I was working at 222 Broadway, a few blocks from World Trade Center, on the 11th floor the morning of 9/11. St Paul’s Chapel was the only thing between my view of the towers. I was in my office when the first plane harpooned the North Tower at 8:46am. While watching the flaming building from the trading floor, I attempted to contact the observation deck to make sure they left immediately. At 9:03 the second tower was struck with the resulting blast slamming the building, bending in the windows, followed by the concussions of the sound, and then the transfer of energy through the rock which shook the building. With no plan on what to do when planes hit towers, decisions were made and our floor was evacuated.
On the street level outside it was a stream of chaos: emergency vehicles, people standing in shock, crying, pointing. The smell of burning materials and debris flying in the air was coupled with not knowing what else may be coming to destroy us. People ran into stores to buy disposable cameras. Over the next 45 minutes, I observed people letting go from the top of the North Tower, the horror from the crowd and the sound of the victims impacting the surrounding structures was heard over the chaos and emergency vehicles. I felt sick. I went back into the building where plans for evacuation to the disaster recovery site in NJ were under way. I didn’t see it happen, but that was when the South Tower collapsed. We heard people scream more planes were attacking.
After shaking from the intensity of the sound for what seemed too long of time, the ground bounced. The entire line of structures along Broadway vanished behind a 1,000 ft high wall of what people were screaming was “poison gas.” I ran and was overcome by the warm swirling debris that covered and “pushed” us along. Breathing through the smoke was difficult, but it wasn’t poison gas as some suspected in the chaos. Finally I was in the clear. The debris cloud turned whitish grey and was being slowed by the buildings and the cloud blew south-east with the wind.
The overwhelming realization the South Tower had failed took about five minutes for me to begin to accept. Trying to make sense of the now empty area did not come easy. The North Tower was still engulfed in smoke and flames. I did not believe the buildings would fall prior to that. Crowds of “refugees” all bumping shoulders were moving north away from buildings. Subways were being shut down. Responders were coming through the moving crowds to get to the now doomed sight. As I moved north, I did not see the North Tower fall at 10:28. It was not until I was walking over the Williamsburg Bridge with thousands of others, did we see the sight devoid of buildings. The sound and sight of F-16 fighter jets crossed the sky. Too little, too late. It was the most defeated I have ever felt.
I came back to visit the area a month later. Three levels below the street, my subway platform contained debris from the towers. I observed the workings of St Paul’s Chapel across the street. The entire area was covered with debris, damaged, and toxic. I watched the slow take down each day. In January the area was opened to the public after the fires were extinguished.
I volunteered as a recovery worker various times at the “Taj” , to the North of the site where the Goldman Sachs building is on Vesey and West Streets. I have been diagnosed with PTSD, some bronchitis but also underwent 5 weeks of radiation treatments at Sloane Kettering Memorial for an under skin lymphom