Those of you who know me well have seen this post many times. I decided to go with an abridged version this year. Re-reading this as we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11 gave me chills.
As always, I dedicate these words to all of those who were lost that day. Never forget!
September 11, 2001-
I stepped out of the elevator right around 8:30 on the morning of September 11, 2001. A few minutes later, I crossed the maze of cubicles that filled the interior of our floor and walked into the office of a colleague. His wife was very pregnant. I planned to ask how she was feeling. My colleague was at his desk reading the New York Post. I knocked as I entered. He looked up at me. But before either of us said a single word, we heard a tremendous roar. It was a sound that I will never forget, a sound I cannot adequately describe. That roar -- we now know -- was the engine of a large commercial airliner. The plane was filled with innocent people and full of highly flammable fuel.
Seconds later came a thunderous explosion, the loudest sound I have ever heard. Then, almost immediately, a shockwave radiated out from the blast. The windows on my floor rattled. The building shuddered. Right away we knew. A plane - a jet plane - had slammed into One WTC.
I rushed over to an office with windows that faced the North Tower. The guy in that office was a lawyer I passed often in the hall, but he was the type that rarely made eye contact and I doubt we ever spoke to each other. I think his name was Dave.
Dave was hysterical. He stood in front of his desk screaming "My God, My God, My God" over and over again.
I cannot possibly describe everything I saw through the windows of Dave's office. But I will try to sketch the scene in the very broadest strokes. There was, of course, a gaping hole. From where I stood, high in the South Tower, the hole looked massive. Black smoke, dense and oily, poured into the sky. Everywhere was fire. The flames glowed like the mid-day sun. And then there was all of that paper.
Juxtaposed against the intensity of the surreal inferno was an incredible mass of paper that floated almost peacefully on the currents of air that swirled between the two towers. It was paper was from offices on floors in the impact zone. It may sound odd, but that paper reminded me of a ticker-tape parade.
I stood in Dave's office, mesmerized. He kept screaming. And then one thought entered my mind. It was nothing profound. Just simple common sense. I thought about my wife and young son. I knew I needed to get the hell out of that building. It was the best and most important thought I've ever had.
I was in one of the overcrowded stairwells, still high in the South Tower, when the second plane tore through the building somewhere on the floors above me. You cannot tell on television, but the impact made the entire building lean in one direction. For what seemed an eternity (but could not have been more than a few seconds), I was certain that the Tower was about to tip over and fall. It was the one time on September 11 that I believed I was experiencing the final moments of my life. But then the building stabilized.
Ultimately, I reached the lobby. Then the lower concourse. A police officer told me to go out through the subway. I did. And then the building collapsed.
Due mainly to sheer luck, I escaped the twin towers on 9/11/2001. So many others, through no fault of their own, did not. I dedicate this post to those murdered on September 11, and to the friends and family members they left behind.
A lot has changed for me and my family in the past ten years. How different things might have been...
Brett Sherman, September 11, 2011