September 11, 2001 12:45pm
I wish I was writing many of you under better circumstances, but as many of you know, I am an employee of Lehman Brothers in NYC and my office is located at 1 World Trade Center (the one with the antenna) on the 38th floor. I had been at the office since 6:45am because of meetings, and yes, I was in the building when it all happened.
Since many people are trying to ask me what happened, I figured that I should write everyone in one email so that not only do you know that I am alive and physically unharmed, but so that you can hear my experience as a first-hand witness.
First, I must say that this is by far one of the most disturbing days of my life. I have seen some things today that no person should ever have to see.
Tuesday mornings I have a meeting at 7:30am in the neighboring World Financial Center building (where I used to work when I was with Merrill). I had just come back and was sitting at my desk for about 10 minutes before I heard and felt the first attack. The sound of a thunderous BOOM was heard with the jostling and swaying of the WTC 1 building. The feeling was something akin to someone grabbing you by the shoulders and swinging you back and forth a few times. Startled by this, I looked out the window just a few feet away to see glass, thousands of sheets of paper and large metal pieces raining down from above. My first reaction was that the top of the building blew off by some gas explosion or that a plane or helicopter had clipped the top of the building. Wanting to go closer to the window and look out, the better of my senses came about and I grabbed my wallet, keys and Palm Pilot (they were right in front of me) and ran to the emergency stairwell.
It's funny how nobody really knows where the stairwell is until something like this happens.
As mentioned above, I am on the 38th floor. It took me 20 minutes to get down. The stairs are only wide enough for two people abreast, and several times the flow of person traffic stopped. Around the 20th floor, we started seeing lots of smoke. Around the 9th floor, the firemen, running up the stairs, passed by with the look of uncertainty in their eyes... water started rushing down the stairs like a river a few floors further below.
At this point, nobody knew what was going on. The temperature in the stairwell was rising due to the amount of people trying to get out, and the sounds of men and women getting nervous didn't help the people trying to cling to their sanity. I don't think the people on the lower floors had any idea to what extent things were going on, and I don't think the people on the upper floors had much time to think about it.
Exiting the stairs in the upper lobby of the building (still inside) flashed a scene to the fountain area outside (the area between the two towers that people may remember Homer Simpson had a boot on his car in, if you saw that one). Completely evacuated, but the sound of "pebbles" brought me to look out the large windows to see a the outside raining glass, debris and burning "stuff". The direction that everyone was running was towards a covered bridge that runs between the WTC and the World Financial Center (across the west side highway, going towards the water). I wish I didn't but from this point until after I had crossed the highway, I had saw several bodies.. one thing that you never want to see is someone falling 80 stories to the.. well, I'll leave it there. Yes, I saw "the whole thing". We had to quickly run across from our building to the building where the bridge is.
Walking quickly towards the water, I finally got a chance to look back at the building. At this point, I had no idea that there was anything wrong with the WTC 2 building (the one without the antenna, second hit, it was the one that was the first to fall and was hit more in the middle). Making it closer to the water, the sight of one of the tallest buildings in the world in flames makes you a bit terrified, but very thankful that you made it out.
In a bit of a daze, I continued to walk north along the waterfront on the west side of Manhattan. I had found a friend of mine from Merrill Lynch (Brian Yarrington) walking in the same direction and tried to talk about other things.. not really able to complete sentences, I tried borrowing his cell phone to call my family (who were no doubt _FREAKING_ out), but cell reception wasn't happening. At some point, I had been able to look back and notice the size of the damage to WTC 1. I still did not know that WTC 2 had been hit.
About another three quarters of a mile down the road, I finally saw the damage that had been done to WTC 2 and had overheard someone talking about a bomb going off in that building. Continued to walk home.
These days I have been living in the West Village between 6th and 7th avenues around Christopher St. and West 4th. I had said goodbye to my friend Brian and started walking east into Manhattan's Greenwich Village. I had stopped on Hudson street to talk with some people who were standing in the street listening to the news on a car stereo. I told my story, declined some help and "you should see a doctor" talk and continued walking towards my apartment. Somewhere between Bleeker St. and 7th avenue, I see and hear the screams of people on 7th avenue (about 50 ft. away) looking in the direction of the towers. Asking what had just happened, people told me that WTC 2 had just collapsed (the first collapse). About this time, I saw my apartment's super, a woman named Ana, and just went over to her and threw my arms around her.
I finally went back to my apartment and tried to call my family on a normal phone. No such luck, the phone system was extremely clogged.
Eventually I made it over to 6th avenue and bumped into an acquaintance from the office (he sat a row away from me). We turned to see the WTC 1 building collapse into nothing.
Funny, as we were parting ways, I started to say "See you tomorrow..." ... I stopped after "See you..." when we realized that we should just finish the sentence with "when I see you.."
Well, it took me three hours to write this. I apologize to the people who have been worried about me for the last few hours, but know that I am safe and only a little shaken up.