The Strange Connection Between Bach and The World Trade Center Attacks of September 11, 2001
© 2001, 2004 by Ed Kotski
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Sept. 18, 2001
Hi Clayt - I'm taking your advice and writing down what I remember from last Tuesday, although I doubt that what I have to say will be of much interest to anyone. The simple fact is that I was oblivious to what was going on, from beginning to end. Actually, that's probably what kept me alive, because if I knew what a terrible mess I was in, I probably would have dropped dead on the spot. ("Don't shoot, Davy, I'm coming down.")
Our office was on the 74th floor of WTC 1, (The North Tower) which was the first to get hit. My cubicle was in the south-west corner, with a beautiful view of the Statue of Liberty and the Hudson River. I was working on the computer when there was a big "boom" and the building shook, probably a foot or so where I sat. Next came a strange sound like hail hitting a window, but with some additional scratchy noises, while a blizzard of papers and sheet metal flew past the window. Some of it was burning, but most was just letter size documents, which you could almost read as they flew past. Up through the window, I could see a huge cloud of black smoke coming from the floors above.
The fire alarm went off, flashing and beeping, and people started to leave. I heard my boss yell "OK people, let's go - we're getting out of here". But not yours truly. I had decided, a few years earlier, that if the building were bombed, I would not be one of the first ones out. My reasoning had nothing to do with "women and children first", but was based on some IRA attacks where two bombs were used, one to stir people up, and the second to kill large numbers when they came together during evacuation. Not leaving immediately was my first really stupid idea.
As it turned out, I was not the only one to hold back. One of my co-workers, whom I know well and respect highly, also decided to wait for a few minutes for the smoke to clear. It seemed a good time to call my wife and let her know I was all right. This sounds harmless, but the way I did it was bad idea number two.
My phone worked, but the phone at her school didn't, so I couldn't get through. While waiting to try the line again, I decided to send her an e-mail which she could read when she got home. The e-mail went out immediately, and I congratulated myself on being such a considerate husband. I tried the phone again, and although I couldn't get an answer, the automated service offered to take a message.
I didn't leave a message the first time I tried calling my wife because I didn't want to spend $0.50 for the automated service. I had regained some of my common sense by the time I got around to calling again, when I sprung for the fifty cents.
I left word that there had been some kind of explosion in the building, but that I was fine, and that I intended to remain in the building to let things settle down. This was also what I had put in the e-mail.
Here, some good luck kicked in, although I found out later that by this time my sister's entire high school had started praying for me. I decided to call my son in law, and ask him to get in touch with my wife. In real life, he is an emergency room nurse at our local hospital, but more to the point, he is also an officer in our local volunteer fire department. When I reached him, he was watching CNN.
He was glad to hear that I was all right, he told me, but a passenger jet had flown into one of the buildings, and, by the way, was I in the one with the big antenna? I said, yes, but that the elevator lobby had a little smoke in it, and the stairwells were probably smoky as well, so I was going to stay put in the office area, which was clear. In a very few words, he asked me to reconsider, because it looked to him like the building was getting ready to come down. This sounded like good information, so I thanked him and told him I'd talk to him later. I found out later that he told friends that he could easily picture me wasting valuable time doing really silly things, which he listed, instead of leaving. I'd find this hurtful, except that he was right on the money. He said that, knowing me, I was probably hanging around taking pictures.
I wasn't the only engineer who wasn't in any rush. Almost, but not quite. At this point there were still a few of us taking our time. I wasn't there when the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993, but lots of the Port Authority Staff were. Most of them went down the stairs this time as if the devil were after them, which is the right thing to do.
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