Survival of the WTC

The following is a letter by one of my co-workers who was in New York this week at the time of the terrorist attack.

Dear Editors

I want to tell you a remarkeble story about how some Canadians escaped the WTC.

I little about myself. I am a 32yr old male, who is specialist for a software company. I love to travel. I am on the road probably 40 weeks of the past year, going to destinations such as New York, LA, Seattle, Sydney Australia, and England.

A group of about 10 people, who all work for a Canadian software company, escaped the World Trade Centre disaster unscathed, including myself. Here is my story:

Myself, I was located in the Marriott World Trade Centre, which sits between both towers. I was on the 21st floor, the top floor of the hotel.

When the first plane actually hit, I was just getting out the shower and getting dressed to go to a client's site on the 38th-40th Floor of 1 world trade center. A big bang went off. I looked out my window, which overlooks the World Financial Center and Jersey City. Looking down, I could see debree all over the roadway, and a few people laying down. I went back and finished getting dressed at which point a lady of about 30 came running down the hall saying a plane had hit the world trade center and to get out. I grabbed my laptop, which had my ID and passport and left the room. I forgot my phone and tried to get back in - to no avail. I ran to the elevator lobby where there is a window and look up and saw the flames. At which time I bolted for the stairs. The staff were great, ushering us out of the building. Everyone was orderly and calm. Walking across the highway I saw papers scattered everywhere. Just as I crossed the road I heard another plane, turned around just in time to see the plane crash into 2 WTC. I then ran down to battery park. There was a dry cleaners, where I tried to make a phone call to my office - to no avail to tell people I was ok. I was also thinking of two other colleagues who I have been working with and wondering if they were ok.

I continued to walk south to an open area away from the crowds. I leaned up against the railing just watched in shock. Everyone, including myself screamed when people started to jump, since there was so much heat. I just could watch after seeing 3 or 4 people jump and started to head further South away from the WTC. I was so worried about my family and friends seeing this on TV and not know how I was. Luckily, I met up with an individual who had a Blackberry pager - cells phones just weren't working. I was able to send an email to a colleague in the office that I was all right and asked that he contact my brother.

I saw a badge from the client I was working at and approached him, he was with 2 women. He worked on the 40th floor of WTC1. I was relieved to hear he along with many other people on the floor escaped. I wondered about my colleagues.

The four of us stuck together, and continued through lower Manhattan, going towards the east side because we knew we had to get North. Along the way I saw coffee shop that was open and said we needed water. We went in, the were closing up and obviously wanted to leave. A girl was trying to enter the cash register, I just though money on the counter and grabbed 4 bottles. Just as we left, I heard another plane, I thought it was third, a big bang happened and Dust started coming towards us. The 2WTC building was coming down. There was too much dust and smoke to see anything. At this point we reached the entrance to the Battery Park Tunnel and started the long walk up the FDR.

A few minutes after we passed under the Brooklyn Bridge, the second tow collapsed. I couldn't see anything except a huge cloud and a lack of the twin towers in the NY skyline. At this point, I was able to send a text message to my brothers cell phone saying I am still ok, still not knowing if the messages got through. I continued to walk North.

What I didn't know, until I got home tonight was that my Sister-in-law was the first person to contact my company and ask if they new anything. Very quickly things got rolling. My brother, who was freaking, left the office downtown and drove like a mad man to my mum's work at QEW and Winston Churchill to comfort her until they found out more information.

As I continued to walk North, through what, is usually not the best part of town, to the upper west side where one of the people I was with had an apartment.

All the phones were out, so we just continued to walk. Eventually we reached the hospital district on the East side. I decided I wanted to give blood, as I new this was the only way I could help. I fortunately ended up at St. Vincent's the main trauma unit. They asked that all people with O+, my blood type, to rush to the front of the line. They quickly let me in. I started to fill out the paper work and was screened to make sure the form was filled out. I then went and stood in another line which moved very slowly. I was only one in line who was actually in the WTC. There we hundreds lined up.

At this point I went and found a public phone that worked, and contacted my office. It was a 1800 number, so now cash or credit card was required. I spoke to the colleague I sent the email too earlier and confirmed I was ok and that I was donating blood. I was so relieved to hear that all my co-workers had escaped and were ok. I was also happy to hear that my family had been contacted, because I knew the terror they must be feeling.

I went stood back in line. The line moved slow, they estimated 36people/hr. Eventually I gave blood, but not without incident. In a rush, the nurse knocked the need down out of my left arm. The saved the first bag and drew additional blood from my right arm. At the end I felt much better, helping I could save someone's life. It was also my 60th donation.

Once finished I contacted the travel agent at our office and asked for a hotel room. All the systems were down, but one co-worker had a room in the Marriott Marquis, which is in Times Square. So off I walked. It was about 5:30pm by the time I made it to the hotel.

In the end there were 9 of us from our company located around Times square. We all went for a drink in the lobby and reflected on our experiences over the day, including 2 who escaped from the 40th floor on WTC, including one of them had gone down the stairs, and had to come back because it was blocked.

Now came the fun part, escaping NY. We knew no planes would be flying. We thought about taking the Amtrak, since a train goes directly to Toronto, but were unable to get through via both the web site and phone. We were able to book 2 rental cars about 20km outside Manhattan for Wednesday Morning, hoping we could get a limo there. We got lucky, a stretch limo driver said he would take us to Toronto for $4000US Cash. A lot money. We thought about and decided to take him up on the offer. By the time we figured out the cost of a flight for 9 people - it is very reasonable.

We got home to our families about 10pm this evening.

As I see the news reports I see how lucky we are, but I think of all those who have lost someone.

Submitted  9/16/2001 4:42:07 PM