremely difficult. Throughout his life, Meenan always felt that the World Trade Center was a symbol of strength.
“Looking at the skyline it was just so overpowering. I’ve been many places since and nowhere compares to the NYC skyline, even after its makeover,” Meenan says.
“Up close I’d like to stand at the base and stare straight up. It Seemed to go forever. When I was real young, I wondered if the workers could make tin can phones between the buildings.”
After a while of filming, Meenan set up his tripod and left his camera alone. It wasn’t until later that he realized that he had captured the fall of the south tower. Meenan believes that his camera angle is one of, if not the furthest perspective from the site that captures the fall of the tower.
“There may be others, but I’ve never seen it,” he says.
“To be honest, when it happened, I was in shock. I Didn’t put into perspective the sheer terror and loss of life. Since I wasn’t watching the news at this point, I foolishly thought that maybe everyone got out? Only later did it all sink in.”
After shutting off his camera, Meenan tried to do whatever he could to help out. He immediately drove to a local hospital to try and give blood but couldn’t because of a fresh tattoo. The next day he went down to the staging area at the Jacob Javits Center to see if he could help.
“On 9/12, I laced up my work boots and [went] to the Jacob Javits Center to try to volunteer. I’ve never had any formal training, so I wasn’t allowed, but it was powerful to see how many men and women flocked to the city to lend a hand. They gave me a paper and put me on some sort of list, but nothing came of it afterwards.”
Though he didn’t know anyone directly who was killed on 9/11/01, Meenan recalls the next few weeks were filled with funerals for his parents, who had many friends who lost loved ones.
According to Meenan, the impact of 9/11 was immediately felt in the small town of Douglaston.
“Everything changed. It brought strangers together. Everyone was just nicer to each other and wanted to help out any way they could,” Meenan says.
“Flags lined the streets and on almost every house. Security levels boosted almost everywhere you went and are still to this day.”
Hittin' us with the long lens. | #Repost @cmpdesignz ・・・ @the7line @mets @mlb NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 02: Members of The 7 Line Army cheer during the game between the New York Yankees and New York Mets at Citi Field on August 2, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo By Christopher Pasatieri) #mlb #mets #nymets #letsgomets #metsbaseball #the7line #the7linearmy #cmpdesignz
As his 36th birthday approaches, Meenan has established himself as a true Queens success story. His New York Mets themed clothing label, The 7 Line, is known across the sports world, and the fan gatherings that he arranges in different cities where the Mets play have become the stuff of legend around baseball.
Like many New Yorkers, Meenan can’t help but think of 9/11/01 whenever he sees the Manhattan skyline, minus the two buildings. On the fifteenth anniversary, he hopes that those who lost loved ones are closer to finding peace.
“I’m sure the healing will never end for those who lost loved ones, but this many years later, I hope it’s at least a little easier knowing how many strangers care.”