SIDE OF THE WORLD TRADE CENTER STORY/PART 1
workday started out in a pretty typical fashion. I got to my desk
that morning around 8:20 and started working at my computer. I
fired up all the different applications I normally used and checked
my on-line version of The Wall Street Journal to see
what was happening in the business world. I also started thinking
about what I wanted for lunch.
did the day go from mundane to murderous? When I heard the first
whoosh. It came from the ventilation ducts. Other sounds followed.
A scratching of some kind on the windows. Then something that
sounded like small pebbles being thrown against the windows. I
decided to investigate. I turned to the window closest to my cubicle,
the one overlooking New Jersey and the south side of the North
Tower (WTC I). As I walked over to the window, I could see hundreds
of thousands of blank pieces of photocopier paper floating by.
It actually looked like a snow storm with large flakes of snow.
At the window, I looked up and saw the North Tower on fire. There
was a faint smell. It smelled something like jet fuel and grew
stronger as time passed.
went to another window. From there, I could see the east and south
side of the North Tower as well as the plaza below. There was
a band of fire circling WTC I. I remember thinking that there
must have been some type of explosion. A deliberate act of terrorism
did not occur to me. Then I went back to the window closest to
my cubicle and stood on the heating/air conditioner vent. I got
as close to the window as possible so I could see as much as I
could. Vast numbers of photocopier paper were still floating out
there. Looking down, I could see the top of the Marriot Hotel
and there was debris on its roof. The flames around WTC I started
looking pretty nasty. There was a lot of black smoke. It was about
were announcements on the PA system, asking people in WTC II,
my building, to remain calm. We were told there had been an incident
in WTC I, but WTC II was in no immediate danger. We were asked
to let the people from the other building evacuate first. That
made sense to me. If everybody evacuated, we would all get stuck
in the bottleneck downstairs. I stayed put. But other people in
my building didn't listen to the announcements. They left.
was hoping that my wife, Catherine, was still home but there was
no answer when I phoned there. Then I remembered an incident from
last year. There had been an elevator accident on the other side
of my building and my mother, who lives in Chicago, had found
out about it and called to see if everything was alright. I hadn't
even known about it until she called me. Thinking about that incident,
I had the feeling she would be hearing about this one before long.
Fortunately, this time I knew something had happened in the World
Trade Center before CNN was broadcasting it to the world. So I
called my mother in Chicago and told her I was okay. *No matter
what you hear,* I said. *I'm okay. WTC I is on fire, but it's
the other building. Not mine.* My mother listened to me, but she
had no idea what I was talking about. I told her I didn't have
the time to talk, because I had to try to reach Catherine. So
she asked me to keep her posted and we hung up. I tried my wife's
work phone number and got her voicemail. At that time, Catherine
had a very long greeting on her voicemail at HarperCollins and
it was always exasperating to have to wait to leave her a message.
smell of fuel was getting quite strong now and people were beginning
to head down the emergency stairs. I started to join them. I got
to the emergency exit, but when I saw people flying down the stairs,
I thought, *I don't need this right now.* It was the other building
that was on fire. The people dashing down the stairs could easily
get hurt in their rush and I didn't want to be one of them. I
decided to wait.
I saw a man from the North Tower die. He jumped out a window and
he was very calm. He looked about my age. Thinning hair on top.
Wearing a long-sleeved casual dress shirt and beige dress pants
not unlike the pair I had on. He jumped from above me. I was on
the 68th floor, and he must have come from maybe the 85th floor,
maybe higher. I watched him go all the way down. He looked to
his left and right on the way down, and when he got close to the
ground, he looked straight at it, then his head was a red explosion.
Blood bloomed like an early fall flower. As far as I know, he
was the first person to jump. He made it look so easy. Here was
a man who might have been thinking about what he wanted for lunch
just a few minutes ago. He had gone from routine decisions to
life and death decisions in --– what? –-- ten minutes? Ten seconds?