September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document
Story:My office was in Tower One...
As Information System Audit Project Leader and acting head of the department, I arrived at work as usual around 6:30 a.m., sipped tea as I read and answered my e-mail, reviewed my meeting schedule and prepared other work. Around 8:20 a.m., I called a prespecitve IS Auditor candidate to discuss our company's continued interest in him; around 8:27 a.m. we hung up. Our Financial Management Network (FMN) coordinator came to my office door to ask if I was going to attend the FMN session, I said, "yes". As our video and discussion sessions started at 8:45 a.m., I went to our 29th floor NE conference room around 8:42 a.m.
I was handed a sign-in sheet and the FMN coordinator left the room to see if others were going to attend the session. Around 8:44 a.m. I heard what sounded like the whine of an incoming missile (I thought "are we under attack?" and tried to imagine from where a missile could possibly have been launched.)I heard a thunderous BOOM; the building shook violently and the floor (each floor was approximately one acre in size) did a rolling wave; I saw debris falling past the windows.
I left the conference room and saw a co-worker standing spread eagle. He said he thought it was an earthquake, I told him something big had hit the building as there was debris falling from higher up and raining past the windows. I asked him if he had heard the incoming sound but apparently he had not.
I went to my office to get my purse. I hesitated as to whether I should pick up my briefcase and my walking shoes but as I looked out my door, I our departmental Vice President and her assistant running out. I heard our disaster floor monitor say "everyone out". I headed to the exit door without my bag and shoes. As I exited, someone said he was going to the elevator, I shouted "use the stairs".
I entered the stairwell with other co-workers; we started walking down in an orderly and quiet fashion.
One guy said it felt just like an earthquake and I said it didn't feel like any earthquake I had ever experienced in Los Angeles from Sylmar to Northridge including the Loma Prieta.
We continued to descend from the 29th floor. Around the 25th floor, there were 2 people wetting down a man who was having an asthma attack. We encountered the first of a steady line of fire fighters who looked winded and extremely hot and tired. They were fully outfitted in their fire fighting gear plus carrying extra fire hoses, air tanks, face masks, and cutting equipment.
The asthmatic sat down on the right side (my left side) of the stairwell in the oncoming path of the fire fighters. As I recall, one firefighter attempted to assist the asthmatic man down the stairs because the asthmatic had fallen over and was blocking the path up the stairwell.
I continued down the stairs. I lost sight of my co-workers who had passed me on the steps; I found myself with people from the 31st floor.
I looked at the firefighters and noted their age as being between mid-twenties and mid-thirties with the exception of a few "seasoned" individuals. I wanted to say something to them to encourage them as they seemed out on their feet. I put my hand on the shoulder of one of the firefighters and said, "you guys have got a lot of heart". He smiled and said "thank you". I thought I saw the others straighten up a little and walk with a little more purpose.
During the descent, we had no idea about what could have happended. A man behind me said he got a message from his wife on his message pager that said a plane had hit the building. We wondered if it was an accident.
Somewhere around floor 20 or 19, the stairwell shook. The man with the message pager got another message from his wife that a second plane had struck Tower II. We then knew it was deliberate and put some pep in our step. I now was with some people from the 51st floor as someone asked what floor they were from.
At floor 9, the overhead sprinklers were on all the way to floor 1. Around floor 3, structural damage could be seen; the same at 2. When we emerged from the stairwell at 1, the marble-lined lobby was in shambles. The lobby looked as though a bomb had gone off and the elevator wells imploded. The sprinklers were still on but the smell of jet fuel and the dust and smoke was not as bad there.
Port Authority police directed us to the escalator just past the Tourneau watch shop. We ascended the escalator to the lobby of WTC5 and out the door next to Borders book store. More Port Authority police were outside to direct us away from the building. The police officers were saying, "away from the building, away from the building, don't look up, don't look back, keep moving, keep moving, keep moving, don't use your cell phones, keep moving".
I walked across the street and up Fulton. Some people told me they waw the second plane circle around and fly into the second tower. About halfway up the block, I saw a large puddle of something red. It had the consistency of catsup but was bright red. I saw a pair of cork-soled platform black wedgies next to the puddle and a white towel partially saoked in the blood. A guy I didn't know came up to me and told me I didn't want to know what had been there. I said I did. He said someone's head had landed there and squashed on impact but it had been taken away. He said they couldn't find the body.
I observed people just standing around; some dazed, some in hysterics, some trying to use their cell phones. Others just milling around. I continued down Fulton chatting with the stranger who told me he worked for the Fulton Fish Market. I turned to look at the buildings. They were both ablaze. I would see thick black smoke, flames, debris falling and people jumping. As we neared the South Street Seaport, the stranger met some friends and stopped to chat. All taxis were full, I saw no municipal buses.
A red/white/blue Waterway ferry bus came along and I flagged it. The driver asked me where I was going , I said "NJ". He motioned to come aboard. I talked to the other passengers and listened to their stories, except for one rather nervous woman who wanted to go to Weehawken. We zig-zagged our way cross town to the 34th Street pier.
At the pier, there was a crowd of people numbering around 1500. We quickly saw there was only one ferry running. I saw a woman walking along and spoke to her. She said it was such a strange day. As the crowd moved forward, after standing in line about 5 minutes, some new comers said the towers had collapsed. From our location, we could only see the black smoke despite the sky being clear. No one wanted to believe the towers were gone.
The ferry arrived. I stayed near the open end so I could look out at NYC as we left for NJ. There were only a few puffy clouds in the sky and the vapor trail of a very high flying plane (probably military) and the thick black smoke.
Upon docking at Weehawken (NJ), we disembarked and assembled in queues by destination and waited for the shuttle buses to arrive. After waiting 10-15 minutes, another red/white/blue Waterway bus arrived to take us to Hoboken terminal. The ride took about 15 minutes because the driver was letting people off at the regularly scheduled stops.
When we arrived at Hoboken terminal, we were let off about 2 blocks away and walked in. The police had completely cordoned off the perimeter and no one really knew how we were to gain access to the station. One police officer had the presence of mind to raise the yellow tape and let us go to the station. Once in the station, I checked the board to see what time the Bayhead train was scheduled to depart (2:12 p.m.) and it was only a little before noon. I went to the ticket window to see which train I could take to Newark. I was told to go to Customer Service which was set-up as an emergency command center. They told me to take the Gladstone train to the Newark Broad Street station. I asked a conductor where to catch that train, he said track 17. I went to track 17, boarded the train and sat down wet and dusty. No tickets were checked.
When we arrived at Newark and descended the steps, there was a NJ transit bus waiting to take us to Newark Penn Station. The bus let us off 2 blocks away and we walked in. I walked to the station checked the board to see what track I needed to go to. I went to track 3. There was an Amtrak train waiting to leave but couldn't because it couldn't close its doors. They said they were waiting for the delivery of a cable that would allow them to close the doors and leave. They expected there to be a 10-15 minute wait.
I went inside the waiting room to use the pay phone. There were 2 women taking turns using the phone. Finally one finished and told me a call would go through faster if I called collect. I tried to use my phone card but it didn't work, so I used collect. My cousin answered at home and I told her to tell my Mom I was all right, at Newark Penn station, and on my way home and hung up.
Upon going back to track 3, the Amtrak train's doors were closed and it left about 5 minutes later. We could see the NJ Transit train waiting to advance to the platform. We boarded, the train left the station. At least 1/2 of the people in our car had been at or near the World Trade Center (WTC) and were wet like me or sooty. We discussed facts about the WTC and our individual experiences that day. One pregnant woman had trekked to the ferry from the WTC on foot carrying a laptop and her purse. She got off at Matawan.
I arrived in Red Bank around 3:08 p.m., still damp, wrinkled and a little sooty. I arrived home in Fair Haven around 3:15 p.m. I sat in the same spot almost constantly for two days watching TV following September 11, 2001.
I had no bad dreams nor do I have any today. I have seen occurrences of the 1960's; having lived in Boston and LA, I saw the earthquakes, wild fires, civil disobedience, and day-to-day violence coupled with what we see at the movies and on TV and I realize I have been left a little numb. Not that I'm not concerned for those who were injured (physically and mentally) and for those who lost their lives, being there and seeing it up close, there was a disconnect from the reality of it all.