kelly magyarics

washington, d.c.-based wine, spirits, travel & lifestyle writer / wine educator


9/11: 5 Years Later

In the Spring of 2001, I attended the Windows on the World Wine School at the top of the World Trade Center. This two month course was taught by Kevin Zraly: famed sommelier, wine writer and educator, and head of the wine cellar at Windows on the World Restaurant. And it was the reason for my wanting to leave the technology field and get into the wine business.

The course was, in a word, amazing. The view was breathtaking, the wines were incredible, and Kevin's teaching style was approachable, warm, funny and entertaining. I loved taking the E train to the World Trade Center stop, riding the elevator to the top of the tower every week, and getting there early enough to get a seat in the front row.

In the summer of 2001, my husband and I left the Metro NYC area, and moved to the metro DC area, leaving lots of friends behind, many of whom worked in New York. On September 11, 2001, I was working in Georgetown for a realtor. I remember the first email I received that morning, from my friend Nicolai, who lived in NJ. He said that something hit one of the towers. I sat riveted to the computer and to the radio, watching and listening as the events unfolded that we all are all too familiar with.

The rest of the day passed in a blur. I went home early, and watched the news the rest of the day. I thought of the Windows on the World Restaurant, and all the employees who worked there--some of whom helped pour wine during my course, or waited on me when I went there for dinner after my last class. I thought about the beautiful view, and the beautiful towers. And I wondered if Kevin Zraly was safe.

It was so hard for me to process the devastation and loss of life. I kept thinking about the wine cellar, and all of the thousands of bottles that were lost. I think, for me, it was easier to think about bottles of wine being lost, than people's lives.

The Windows on the World School continues today, though the course is taught from a hotel in midtown. Kevin was at home that day, outside of the city. It goes without saying that 9/11 changed all of us in profound ways. I will never forget. And I will never forget my time at the top of the tower, each Monday evening, that spring.