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A Nation Under Siege

September 12, 2001

New York City

All of a sudden the building shook, then it started to sway. We didn't know what was going on. I ran towards the reception area. It was completely collapsed, but the receptionist was able to crawl out from under it. People started to panic. We got all our people on the floor into the stairwell, and then people began to calm down. At that time we all thought it was a fire. Someone was joking, "I hope it wasn't another bomb." Everyone was trying to keep things up-tempo. We got down as far as the 74th floor, and someone there pulled us into their office. They had a TV on, and we saw that a plane had crashed into the building. Then there was another explosion, so we left again by the stairwell.

It took about 40 minutes to get to the bottom. We were trying to get out through the building's lower level when all of a sudden the power shut off and the lights went out. The police yelled, "Run!" Then something behind me collapsed. The building was starting to come down. All you saw was black, it was so dark. Now everybody was screaming. I got out with a coworker, I grabbed his hand and we headed out together. Once we got outside, he went back in to assist, but I was so messed up, I just kept on walking. A detective came up to me and asked me if I was okay. I had an asthma attack and I had debris in my eyes, but I was okay.

Bob Borski, 32, a financial director at the AIG insurance organization, with offices six blocks from the World Trade Center, was standing on the 15th floor with his boss, watching as the first tower burned. Then he saw United Airlines Flight 175 heading for the second tower.

It just doesn't fit into your mind -- I'm used to seeing planes and helicopters disappear behind the building. And then they come out the other side. But this was so low and it literally disappeared into the building. You think, well, what would that look like? Would it bounce off? But it's like the building swallowed up the plane. It was a swift explosion, it wasn't resounding. It was boom -- like a door shutting. Quick and loud. That silvery shiny plane, just going right into the building -- I'll replay it in my mind over and over.

At about 9 a.m., investment banker Richard Eg�es, 34, emerged from the downtown 2 subway line to walk toward his office at the World Financial Center.

On the street I saw crowds of people looking south. I looked up and saw gaping holes in both towers. As you looked more closely you began to see little things flying down, and then you realized they were bodies of people who had jumped from the building. I saw the somersaults, the floating bodies. It was like they were in slow motion, sort of turning around. You had to think there must have been such total desperation.

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