It’s not an important story. I was lucky to be able to run away from it and tell the story. On September 11 I got to work early. It was a beautiful day, blue skies, sunny, perfect. I actually was at my desk at 8:30 with my favorite butter and cheese on baguette sandwich. I had started my 4th week working for Bank of New York’s BNY Clearing Intl, an international clearing division. Also I was looking forward to receiving my first pay. I thought about going to the WTC for lunch and depositing my paycheck at the Chase Manhattan branch there.
I went about checking the jobs on the Production Log, one of the new assignments I was responsible for, when my colleagues and I hear something swish by and then the building shook. One of my colleagues went ‘What the hell was that? You can’t tell me this was not a bomb’ and walked over to the windows. 101 Barclay, a large building, but just 20 floors high, is a block north of the World Trade Center. I worked on the 13th floor. It was about a quarter to 9 am. My department is on the northeast side of the building. We could see the WTC just behind 7 World Trade Center, as it (fortunately) blocked our view somewhat (7 also shielded us halfway). We saw smoke and people on the street standing and pointing up to the World Trade Center. Since we were in the back of our building we did not have a good ‘view’. So we walked over to the TV monitors. Sure enough the cameras had zoned in on the WTC and one was clearly hit by what seemed by to be a bomb. The announcer did not know more either.
By now more colleagues kept coming in and talked about seeing a plane, flying too low, about seeing people jump… It did not make any sense. Was it an accident? How many people were hurt, dying?
Then another big noise went by. This time the building shook so hard that the monitors and lights went out for a short time and people, everything went swaying. We learnt that a second plane hit the other tower. At this point no one could think of work. Announcements over the building loudspeakers started telling us not to use the phones and not to leave building: ‘Don’t leave the building. Go to the North side of the Building. Don’t use the phones….’
We worried about the people in the towers. We knew now that this was no freak accident. We wanted to tell our family and friends that we were okay, but the phones and our cells did not work. Turning to the Internet and TV monitors we learned what was going on. I emailed my brother that I was okay, but just a block away. He emailed me back: Don’t you think it is time to get out? Just a little while back I had checked jpost.com to make sure my brother and his family in Israel were okay. Now the tables had been turned. A colleague of mine tried to locate her boyfriend who worked in the towers, but could not get hold of him. One of our team never made it in. We knew he traveled through the WTC.
I saw people starting to pack up and went back to my desk to pack up my bag as well. I did not think about leaving the building yet. The situation at the WTC did not seem to affect me. We saw people, many people walking away from the WTC, passing our building. Everyone seemed so quiet. The PA messages still kept telling us not to leave the building, not to use the phones. Later I learned of all the debris coming down. I realize how dangerous exiting my building through the regular entrance would have been A French colleague called me over to his computer. ‘You read French?’ The Website announced: On croyait qu’un troisieme avion va arriver (One believes a third plane will arrive…). My colleague, who has been here only for 3 years, exclaimed that NY was a crazy city and that he would be saver in Paris.
I knew of the 1st tower coming down by hearing a colleague exclaim: ‘Oh my G-d…it’s gone, IT’S GONE!” Following his gaze to the monitor I saw the unbelievable, a scene later many times repeated on TV. People were not very quiet now. Everyone got ready to leave. Most people on my floor assembled towards the exit, as the announcement had changed to ‘Evacuating building’… Our CEO told us as we were leaving to keep in mind that it was even more dangerous out on the street with debris crashing down.
By quarter past 10 in the morning we began to take the stairs down. I accompanied a lady that works across from me to the ladies’ room on the 10th floor. When we got back to the stairway there was no one left behind us. As we left the building through an emergency exit on the North side we naturally stopped and turned back, and yes, there was only one tower left standing against the blue sky and smoke. There was smoke. That was not an easy fact to take in. One of the towers was truly gone. It was real. Men yelled at us: Don’t look back. Don’t stand. Walk. WALK NORTH! And so we walked on. Quietly. Too shocked to scream or yell. I remember everyone being quiet. There were many people walking up Greenwich Street North.
We were 4 blocks away when I heard a tremendous roar. It sounded like a low flying plane. Turning back I saw what looked as if the remaining tower had just exploded. Metal was flying up in the air in all directions. People started to run and the cloud and debris completely covered 7 WTC and the BONY building. They disappeared from sight. The cloud seemed to come for us. Like in the movies. I gripped my colleague and dragged her behind a blue van. After a minute it was over, the tower had collapsed and I realized that I was safe and continued walking north. We still could not make any use of our cell phones. I was pretty shaken up and tried to remain calm. My cell phone bill shows that at 11:07 am I was finally able to reach a good friend, let her know I was fine and ask her to call my parents.
My manager and CEO had not left the building when we did. They actually were stuck in the building for about 30 minutes. When they had reached the ground floor the second tower tumbled. I finally got hold of my manager later that day in the afternoon.
My brother got thru to me around noon time, begging me to leave Manhattan. He had heard that more planes ( a total of 8) were on the way… When I reached my home there were messages from my family and friends, also from as far away as Hamburg and Israel.