A Ready, Willing & Able Graduate reflects on the assignment that saved his life

Lucius Haynes, a 2002 graduate, reflects on 9/11

On September 11, 2001, I was working in the Hudson River Park at Pier 54, by West 13th Street.  I was a member of the Jersey City program, and Ready, Willing & Able had just started cleaning Hudson River Park.  I was one of the first 10 people to work under the contract.

Normally, my route was on a bike path that went right by the World Trade Center on West Street.  That morning, my assignment was changed to clean up at Pier 54.  I wasn’t too happy about that decision because I loved cleaning the bike path – there was a lot of shade!

About 15 minutes after I got to my station at Pier 54, a man standing next to me said, “Look at that plane!”  I noticed it was flying very low, and as it headed towards the North Tower, it suddenly turned and crashed right into the building.  I alerted the Park Ranger, and the joggers in the park began to notice what had happened.  As I was telling people what I saw, my back was turned.  That’s when someone in front of me screamed – the second tower had been struck.  I turned back around and saw a ball of flames coming out of the second tower.

We began helping direct the traffic that was coming from downtown, and when the towers collapsed, the whole park shook like there was an earthquake.

After that, we were taken back to Harlem for a while.  We tried to take the George Washington Bridge to get back to Jersey City, but they weren’t letting vehicles over.  So the van drove us to the bridge, and we walked across.

Days later, when we went back to the park, there were garbage bags stacked about 10 feet high.  We had a lot of work for the next couple of months, cleaning up the city.

My supervisor’s decision to change my route that morning may have saved my life, and I will never forget that day.

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About Author: The Doe Fund

Founded in 1985, The Doe Fund provides life-transforming services for the homeless, the formerly incarcerated, disenfranchised youth, and people living with AIDS. The organization's flagship Ready, Willing & Able program has helped tens of thousands of individuals achieve permanent self sufficiency through paid work, transitional housing, and employment training.