Port's 9/11 WTC Survival Story (Edited for strong language)
are two emails I sent my close friends and family just after escaping
World Trade Center building #3 at 8:45am on Sept. 11th, 2001.
you are also a survivor from the WTC I'd like to hear from you. I can
be reached at Ethan "at" mobilization.com
NOTE: I edited the adult language out of this version.
The historically accurate version is here
Sept 11, 2002:
The sound was so powerful. Just so much energy RIGHT
THERE on top of my head. Like a really really big
Thunder cloud right there? I'm dressing for work. Just
got my work shirt on, and had taken my glasses off for
that. I pull open the curtain to see if it's another
storm like the night before...
Even with fuzzy vision I'm seeing an impossible sight.
Lightweight yellow insolation floating
down...twirling...like the way plastic bags sometimes
float around in the courtyard..but behind that is that
SHOWER of metallic STUFF.
The SECOND I saw all the large CHUNKS raining down I
backed up from the building. I can hear that SHOWERING
sound outside the window. I'm thinking that window is
going to go. I'm wondering why the window is still
there. My primitive brain kicks in. I think:
OUT, OUT, OUT.
I almost forgot my pants! All I could think about was
EXIT SIGN and OUT, OUT, OUT. And in the back of my
head that Spider Sense wondering what was going to
come down next.
I notice the fire alarm is on now. I grab the door
handle and realize I have no pants on. I go back and
grab pants, get them on quickly, while hopping to the
door. The pants were back towards THAT WINDOW, and I
want to be towards THAT DOOR. I open the door and GET
I see the Exit signs then stop and realize I put on
the pants with nothing in them yet "slam-lock". No
room key. I'm locked out of the room. All the maids
are walking/running to the EXIT. I follow.
Elevator Exit by instinct: NO, never. End of the
hallway, another Exit, must be the stairs. Open the
door, SO many people racing down the stairways. Some
people are supporting others, saying it'll be OK, and
saying "oh my god, oh my god, oh my god..." over and
over..pacing ourselves down the stairs.
Out the bottom of the stairs, they're directing us
down those big glamorous stairs to the exit. NO, not
this exit you have to exit down there. OK. one guy has
no shirt on, bare feet. Just like me.
I squint outside, along that famous Entrance I've
gone through so many times and walk along the street
to world financial center to find ANYONE I know and to
see what's up. I run over debris and in front of cars
to the American Express building. I ask the guard if
the building is being evacuated too. Yes. OK. I go
outside across the street on Vesey and look for anyone
Being near sighted and in socks really didn't help
things. I'm wondering if I can get upstairs again to
get my ID or something, wondering if I'll ever get in
there again. I'm still thinking in terms of
"possessions". In a minute all that will escape my
mind once I get a view of the building. It was no
thunder. It was no simple Bomb. What IS it??
But my god how sweet and supportive everyone on the
street was. I saw people at their best in the face of
incomprehensible danger and tragedy. We just stood
there trying to asses the
situation. Just like on TV the situation kept
escalating like a well choreographed movie
2. RUN and EVACUATE
3. Look for ANYONE familiar, which failed
4. Look up and try to figure it out
Was it a bomb?
One guy says he saw a plane hit the building...."WHAT?
How could a plane hit the building?" So you think
"No, I saw a 727 smack right into the building"
That's just too "frick"ing weird..so I start walking
away, around the other side, facing more North I see
an ENTIRE floor completely on fire..and people jumping
At first no one believes it, then everyone keeps
"don't look..you don't want to have to keep seeing
that over and over in your dreams"
We're by the river now, the evacuation path away from
It's SOOO quiet. A perfect day. So pleasant. Except
Tower 1 on fire. We're wondering how the fire fighters
coming in can save those people. Too much smoke to
land on the roof. more people jumping from the
building onto the plaza, right in front of my hotel
I have to squint to see, but I see the shape of a huge
airplane in the building. Someone points out the
indentation goes IN, not OUT. How could a bomb do
OK, it must be a jet. "FRICK". How can a jet accidentally
hit the Trade Center building?
We're speculating and talking. People are emailing on
their pagers but the cell phones are dead.
THEN the "frick"ing second explosion. Is that another
bomb? Or a tank exploding.
NO, a few people say they just saw the other jet hit
the other tower. It was sort of masked because we were
so close. The sound was so loud again..a ripping sound
like thunder. Suddenly we realize there's no way it's
an accident. "frick". Where's the airforce? What's
happening? We all look in our eyes and say This is NO
place to be. We get the "frick" out. We all start walking
along the river.
But it's still calm. We're fairly far back now. We're
strolling really. There's so many people. We're still
trying to figure it out. People keep wondering if it
could collapse. We're thinking no, they are built to
not collapse. See..most of the fury went INTO the
building, so we don't know...but that WHOLE FLOOR on
FIRE...what if the steel gives in?
YEP....that sound of buildings caving in...so much
smoke...we can't tell what's happening..all the cell
phones are still dead. No one is telling us what to
do, we're just all walking along the river...we're
trying to figure was it just the top of the building
toppling off, or the whole structure? how could it be
the whole structure...HOW could that be?
Then the second one...we're pretty far away now...we
keep walking to west 10th..then uptown....
I borrow 20 bucks from a few people so i can at least
get something to eat. I only remember ONE address in
NYC. I couldn't find anyone I know. I can't see that
clearly. But when I squint i could see what was
happening to those buildings.
One guy later notices I have no shoes and gives me his
running shoes. I get some water and a bagel and sit on
the edge of a window and cry.
Sept 12, 2002
> As some of you know I travel quite a bit for work,
> often stay at the Marriott World Trade Center. So I
> guess I was sort of maximizing my risk.
> In fact, I was in the Marriott World Trade Center
> the first "explosion" occured. I was just dressing
> work so had my glasses off, had just buttoned up my
> shirt. I heard what I thought was nearby thunder
> ripping over the hotel. I looked out the window to
> if there was lightning. What I did see, even without
> glasses on, was confusing...A big chunk of yellow,
> curved isolation wafting down to the ground in front
> of my hotel window. My window overlooked the Plaza
> between the two towers. So in front of me is
> 2 with insolation floating around it. In the corner
> my eye I notice metal shrapnel raining down. This
> occurred in about 1 second.
> My brain switches into primitive mode:
> Trade Center....Bomb!!!!!
> GET THE "frick" AWAY FROM THE WINDOWS and OUT.
> I run immediately for the door. When my hand touches
> the door handle I realize I have no pants on. My
> spider sense is on. I'm wondering why the building
> didn't really SHAKE more violently? It really felt
> like a thunderclap overhead. I cautiously go back to
> the bed, towards THAT BIG WINDOW, grab my pants, and
> put them on while hopping to the door again. I run
> the door zipping my pants. I'm 2 steps away when I
> realize I took the pants with nothing in them...no
> wallet, room key, etc. At the same time I hear the
> door make that Secure "click" sound. It's locked. I
> realize no one will let me back in. I look for the
> signs. I can't really read them but I can see the
> neon. I first head for the Elevator Exit, say "oh
> wait..duh!" then go to the side of the hotel
> the North), and head down the stairs quickly. The
> stairwell is full of Marriott maids in uniform. Some
> are holding others up saying "It's going to be OK",
> others are saying "Oh my god, oh my god...." over
> over again. Pacing themselves down the stairs.
> We get down into the lobby. The security direct us
> the south exit. I'm out in front of the hotel with
> shoes. I job gingerly over to Vesey st, under that
> walkway I take to work every day (the one you see on
> TV now all the time), and across the street to World
> Financial Center. I want to find someone I know
> I'm on the streets of NYC with nothing.
> The cell phones aren't working. I want to call home
> say I'm OK and find anyone in NY to help me. I ask
> security at the American Express entrance if the
> building is being evacuated and they say yes, so I
> follow the evacuation across Vesey st and squint
> looking for a familiar face, or even anyone from
> company I was working for. Nope. I get my first look at the North
> We're talking to each other trying to figure out
> we are seeing. Some people say a plane ran into the
> tower. I thought maybe a light plane. But so much
> fire, it couldn't be a light plane. Maybe a light
> plane with a bomb in it? I'm thinking someone would
> jump out? someone else says no, they saw a jet fly
> into the trade center. We can't understand him. But
> then we notice all the energy went Into the
> not out. The police are telling us to move down
> to make room for others. So I walk north to an open
> area now about 4 blocks from the trade center. We're
> speculating if the building could collapse. We'd all
> seen those shows on PBS saying high rises are build
> with interlocked cubes so they can't Just collapse
> from a single hit. But there is so much fire. We're
> wondering if the steel is super heating and what
> would mean. We're also seeing people jumping from
> building. They look like ants compared to the
> building, but they fall straight down, unlike the
> shrapnel and glass still raining down. I'm so glad I
> don't have my glasses to see that. We keep saying
> "don't look at that, you don't want that in your
> dreams". I saw people responding to at least 20
> people jumping down.
> At the same time I borrow someone's 2-way pager to
> an email to Annabelle and my boss telling them Ethan
> is fine, WTC on fire. The guy says it's not
> I find another guy to send the same message. I'm
> wondering if I'll be able to get into the hotel to
> my stuff still.
> THEN BLAM. That second blast. This is DEFINITELY no
> accident. This is no place to be.
> We're getting the "frick" out of the area.
> I follow a group of people along the West highway
> jogging lane along the river. I start talking to one
> guy and his colleagues. From Merrill Lynch also. I
> them my story of no glasses or shoes. I remember
> one address in NYC. All my contacts are in the
> They help me avoid the water in my socks. I follow
> them to midtown. They said to follow them and they'd
> direct me to where I can find my way to Ave A and my
> friends house.
> It's a perfect NYC day. The weather is perfect.
> breeze, very calm. There is no sound in the air.
> strolling along commenting on how nice this new
> jogging strip is.
> On the way they give me $40. I'm so embarrassed. I'm
> one of those homeless guys in NYC. I get their cards
> promising to pay them back. They say not to worry
> about it. Then that rumble of the second tower
> collapsing. I can' t see it well without my glasses,
> but people are telling me the reports from the
> We still figure it must be part of the building, not
> the entire tower. We still think they can't Do that.
> Later the second tower also does that. We can't even
> really see it from the distance we're at. Plus it's
> such a big cloud of debris. The cloud of smoke and
> crap is filling the sky.
> We walk over West 18th st. There is a public phone
> there. On the corner someone talks to me and I tell
> them I have no shoes or glasses. They ask me
> questions. The people I was walking with continue
> walking. These new friends are British journalists
> the Observer. I tell them what happened from my
> perspective and they give me their card and say to
> call if I need anything. People are being SO kind
> generous. I talk to another group of guys at the pay
> phone and tell them I have no glasses or shoes. This
> one guy says he has a second pair with him after
> asking my shoe size. The other guys give me more
> money. One guy gives me a 20, the other guy has a
> bills and pulls back on the 20, saying "oh, you
> already got some, so that'll be about $35 right?". I
> feel so bad taking the money at all, but I'm scared
> I'll be stuck with nothing and no one who knows me.
> least I memorized my calling card number, if the
> phones would work!
> I thank them and cross the street towards Ave. A.
> alone again, I sit on the edge of a store window
> corner and cry with my hands over my face. I get it
> together enough to order a juice and bagel from a
> bagel cart on the corner. I tell the guy what
> happened, that these strangers gave me money and
> shoes. I do notice he still charges me for the
> But it feels good to pay for it. I finally have some
> control again. I can buy something to eat.
> I keep walking down and over to 14th st. I ask store
> folks where I could get glasses. They direct me
> and I try to find it, but I can't see the street
> or store signs that well. I do locate the
> offices but they are still closed. I decide to
> continue to Ave A.
> When I make it to the building my friend Samantha is
> there. We HUG for a LONG time. Samanta says thank
> you're alive, and they were so worried. I tell her I
> was there. We go upstairs and I collapse into her
> cutting chair. Her boyfriend Nat is there. I call
> Annabelle and say I'm alive, and get my credit card
> numbers and numbers of people in NYC.
> >From there we watched TV and got my "life"
> went to a nearby Optometrist and they gave me some
> contact lenses. 2 days of temporary lenses. I've
> memorized my prescription. This was always a fear of
> mine living in Earthquake territory, of being
> with no glasses. I can suddenly see again after 3
> hours. WOW. They won't let me pay for them. He tells
> me to come back tomorrow to see the Dr to order
> contact lenses and new glasses. I also go to a
> AT&T place to replace my cell phone to replace the
> in the hotel. I realize I will probably not see my
> stuff again. There is trouble locating my account
> (since I was originally with another company
> One which was bought by AT&T). I'm laughing inside
> since my company makes software to solve these
> problems. The cell phones also aren't really working
> because the batteries are so dead. It's taking
> to get this thing done. Finally I have the cell
> Turns out later It's not programmed right and I'll
> have to go back.
> Anyway, things are more normal for me. I have shoes
> and contact lenses and contacts of people in NYC.
> phone guy didn't ask for any ID, just keyed the card
> numbers in (of course..it's NYC). In reality I
> this is not just the usual NYC, this is people
> at their best.
> Anyway, from then our experience is shared. We've
> watched it.
> Needless to say this was a very traumatic event for
> me. It was a SHARP jolting trauma, but I'm
> I was not physically harmed, and by chance my
> evacuation path and lack of glasses kept me from
> seeing a lot of burning bodies or body parts or
> whatever. So my personal experience is not nearly
> of others who were actually in the trade center
> building, since we exited away from the tower plaza,
> not across it.
> If any of you know me, I've lost many of my
> so if you could get the word out it would be great
> get a quick email so I can rebuild my email/phone
> list. I have a lot of it backed up, but like many of
> us was lazy about backing up my contacts since about
> year ago.
> I hope none of you knew anyone who perished in the
> building. The people I was working with were on the 36-40th floors and got
> out fine.
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