N Sept. 11, Jeff Galloway was standing
with his family in the courtyard of the Gateway Plaza apartment complex,
a block west of the World Trade Center, when Liam, his 8-year-old son,
screamed. Mr. Galloway, who had just rescued the family's German
Shepherd from the family's 32nd-floor apartment at the complex, looked
up and saw the top of the south tower tip back. Then the whole building
seemed to explode.
Running toward the esplanade, the Galloways were overtaken
by the roaring cloud of pulverized building and tumbled into a planter
box. It was so dark, Mr. Galloway couldn't see his wife, Paula, or his
children, Liam and his 9-year-old sister, Kiera, although they lay right
next to him. His initial thought was: "This is fire and smoke. We'll be
Eleven floors down from the Galloways' apartment, Gila
Fortinsky was frantically searching for her 2-year-old daughter, Rachel.
Ms. Fortinsky had just stepped out of the shower to see what seemed like
40 stories of the south tower barreling toward her. Her living room
windows blew in, shattering glass everywhere and filling the apartment
with dust. Ms. Fortinsky located her 3-year-old twins, Jacob and Sarah,
but Rachel was missing. "I finally ran to the bedroom and found her
there, screaming, covered in glass," she said.
Donna Holden, the
family housekeeper, scooped up Sarah, and Ms. Fortinsky, wearing only
biker shorts and a towel, carried Rachel and Jacob. Together, they
headed down 21 flights to the lobby.
In the most important way,
the Galloways and the Fortinskys were lucky on Sept. 11. They survived.
But in the subsequent weeks they faced a wrenching decision: whether to
stay in the city they loved or rebuild their lives elsewhere. A year
after the attack, when a cautious normalcy has returned, it's hard to
remember what a painful choice this was, especially for families like
the Galloways and Fortinskys, who lived almost exactly at ground zero.
In some respects, Sept. 11 was just the beginning. Subsequent
shock waves included the anthrax scare along with threats to the subway
system, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and Times Square.
Although relatively few families eventually left — no reliable figures
exist as to exactly how many — the decision-making process forced people
to reassess their relationship with the city.
As tenants of 600
Gateway Plaza, one of only two residential buildings physically damaged
in the attack (the other was 114 Liberty Street), the Galloways and
Fortinskys confronted these questions early on and under harrowing
circumstances. Their building became an F.B.I. crime scene, their
neighborhood an international epicenter of mourning. They became
refugees, separated from the small, ridiculously meaningful things — a
Thomas the Tank Engine table, a beloved dog's ashes — that make a few
rooms a place of significance.
Though a year later, one family
remains in New York and the other has left, both the Galloways and the
Fortinskys struggled hard to find their way home.
Like generations of New Yorkers before them, the Galloways
were drawn to the city like Dorothy to Oz. Jeff Galloway had arrived in
1978 from California to attend Columbia Law School, which he had chosen
specifically so he could live the exciting life of a New Yorker. Four
years later, he became one of the first residents of the newly opened
Gateway Plaza, a cluster of six apartment buildings containing 1,700
apartments that was Battery Park City's first residential complex. Paula
Galloway had fallen in love with the city as a Newark teenager, when she
started hanging out at Greenwich Village clubs like the Blue Note. The
couple met at Hughes, Hubbard & Reed, the firm where he worked as a
litigator and she as a secretary.
Initially, Gateway Plaza was
occupied mostly by young singles, but many of the original tenants, like
the Galloways, stayed on after marrying and starting families. For the
Galloways, the complex combined the child-friendly feel of the suburbs
with the verve and ease of city living. The couple founded the Battery
Park City Dog Association and went swing-dancing every weekend, often at
the Greatest Bar on the Earth atop the trade center. Ms. Galloway took
the children to Art in the Park at the Battery Park Conservancy and
worked out at the health club at the Marriott Hotel. Mr. Galloway
coached in the local Little League.
Even as the Galloways,
plastered in ash, their eyes stinging, picked themselves up out of the
planter that bright September morning, their tranquil way of life didn't
seem in jeopardy. Even after the second tower fell, Mr. Galloway could
not grasp the enormity of what had happened.
"Our mind-set was
funny," he said one recent evening as he and his wife sat on a bench on
the esplanade. "I was talking about where we were going to spend the
night as if we'd be back the next day."
That afternoon, after
being evacuated by ferry to Jersey City, they hitched a ride to a
friend's house in Cedar Grove, 11 miles away, where they ended up
staying for six days. As they shopped for staples and monitored the
news, the Galloways debated whether they should move to New Jersey
permanently. They worried that the city would be a target for future
terrorist attacks and wondered whether their children would be safer in
the suburbs. But after more than two decades as New Yorkers, they felt
an inextricable tie to the city that had always loomed so large in their
Then came an experience that confirmed for them that
their home was New York. On the night of Friday, Sept. 14, the couple
celebrated their 16th wedding anniversary at Bruschetta, a restaurant in
Fairfield, N.J. "It was a nice restaurant," Mr. Galloway said
apologetically, "but a nice restaurant in New Jersey."
and Fresh Start
Like the Galloways, the Fortinskys had also been
lured by the magnetism of the city, particularly its hard-driving law
firms. Gila Fortinsky of Teaneck, N.J., arrived in 1990 after graduating
from Georgetown Law School to work as a litigator at Milbank, Tweed,
Hadley & McCloy. That same year she moved to Gateway Plaza. Four years
later, she married Jerome Fortinsky, a Long Island native and Yale Law
School graduate who had come to the city to practice law at Shearman &
The family's life in Battery Park City was, as Ms.
Fortinsky put it, "very busy, very scheduled." Her husband was active in
the Battery Park Synagogue. The children played in the local tire park
and went to Tuesday morning story time at Borders Books in the trade
center. On Sept. 11, the twins were to attend afternoon preschool at
nearby P.S. 89.