This has been a week of reflection for us as it's been 20 years since the tragic events of September 11, 2001. 20 years have gone by but it still feels like it was yesterday.
On September 11, 2001, I was working for Smith Barney Asset Management on the 42nd floor of 7 World Trade Center. I lived on John Street, only a few blocks away and was already in the office by 7:45am. Most of us sat on a long trading desk in the middle of the floor that was surrounded by offices on both sides. At 8:46am the entire building shook in what felt like an earthquake. I looked at everyone around me and we were all confused as to what it was. Within seconds we heard screams that were coming from the other end of the floor so we quickly walked around the corner and were shocked by what we saw - Tower 1 was on fire. It was a horrific scene but no one knew what caused it yet. We immediately ran back to our desks and began to call our families.
After the first plane hit we were told to stay where we were but after the second plane hit Tower 2 everyone realized what was going on and we all quickly headed for the stairs. Once we were on the stairs, everyone tried to remain calm but we all knew that our building was the next tallest after the Twin Towers. We walked down 39 flights of stairs and when we got to the 3rd floor, a security guard instructed us to walk across to the other side of that floor to a different stairwell. We were panicked and confused about this at the time but the stairwell that we were originally walking down would have let us out directly in front of Towers 1 and 2. This alternate stairwell instead let us out the back of 7 World Trade Center and onto the street. Once we were outside, I was able to get through to my father on my cell phone to let him know that I was out of the building. He told me that the Pentagon was just hit by a third airplane and to get away from downtown Manhattan. A few of us immediately started to walk uptown and thankfully we were not near the towers when they fell.
About 2.5 hours later, I met my brother who worked in midtown at my cousin's apartment and a few hours later we were able to take the E subway train to Jamaica, Queens to take the Long Island Railroad to Long Island. During this time when we were trying to get out of Manhattan, I saw many examples of how human goodness and kindness will always overcome evil. Countless examples of random strangers helping each other, offering water and other assistance to people covered in soot and dust. People announcing on the train that their cell phone was working and letting anyone who needed to make a call use it. People who never met consoling each other when grief overtook them.
My sister-in-law picked us up from the train and we all gathered at my brother's house on Long Island at around 5pm. As soon as I sat down, the TV had a live video showing 7 World Trade Center. Seconds later the entire building collapsed. Luckily, everyone in my building got out safely but I will never forget all of those heroes that headed into the danger as we were trying to escape it. On this day of remembrance, let us keep the memories of those who were lost close to our hearts. Always remember, never forget!