The 2996 Project, which I wrote about in June, was created by blogger Dale Roe to remember the victims of the terrorist attacks on September 11th. Bloggers have volunteered to remember the victims in a simple way — by posting something about each person who died that day so that they are never forgotten. I volunteered as soon as I heard about the project, and my tribute is to Erica Van Acker.
On September 11, 2001, Erica Van Acker was working as a consultant for Aon Corporation, which had offices in Tower No. 2 of the World Trade Center on the 98th to 105th floors. This means she was above the area where United Flight 175 hit the tower and among that group of people who never really had any chance to get out of the building. But that’s only the end of her story.
Erica was born in New York, but spent a large part of her childhood living with her grandparents in England. When she returned to New York in her 20’s she put her energies into becoming an accomplished businesswoman training people to use automatic machines in the workplace and, on the side, getting into the Manhattan real estate game.
In the 1970s, though, Erica was raped in the hallway of a Manhattan apartment building. Rather than remaining silent as many women did in those days, Erica spoke out on behalf of herself and other rape victims. She was the subject of a 1971 Bill Moyers documentary on PBS and lobbied for changes in state rape laws that made it easier to prosecute criminals.
In the 1990s, Erica went into yet another business and opened a restaurant in the Hamptons called Station Bistro. Her employees put it best:
Erica was not afraid to try anything,” said Matthew Ryan, who tended bar at the restaurant. “She kept reinventing herself.”
Van Acker was a hands-on owner. On any night, she could be found cooking in the kitchen, tending bar or charming customers and staff with droll stories, delivered with just a hint of a British accent. She kept her Manhattan apartment but instituted a house-sharing arrangement with Thompson, who lived in Sag Harbor, so she could be close to the restaurant and to the beach, which she loved.
“She always wanted to make it a pleasure for everyone working there,” said Marianne Toy, a former waitress at the restaurant. She said Van Acker, who came in at midday, prepared dinner for her staff and often worked through midnight, “really took an interest in everyone’s life.”
Station Bistro remained open until 2000, which Erica returned to consulting work in New York.
There is no record of what Erica Van Acker went through that day. Did she and her fellow employees try to escape ? Did they even realize what was happening ?