Malloy reflects on waiting on train platform for commuters after 9/11

STAMFORD - September 11, 2001 started as a bustling Tuesday in the city of Stamford.  Many residents were catching trains, heading in for their normal workday in Manhattan.

“It was a nice day, clear day,” Gov. Dannel Malloy recalls. “I was at home watching morning TV.”

Then-mayor of Stamford, Malloy watched as breaking alerts began to pour in.

“A notice came across that a small plane had hit one of the Towers, that's how it was first reported,” Malloy said.

“When did you know something went really wrong in Manhattan?” FOX 61’s Jenn Bernstein asked Malloy.

“The amount of smoke that was coming from the first tower that was hit, it was clear that that was not a small plane,” he said.

Malloy was on his second term in the top spot in the state's most southern city. He said it didn't take him long to figure out a terror attack was underway, but the scope of it would unfold in the coming hours.

“I then, shortly thereafter, one way or another, got to the office and began taking the appropriate steps to protect the citizens of Stamford.”

That meant securing Stamford's water systems, as well as the major rail line running through. UBS also had its North American Trading Operation in the city.  Those were all viewed as potential targets.

“Information was relayed from the FBI of what they thought might otherwise be targeted,” said Malloy.

As the day continued, Malloy headed to the train station.

“In the afternoon I greeted the first train to come out of New York on the Metro North Line,” said Malloy.

“What compelled you to be there as those train doors opened?” Bernstein asked.

“I knew that there would be some number of people who were from Stamford, my home,” Malloy responded. “Some people got off covered in dust. I wanted to be there to reassure them.”

All the while, the horror of the day began to hit home.

“As mayor of Stamford, I knew that we were going to have citizens that had lost their lives,” said Malloy.

“Personally and professionally, what was going through your mind that day? How do you separate it, because you're a Stamford resident too?” Bernstein asked.

“It was a real challenge. In the neighborhood I lived in I could go to the end of the point, Shippan Point, and actually see the smoke rising,” Malloy remembers.

“Flying at a very low height were fighter jets. I'd never seen anything like that...clearly the world had changed.”

It was a turning point for America, one that would make communities more security conscious. Large-scale terror attacks were no longer something people heard about happening somewhere else far away.

“It was a tough time for me personally because I knew some of these folks and I went to these memorial services,” Malloy reflects. “My kids went to school with the children of some of the people who'd lost their lives.”

Just days before the 15th anniversary, families gathered at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport to honor and remember the 161 victims with Connecticut ties.

A time of reflection and healing.

“Are we safer as a nation?” Bernstein asked. “What more to do we need to do 15 years after this event?”

“We need to be diligent. I think we need to be investing in the best of technology to understand what the threats are that we confront on a daily basis,” said Malloy. “On the other hand, we need to continue to be Americans. We are freedom loving people. We're big-hearted and we are generous and we shouldn't allow terrorists to change that about ourselves.”

Ten people who were either born in Stamford or lived in the city at the time died that day, according to VOICES of September 11tt, an organization dedicated to helping families and communities after 9/11.

While 9/11 was the first time the governor handled tragedy on a large scale, it wasn't the last. Malloy believes he used lessons he learned on September 11 while responding to the Newtown School shooting 11 years later.