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My 9/11 Story

Discussion in 'Open Discussion (Work-safe)' started by wadc45, Mar 22, 2005.

  1. wadc45

    wadc45 Bourbon, Bow Ties and Baseball Hats Staff Member BP Recruiting Team

    I was asked by an admin here to recount my experience on 9/11, and since I have had some down time while being out of town, I put something together. The topic of 9/11 has come up on this website a few times and I am always willing to discuss it because in some ways it has become cathartic for me to share my experience. I hope this provides some insight into what that day was like for those of you who could only see it on your TV. Anyone with similar stories I would welcome to share as well. And I am not a professional writer or editor, so if there are some mistakes, just bear with me...

    It is only after several years that I am able to talk about this event in an almost story-like fashion. But trust me when I say it is a very real experience that has been with me since the day it transpired. I have talked about my experiences that day numerous times...and each time it provides a little solace to myself and those that are missed. I am talking about it here now at the request of those who think that this type of account may benefit those that frequent this site. While I don't expect a future terrorist or skinhead to read this and grow a conscience, I do hope it reminds all of you to hug your wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, child, parents, etc. the next time you see them...and to thank a fireman the next time you pass one on the street.

    I lived in New York for 6 years...4 while attending college at Fordham University in the Bronx and 2+ years after college living in the city and suburbs. I worked for a subsidiary of The Guardian Life Insurance Company called Park Avenue Securities (PAS) at 7 Hanover Square, about 3-4 blocks from the South Street Seaport and about 10 blocks from the World Trade Center. My friends who worked in the area and I would often meet at places like Harry's at Hanover Square, The Greatest Bar on Earth in 1 WTC, and Jeremy's Ale House after work to relax and unwind. We would often pick up cigars at Barclay Rex or stopped into the Brooks Brothers and Century 21 shops at Liberty Plaza. I know what you are sounds like the worst of American Psycho. But before you peg me as a metrosexual, know this... when you live and work in New York City, routine can sometimes be your best friend, helping you get through the daily grind of subways, taxis, and tourists. All of that changed after September 11th.

    I was running my customary 5-10 minutes late that day. Usually I got off the subway at the Wall Street station right outside Trinity Church and walked over to Hanover Square, but that day I was going to be running some errands in the neighborhood of the World Trade Center, so I got off the Lexington line at 14th Street and made my way over to the Broadway line so I could get off at the City Hall station and stop by the firm who was implementing a new computer system for our trading desk. I was 23 at the time, a recent graduate from Fordham with a degree in finance, and the business manager for the technology department at PAS. Life was pretty damn good. As I left the subway station, I stopped to get my usual coffee from one of the street vendors and then began walking south. Not a minute later, I heard a plane passing overhead. For some reason I looked up, probably because it sounded a little louder than your ordinary plane flying overhead at tens of thousands of feet up in the air. I just saw the last bit of the wing pass over the buildings above me, and seconds later heard a loud explosion. The last thing you think at this point is that you are about to witness first hand one of the greatest tragedies in human history. So I began to walk down to a street that gave me a view of where the plane was headed. Typical gawking New Yorker, reveling in the suffering of others. It's part of the reason traffic is so bad there...worst rubberneckers in the world. Anyways, at that point I realized that I was not just watching a two car accident on the side of the Hutchinson Parkway but rather something serious. All I could see was what appeared to be a pretty small plume of smoke and some debris falling to the ground like snow or confetti. The severity of things was not that apparent. The woman next to me kept saying "Oh my God" but in a very controlled and concerned manner. No one was panicking at this point, thinking that we had merely just been observers of a horrible accident. A few minutes later we realized that this was no accident.

    I spent a good 10 minutes just looking at the eastern side of the north tower, trying to see what had happened. Not wanting to be late to work, and partly thinking that I would have a cool story for my coworkers when I got there about how I kinda saw the event happen, I began walking quickly towards my office. I figured I could stop by the software designer's office at lunch after things had calmed a bit. As I made my way down the sidewalk, I heard a second plane approaching. Still at this point, it was not sinking in what was happening. I looked up momentarily and saw a plane fly directly over top of me. The sound was so loud it sounded like you were standing right next to a plane on the runway tarmac. I felt like I could reach up and touch it...that's how close to the ground it appeared to be. I had never see a plane flying that low to the ground. It was like watching the planes land as they pass over the airport golf course in Columbus...except in the middle of the Financial District where there are no airports that close by. Moments later, it left my view as it passed over the buildings above me. Again, a few seconds later, I heard a loud explosion. This one was much more intense than the first. I could feel the sound, like the bass at a loud concert. I could feel it in my chest. I looked around and saw all the windows in all the stores and all the cars were gone...shattered. All of a sudden, it didn't feel like an accident anymore. It felt like a war zone. I quickly ran to another major intersection where I could look and see back towards the Twin Towers. This time I saw a lot more than just a plume of smoke and some debris. A ball of fire and smoke was creeping up the side of the south tower and the sky was turning brown from all the debris. It looked like brown snow, only the piece were a lot bigger than snowflakes when they hit the ground. I decided I had better start running to work, because it seemed to be a safe place, away from the chaos.

    My office was right next to the trading desk, which had a glass front on about the 15th floor of the north side of Guardian's building. I arrived to find everyone looking out the windows to the Twin Towers and watching the footage as it began to come across the TV. I first went to my desk to call my girlfriend at the time and tell her about what was going on. Since she was still in college, she was still asleep. I then got a phone call from a buddy of mine who worked in midtown for Chiat-Day, an advertising company. We were still both kind of in shock over what happened and still had no concept of the totality of the situation. It was still sort of novel at that point. I was constantly walking back and forth between my phone and the trading desk. The trading floor was equipped with several TV, usually tuned to Bloomberg and other news and money oriented channels. The news channels began to broadcast live footage of the destruction. We still had no idea that this was a terrorist attack. Rumors of other attacks starting spreading like wildfire. We heard there was another planned for the White House, another attack at Grand Central Station, and others at major points within New York City, Boston, and DC. About a half an hour after getting to work, word spread of another plane crashing at the Pentagon. Many people within my building began to become scared. An announcement was made over the fire PA system that the best thing we could do was remain calm and remain in the building. The usuals, myself included, still found time to sneak town for a cigarette. Upon coming back upstairs, I was able to get through to my girlfriend, but still had not talked to several friends or any of my family back in Columbus. A few minutes later someone shouted, "There it goes!" We all ran to the window to watch the south tower, the second to be hit, begin to crumble under it's own weight. 30 or 40 of my coworkers were pressed against the glass in total silence watching the unthinkable happen. The novelty of the situation had officially worn off.

    A little while later after the dust began to settle, a friend of mine who worked in the Registered Investment Advisory department at PAS came to me and suggested we go outside and see if there was anything we could do to help. It seemed like a good idea and I was much too frantic to just sit still so reluctantly, three of us went outside and made our way north toward Bowling Green, and then began walking up Broadway towards the carnage. The sky was a khaki brown and the smoke was beginning to lower onto the street. All you could hear were people screaming and sirens. We began running towards the destruction, not knowing what we would see when we got there. We finally stopped about two blocks short of what used to be the south tower. The smoke was beginning to get so thick you couldn't see or breath. We ran east in a circular path to try and get around the smoke and get closer to the north tower. In retrospect, probably not a great idea, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Still about 3-4 blocks from the building, my friend grabbed my arm and pointed to an object falling next to the north tower. I asked what it was and he told me it was a person. There are only a few clear cut images that are stained in my memory from that day...the second plane going over top of me, the first time I looked at the north tower after it had been hit, and that split second where I wasn't even sure what I saw but came to find out it was a person escaping the flames and smoke the only way they could. Those are just a few of the images I will never forget. Realizing there was nothing we could do, we saw an old man who was struggling with a cane walking away from the north tower. My friend began to help him move more quickly. It took us about 5 minutes to get him another 2 blocks away from the wreckage. That's when the north tower began to go.

    Like the images that are etched in my memory, there are a few sounds, like the second plane flying over me, that I will also always remember. The sound of the north tower beginning to collapse is one of those sounds. Realizing that we were in harms way, we escorted the older gentleman and a few others into the wreckage of what was once a bustling Timothy's coffee shop. In Manhattan, Timothy's are like Starbucks...on every freaking corner. We watched from inside as a cloud of black smoke raced past the window. Someone was handing out paper towels to cover our mouths with. Someone else decided the towels would be more effective if they were soaked in water, so they began filling pitchers of water and passing them around so people could drench their towels. We waited in the coffee shop for a good 10 minutes, before realizing that the smoke was not going to clear anymore. You couldn't see your hand in front of your face. It was that black outside. The street lights, at least those that were still working, lit out path as my two coworkers and I headed back towards our office. As we returned to the trading floor, the looks on my coworker's faces was awful. Everyone had either been inside the World Trade Center, known someone who worked there, or had worked there themselves at one time or another. I returned to my desk and again tried to call back to Ohio but to no avail. We began the long wait until we could evacuate.

    About a half an hour after the north tower collapsed, we received word that Mayor Giuliani was ordering people out of the Financial District. About 15 minutes later we were finally instructed that the safest thing for us to do was to leave the building and return home. Our building was susceptible to structural damage, so we grabbed all of the face masks and paper towels that were available and began to leave, carrying a lot of our personal belonging from work with us. Thousands of people were now outside making their way home on foot. The Brooklyn Bridge was absolutely covered with a mob of people trying to get home. I walked with a group of my coworkers northward through the city. One by one they began to peel off as we passed their street or a place where they could meet someone to pick them up. I on the other hand was walking all the way back to Grand Central Station. Every shop, bar, and restaurant along the way had their doors open inviting people to come in and get some water and sit down to rest for a few minutes. Those of you from NYC know that is unheard of. I finally arrived at 42nd St. around 12:30 or 1:00. I found a pay phone and tried again to call home. None of the cell phones in the area were working because a large antenna which provided cellular service was on top of one of the towers. I finally spoke to my father, who was at first relieved, but then began sobbing. For the first time that day, I too got choked up. The family connection really brought home the severity of what had happened. I told him I was okay and to tell everyone else I was fine and that I would call him once I got home. I was living in Fleetwood, just south of White Plains, at the time, so I found a Harlem line Metro North train and got on. The guy next to me had been on the 20th or so floor of the north tower. We were both covered from head to toe with soot and ash. Everything smelled burnt. It was nauseating. Some people were laughing, others were crying, and others were motionless. Everyone deals with tragedy in their own way, I guess. I arrived home to the biggest hug my roommate ever gave me. I had not spoken to him all day and he worked right outside of Grand Central Station, so he had been home for a few hours. For the next 48 hours we watched the television, interrupted only by breaks for the bathroom and to pay the pizza delivery guy. It still was like a dream.

    We began our own damage assessment. I first spoke to my sister, then a freshman at Lafayette College, who had not put two and two together until several hours after the events unfolded. Finally someone clued her in that her brother's office was very close to where the destruction was. When we finally talked on the phone, she cried for a good 15 minutes. I finally got her calmed down and we talked about the whole thing for a while. Then I began calling friends and college buddies. Turns out almost everyone I knew there that day got out alive. One friend of mine who worked for Deloitte & Touche inside the World Trade Center didn't go to work that day because he had broken his ankle the night before during a basketball game. There were those however that were not so lucky. A guy I played rugby with who was originally from South Africa did not make it out. His website is still up (there is some background music so adjust your speakers if you need to). Two other acquaintances of mine were lost that a guy I knew during college and the other a friend of one of my roommates from college. Another friend's father was not able to get out in time and was never recovered. She and her family handled the situation with more strength and courage than I could ever have hoped to. I don't know how they did it. I was sent to work out of Guardian's home office in Bethlehem, PA for the next few months. I was very close to my sister at Lafayette, so it was good to be able to see her. During my time in Pennsylvania, they recovered DNA evidence of my former teammate, and sent it to his family in South Africa. In some way, that was a huge relief. I actually developed a routine of sorts in Bethlehem, but when the time came to return to my office at 7 Hanover Square, I was ready and anxious.

    It took several weeks for things to feel normal again around the office. Getting off the subway and being greeted by soldiers with camouflage and guns kind of made things a little tense. Several of my coworkers were either still in Bethlehem or working out of a branch office in Boston. It would nearly two months before I walked near the WTC site again. My mother had brought my younger brother, then just an eighth grader, to the site to give him some historical reference. It was agonizing to walk by the memorials, knowing that just a few months prior I had spent many days and nights walking through the same crowded streets. There is a part of me that is still affected by it...every time I see the Twin Towers during a Friends re-run, during the memorial at the Marshall game last year, someone talking about where they were that day, whatever the still brings a lot of emotions back. But at the same time, I am eternally grateful to the fine members of the FDNY who risked their lives that day. And the same goes for the men and women serving as firemen all over this country who protect us each and every day. We owe you all a debt of gratitude.

    The slogan of my Scottish clan is Ne Obliviscaris, which means "Never Forget". I think it is important that we always heed those words. Thanks for listening...


    Last edited: Mar 23, 2005
    Muck, NJ-Buckeye, Mike80 and 9 others like this.
  2. osugrad21

    osugrad21 Capo Regime Staff Member

    Very powerful story...thanks for posting it.
  3. Gobucki

    Gobucki I'm using the Internet!!!

    Thanks for this. I always enjoy hearing 9/11 stories.

    Glad to hear that most of your friends made it out.
  4. BuckeyeSkins

    BuckeyeSkins Go Bucks/Hail to the Redskins!!

    Thanks for sharing a powerful story.
  5. BB73

    BB73 Loves Buckeye History Staff Member Bookie '16 & '17 Upset Contest Winner

    Thanks for your story. Let's "Never Forget".
  6. DA-Bucks

    DA-Bucks Trick shot artist Former FF The Deuce Champ

    Thanks for sharing, very touching and insightful story.
  7. coxew

    coxew Newbie

    All I can say after reading that is... WOW. Truly amazing. I think NewYorkBuck posted his memories of that day on Bucknuts and I felt the same as I did reading yours.
  8. LoKyBuckeye

    LoKyBuckeye I give up. This board is too hard to understand.

    Wow... thanks for sharing the story. Checking out your freinds web site makes it really hit home again. It's sad to think about how many people like him lost their lives that day. This world will never be the same becuase of what happened that day.
  9. OSUsushichic

    OSUsushichic Fired up! Ready to go!

    Wow, powerful story. Thank you for sharing. I still tear up when reading eyewitness stories about this, even though it's been almost 4 years ago. I certainly cannot imagine witnessing it with my own eyes.

    Do you still live in NYC?
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2005
  10. ScarletInMyVeins

    ScarletInMyVeins Tanned Fat Looks Better

    45, thanks a lot for sharing... that story almost brought me to tears. I was no where near anything that happened on that day, but everytime I read something, or watch something on t.v. about it I get a little choked up. I cannot imagine how those who were there feel.
  11. wadc45

    wadc45 Bourbon, Bow Ties and Baseball Hats Staff Member BP Recruiting Team

    No...I moved back to Columbus in June of 2002 to take a job with a private insurance agency and coach rugby at Ohio State. I still visit NYC about once every other month...
  12. BuckBackHome

    BuckBackHome Wolverine is largest member of weasel family

    As others have stated, thank you for sharing that story.
  13. gregorylee

    gregorylee I'd rather be napping!!

    Great time to move back home :biggrin:

    Thanks for sharing the story, I remember that day all to well. I got sent home from work and spent the rest of the day holding my youngest son (my oldest was still at school).
  14. AJHawkfan

    AJHawkfan Wanna make $14 the hard way?

    WADC, thank you for sharing your story.
  15. NJ-Buckeye

    NJ-Buckeye They Hate Us cuz They Ain't Us.. Banners are good Staff Member

    Wadc45 that is some story...

    Mine pales in comparison but I had more involvement than most... and this seems to be a worthwhile use of my 1000th post... I rcvd an email early in the morning that a plane hit the WTC... I replied it must be bogus because it's not like the WTCs just sneak up on you if you're flying a plane... I then assumed it was some mini-Cessna and the pilot had some medical condition... I see messages on so I go to the TV... they're broadcasting from the Financial District.. and after a few minutes I see the second plane hit right over the spokespersons head...

    I am beyond stunned... and almost immediately my phones start to ring off the hook... landline and cell... I have friends in the city asking for help... total mayhem is setting in... and a number of them are not from the city... I'm relaying instructions on where to go... getting calls back that one by one these are now inaccessible or shut down...

    I am flipping channels to see what is happening so I can further relay instructions.. I am working both phones and emailing to blackberries.. an aunt sends me an email.. my cousin was in the tower and she can't locate him... the first tower goes down and I lose the station I am watching.. other channels are now fuzz.. many of my broadcasting stations transmitted from the WTC... now I'm having difficulty reaching folks by cell...

    Luckily I find out the ferry from Midtown into Weehauken NJ is still running... but it is a LONG way away from a number of them... but numerous get lucky and get there.. and over.. before it becomes impossible to get in... I arrange for a couple to get rentals cars... they want to get back to the airports right away... this goes on for hours... my cousin finally asks an elderly man in a store in Tribecca to please call his mom (my aunt) and tell him he's alive... his corp office was in the top of WTC but he had just gotten into the building when hell broke lose...

    I have a couple of brain farts and send emails to buds that work in the towers... and naively, I am devastated because the emails come back undeliverable... I make the worst assumptions forgetting that the servers at these work places are destroyed... and thankfully, find out days later my friends are still alive... One who worked in the 105th floor ironically was in Ohio on business and every worker in his WTC building was killed... He attended a funeral almost every couple days for 3 months...

    All day long, I am still trying to play AWACS but more and more hampers efforts... All airports are closed... no more rental cars available... almost all NJ roads are now shut down... I walk outside and it is one of the prettiest days you can imagine... it is warm (about 82) and there is not one cloud in a gorgeous blue sky... but there are plumes of smoke in the distance due east (by the way the crow flies Manhattan is about 35 miles away)...

    As night starts, the neighborhood is buzzing... my next door neighbor is missing... (he lived... buddy at end of street does not) ... spouses working in NY are missing... have not been heard from... obviously my kids baseball game is cancelled and my asst-coach calls.. he's a head surgeon in princeton and the army has instructed him to organize three major hospitals in the area from Princeton to new brunswick in prep of them to bring countless numbers from Manhattan (which never transpires by the way)... he informs the Army that there is a medical convention mid-town Manhattan with probably 100 of the finest surgeons on the planet in attendance... every surgeon volunteers to assist downtown...

    For days the town is a mess... I spend days still helping folks get back to their homes out of state... teachers whose spouses are still missing cannot get it together to go to school... classmates of my youngest are missing because they're missing parents... various others have volunteered and been accepted to go into the rubble to help... Lost a lot of town people in that disaster... folks still trying to recover mentally... Interestingly numerous doctors advised folks losing loved ones to write a story or book for themselves... read a few... just wrenching...

    Would love to hear what NewYorkBuck's day entailed... he works a hundred yards or so away... Wadc45 you probably passed his office near the church... thanks for sharing...
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2005

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