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 MY  9/11  STORY

The morning of 9-11-01 I left my home in Pennsylvania to start my commute to New York City. I drove my car for 1 hour to Dover, New Jersey where I switched to a bus that takes me to the city.

After an hour and fifteen minutes on the bus I arrived at the Port Authority Bus Terminal which is located on 42nd street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan. I took the stairways leading down to the Times Square subway station which is located under the Bus Terminal building. I made my way to the E train platform and waited for the subway which would take me downtown to the World Trade Center station at Chambers Street.

While I was waiting for the E train to arrive, I was thinking about what I had to do that day. I work in the Conversion Department of an elevator company which is also located in Manhattan. The Conversion Department removes old outdated elevator systems and installs newer equipment. That day I was scheduled to work at 6 World Trade Center, the Customs House, in the Trade Center Complex.

When the E train arrived I walked into the front subway car, so that when we arrived at the Chambers Street stop it would be a short walk to the exit turnstiles and the underground mall entrance of the World Trade Center. Once I passed through the mall entrance I stopped at the newsstand on my left and picked up a newspaper and then turned around and walked straight through the rest of the mall area until I came to the escalators that brought me back up to street level. Once outside I walked the short distance through the outside plaza area of the Trade Center to the entrance by the Customs House.

I signed in at the Security Area and took the passenger elevators to the top floor. I stepped off the elevator and made my way to the stairwell leading up to the elevator machine room and the buildings fan and equipment area. This was an added rectangular structure on the building's main roof. It was now 7:00 AM on September 11, 2001.

Our elevator company had 2 Conversion teams working in the elevator motor room that day. They were Louie and his helper Vern and Smitty and his helper Mike. That day they were scheduled to remove the old emergency power wires and fire service wiring and move them to the new elevator system that had been installed. We went over what wires would have to be cut and rerouted. The work would have to be completed that day because we knew that the complex was going to run an emergency power test that upcoming weekend. The main reason for such a test is to see that all essential electrical equipment, elevators, and lights would work if there were a loss of normal power from the Electric Company. During that on site test emergency power generators would be used which run on diesel fuel and provide the electricity that would be needed.

I left the two teams in this elevator motor room and walked to the freight elevator motor room which was about 50 feet away. This elevator motor room was also used as
an office by the elevator maintenance mechanic Nick V. There was a desk and phone that I would be able to use. I sat down at the desk and had just started drawing
some of the wiring changes we would be adding later. It was now 8:48 AM.

I heard what sounded like a muffled explosion. It was not loud enough to cause any concern. Then a few seconds later I heard objects falling on the roof above me.
When the noise of falling debris continued I decided to go into the center area between our two motor rooms and picked a spot under one of the girders that supported the
roof. My reasoning for this was that if the roof caved in and the girder didn't protect me then it wouldn't matter where I stood. But a few more seconds and the falling material stopped hitting our roof. No large objects had hit because there was no damage to the roof where I was or where the teams were working. Vern came out from
his motor room to see if I was okay and to see if I knew what had happened.

A few moments later Vern and I were joined by the other mechanics and we made our way to the doorway leading to the main roof. I felt the door to make certain there was no heat. I didn't want to open the door to a raging fire. I opened it very slowly and the first thing we saw was the sky filled with falling paper. We stepped out further and I looked up the side of the North Tower that was facing us. The North Tower was right next to 6 World Trade. As I looked further up I saw a large gaping hole. It was in the center of the building and looked like it spanned 4 or 5 floors. A quick guess was that the destruction was around the 95th floor.



 

We did not even consider that a plane could have caused the destruction. We felt it was another successfully planted bomb reminiscent of the one in 1993. Louie did voice one concern that at the time of the explosion he had just cut an old emergency power wire. He wanted assurance that it wasn't the emergency power generator that had exploded. I looked back up at the destruction and back at Louie and assured him that there was no way what we were seeing was caused by his cutting of any wires.

At this time I decided to call our office on my cell phone. I informed them everyone was okay at our job site. From their response I could tell they knew nothing of what happened to the Trade Center at that time. So I told them what we had seen up to that point. As I was describing the destruction we saw the first jumper from the North Tower. He was on his back with arms stretched out as he fell past our roof location, 8 floors above the plaza. There was a haunting air of calmness from this man as he fell. That image will stay with us forever.

Our thoughts were interrupted by Smitty who informed us that the public address system was calling for a total evacuation of our building. We started our way down using the stairs. We arrived at the 1st floor and made our way to the Security Desk and Command Center. I asked the Security Guard if everyone had left the building
and if he would still need us. He assured us we were no longer needed. At that time we saw no reason why the teams could not go to their basement storage area and get their personal items. So I stayed at the Command Center with one of the Guards.

The Guard and I did walk out into the glass enclosed public area which bordered the Trade Center outside plaza area. We saw the body of the man that had jumped earlier. I said a quiet prayer to myself for that individual. It was now 9:06 AM . The Guard and I heard another explosion and saw debris once again falling into the Plaza area. We both thought it was a second bomb that had gone off. But that second explosion was United Flight 175 hitting the South Tower, World Trade Center Tower number 2.

We still didn't know that North Tower number 1 had been hit by American airlines Flight 11. Both of us walked back into the Custom House Security and Command Center area. The teams had not come back upstairs yet so I took the opportunity to call my home. I reached my daughter Jennifer and told her not to worry and that I
was okay. She was confused by my statement. I told her to turn on the television and go to the News channels. I was sure by now they had to be covering the events. That's when I found out that the North Tower had been hit by an airliner and that second explosion was the second airliner that hit SouthTower 2.

I finished the call home by saying that I was going to check one more time that they didn't need us and if not then we would make our way uptown away from the Trade Center. By this time everyone had made it back upstairs. I told everyone that I was considering staying around a little longer and they could make their way up to 32-6th
Avenue, another one of our job sites about 10 blocks north. Smitty brought that idea to a quick close by stating if I stayed they would all stay. So that left me with no choice but to leave with them and make our way to 32-6th Ave.

One of the men from the company Eastco that had the contract to maintain the building equipment at 6 WTC led us out the back way. About halfway to 32-6th Avenue something caused the people around us to start running north. We started to run as well but I only made it a few steps before the pain in my knee and heel of my left leg
caused me to stop. I had been having problems for a few months now and I knew I couldn't run and now I started limping my way north. Vern and Smitty were closest to me and they stopped as well and came back to me. I told them not to worry and just keep going. They both refused and said if they had to they would carry me. By this
time Louie and Mike had also stopped and came back to us and they also indicated it would be all of us together, no one left behind.

During our little discussion whatever had caused everyone to run must have been a false alarm. Everyone had gone back to walking north. We continued as well but at a slower pace. Let me say thanks once again to you Smitty, Vern, Louie, and Mike. Your concern and actions that day will not be forgotten.

We finally walked into the Lobby of 32-6th Avenue and took the elevators to the top floor. Arriving at the 26th floor we made our way to the Resident Elevator Mechanic's office in this building. Joel the Mechanic was surprised to see us. The Conversion teams in his building had left awhile ago to go back to our office in
Midtown. Then it was our turn to be surprised. He told us the South Tower had collapsed a few minutes before we walked into his office. The time was 9:55 AM and the Tower had came down at 9:50 AM.

I told everyone to take advantage of the phone in Joel's office and call their families. That done we walked to the south side of the building and we were able to see the remaining North Tower.  From the red glow we saw coming from the gaping hole we had the ominous feeling we would witness it's collapse as well. At 10:28 our fears
became a reality. We stood by the window in shock for quite awhile but we finally made our way back to Joel's office. Everyone had made up there minds as to what to do and where to go next so we all shook hands and wished each other the best. Joel and I decided to stay. We knew we would not make it home that night. He would stay at 32-6th and later I would head uptown to another building where I knew I could stay the night.

We found a TV and spent the time watching the news reports and also going back to that window on the south side of the building to look at the Trade Center. At 5:20 PM we saw World Trade Center 7 collapse as well. Around 7:00 PM I said good-bye to my friend Joel and made my way uptown.

It took over a year before I came across these pictures of 6 WTC. I always wondered how badly it had been damaged. I knew they tore it down, but I still needed to know. Seeing that the whole top section that held the elevator motor rooms and building equipment had been destroyed showed how close I had come to making the fatal mistake of staying.


Thanks again, guys and thank you, God.


 

Photos below by: James R.Tourtellotte
http://www.customs.ustreas.gov/photo/sep11_pics.htm


Above and below Customs Agents review the damage.

 

A close aerial view of 6 WTC with 7 WTC behind it.

 Please watch this commercial Budweiser did after 9/11. They only aired it once so as not to benefit financially from it - they just wanted to acknowledge the tragic event ......

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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