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Topic: [Fwd: a personal account
Replies: 1   Last Post: Sep 23, 2001 3:14 AM

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Bob Richardson

Posts: 8
Registered: 12/4/04
[Fwd: a personal account
Posted: Sep 22, 2001 2:59 PM
  Click to see the message monospaced in plain text Plain Text   Click to reply to this topic Reply


Perhaps Mr. Livshits can find some humor in this - I can't.
-----------
Cary is a Bank of America GCIB associate who works and was
in the World Trade Center Tuesday.

Dear All,

Now that I can begin to think clearly again, I would like to
take the time to thank each and every one of you for your
concern of my well-being. It was a very close call, and I
am grateful to be alive.

As you probably all know by now, I narrowly escaped from the
World Trade Center attack this past Tuesday, unlike the
thousands who are still trapped beneath the rubble. At
8:48am on Tuesday morning, I was reading my email like I do
every morning. I had just gotten off the phone with a
traffic engineer at the Port Authority regarding a file that
I had transmitted to him on the previous day. As I was
finishing off my usual peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I
heard a loud explosion, which was immediately followed by
tremendous building sways and vibrations. As I was thrown
out of my chair, I immediately thought that this was an
earthquake, but still thinking rationally, I thought that it
was abnormal since there are no earthquakes in NYC,
especially of this magnitude. I remember thinking that the
building felt like it was going to collapse from this
initial explosion.

As I picked myself up and ran to the emergency staircase
located in the core of the huge building, I saw through the
east facing windows debris and fireballs falling from the
top of the building. The building had stabilized by the
time I reached the stairwell, and evacuation had commenced
quickly but calmly. Not knowing the gravity of what was
happening above us, people had started pouring into the
stairwell from the hallways of the different floors. I saw a
coworker from my floor (72nd), and we held and consoled each
other.

There were no public announcements in the stairwell, but the
evacuation seemed to be going smoothly, there were no more
explosions as far as we could tell, no smoke coming up the
stairwell, and the building had stopped swaying. We all
felt like we were out of imminent danger. As we started to
make it down the stairwell, people started chatting and
gathering their composures. I heard some people who had
been there in '93 telling others that this was a piece of
cake since the stairwell was dark and full of smoke in '93.
Others were joking about how Mr. Silverstein, who had just
recently taken control of the complex, must be fuming at
what was happening. A few moments passed and people began
to receive messages over their pagers that a 767 had
accidentally hit our building. There was no mention of a
terrorist attack, and at no time was there any panic.
Mobile phones were completely out in the core of the
building due to its immenseness and the large distance from
the core of the building to the exterior where signals were
usually stronger. There was no smoke at all in the
stairwell, but there was a strange peculiar smell, which I
later remembered it smelling like how it does when one
boards an aircraft. I later found out that this was jet
fuel.

Soon we heard shouts from the people above us to keep to the
right. I started seeing blind people, those with difficulty
moving, asthmatics and injured people filing down to our
left. People were burned so badly that I won't go into
describing it. People kept filing down orderly and calmly,
but stunned.

Sometime around the 30th or 40th floor, we passed the first
firefighters coming up the stairs. They reassured people
that we were safe and that we would all get out fine. By
this point, they were already absolutely breathless, but
still pushing upward, slowly and unyieldingly, one step at a
time. I could only imagine how tired they were, carrying
their axes, hoses and heavy outfits and climbing up all
those stairs. Young men started offering the firemen to
carry up their gear for a few flights, but they all
refused. EACH and EVERY ONE of them. As I relive this
moment over and over in my mind, I can't help but think that
these courageous firemen already knew in their minds that
they would not make it out of the building alive and that
they didn't not want to endanger any more civilians and
prevent one less person from making it to safety on the
ground.

We continued down the stairwell, slowly and at times
completely stalled. The smell of jet fuel had gotten so
unbearable that people began covering their mouths and noses
with anything that they could find - ties, shirts,
handkerchiefs. Every few floors, emergency crew were passing
out water and sodas from the vending machines that they had
split open from the hallways. I had no idea how much time
had passed by as I didn't have my mobile phone with me.
Around the 20th or 15th floor, the emergency crew began
diverting the people in our stairwell to a different
stairwell. They led us out of our stairwell, across the
hallway where I saw exhausted firemen and emergency crew
sitting on the floor trying to catch their breaths. I began
to think why? What's going on? This whole operation looked
very confusing.

Nobody was giving us any indication as to what was going
on. The wait in the hallway to get to the other staircase
was excruciatingly long as we had to wait and merge with the
people who were coming down the staircase into which we were
filing. Why had they diverted us? As we started to get down
to the lower floors, water started to pour down from behind
us. I figured that a water pipe had burst or that it was
water coming down from the rescue on the higher floors.

At this moment for the first time since the initial
explosion, a sense of panic began to grip me. Only floor 7,
then 6. A few more to go, and I would be free. I couldn't
wait. It didn't matter that the water was ankle deep. I was
a few floors from the ground. Floor ,,,,4,,,,then all of a
sudden, a loud boom, and the building began to shake
unbearably again. People started falling down the stairwell
as smoke started to rise from the bottom. The emergency
lights flickered and then went out. The building was still
shaking, and I could hear the steel buckling. Rescuers
below us shouted for us to go back up the stairs. At this
moment, I was choking and shaking tremendously. I managed
to climb back up to the 6th or 7th floor and opened the door
to that floor. The water had already risen to my ankles,
and the floor was completely dark. A fireman led us with
his flashlights to another staircase by the voices of
another fireman who was guiding him through the darkness.
We finally made it across that floor to the other stairwell
where we were greeted by the other fireman and told to
hold. The look on that fireman's face said it all. He said
something under his lips to our fireman indicating the
severity of the situation.

With the image of the firemen communicating to each other
and hindsight, I believe that the fireman had whispered to
the other one that Building Two had collapsed.

After a few minutes of huddling by the stairwell on the 6th
floor, we were given the green light to run for our lives.
I made it down six flights with a few other people and came
out onto the mezzanine level of our building. I don't know
what I was expecting to see when I got out of the stairwell,
but I was not ready for this apocalyptic scene. It was
completely covered in white dust and smoke. My initial
reaction was that I couldn't believe that one plane, albeit
a 767, 80 floors above our head caused all this damage on
the ground floor - inside. I covered my head and ran
towards the huge opening in the north side of the building
through which we were being evacuated. As I approached this
threshold, the firemen yelled to us to get over to the wall
of the building quickly. Debris was still raining from all
sides of the building. We could see the other firefighters
who were outside standing underneath the cantilevered parts
of the black immigration building (4 and/or 5 WTC). At their
cue, we ran from our building to the outside world and back
underneath the immigration building.

I was completely disoriented, coughing, and looking at the
strange new landscape at the WTC plaza - burning trees,
wreckage, fireballs and dust, nothing short of a nuclear
winter. I climbed over huge pieces of steel wreckage and
made my way through to the skybridge leading to 7 WTC
(building 3 to collapse). From there, I descended the
escalators down to the street level onto Vesey Street and
trotted to safety onto Church Street. I immediately looked
back and saw the charred remains of the upper floors of my
building. Smoke filled the sky, and I began to have this
eerie feeling that WTC 2 was not there. I couldn't be sure
because of all the smoke that was billowing from my building
blowing eastward. As I was trying to find WTC 2, I saw the
unthinkable happen in front of my eyes. WTC 1 began to
disintegrate from where it was burning. I turned around and
ran.

I later learned that another 767 had hit WTC 2 around the
floors where sit in my building. I later learned that WTC 2
had collapsed when we were still inside my building on the
fourth floor when it began to shake for a second time. I
later learned that I had been spared from the sight of
people falling from the higher floors. I am grateful to be
alive and uninjured and to be able to share this
life-changing experience with you. And, I am so grateful
for the courage of the firemen and policemen who gave up
their lives to help us down the burning tower.

Sincerely,

Cary Sheih

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