I slept horribly Monday night. I awoke at 4am from a nightmare that cannibals had overtaken Manhattan and were going to eat us alive. In the dream, I was at the water’s edge and could hear drums beating and loud cries. I did not get back to sleep, just tossed and turned and fidgeted.
I got to One Chase Manhattan Plaza, 3 blocks southeast of WTC, at 8:55 am. I didn’t want to go upstairs to the lobby and I couldn’t figure out why. I went to the ATM’s on the ground level of Chase Plaza and then wondered why I was there…I had more than $100 cash. I checked my balance and stood there for a moment wondering if I needed more cash. I didn’t get any.
I arrived on the ground level, went up the escalator to the lobby level. The lobby walls are all clear glass. I saw people outside staring up toward the WTC, and thousands of sheets of paper floating through the sky, amazingly high in the sky, and some on the ground. At first I thought there was some sort of celebration b/c it reminded me of a tickertape parade.
I went outside to see what people were staring at and I saw the gaping, burning hole in the side of the WTC. People said that a small plane had accidentally hit WTC. We didn’t know anything else. More and more people left their offices to look at this, and anyone who had just arrived for work came outside to stare, or looked on from inside the lobby. I tried to use my cellphone to call home but service was down.
I was inside the lobby area talking to people about what had happened, and was facing the WTC when the 2nd plane went through it. I did not see the plane, only the fireball that came out of the WTC. It was a horrible loud booming noise and all of lower Manhattan seemed to scream. I watched as debris and bodies blew out of the building. Everyone was running away from WTC.
At that point people were crying, and totally confused. At first we thought that this was an explosion related to the first hit, then others who were closer and had run back towards us told us what had happened…a 2d plane hit. We knew that this was not an accident and I felt deep inside me that things would probably get worse before they got better. I went outside and picked up one of the sheets of paper, folded it over, put it in my pocket, and went back inside.
I saw a couple people jump from WTC and couldn’t look anymore. I left the lobby to use the payphones on the ground level. I called loved ones to tell them I was OK. I watched CNN on the employee lounge TV’s down there and learned that we’d been hit, and the Pentagon had been hit. In addition to the dread I think we all felt, I also wondered if downtown was going to take another hit, and I wanted to get out of there.
I went to look for a dear friend at her office on the 27th floor. She wasn’t there (she’s fine though she had her own ordeal to go through at the time.) I was up there for a couple minutes looking for her when the entire building shook and another horrible boom shook the building. It was like an earthquake and it was so loud, it sounded like a plane flying over our heads. Though we didn’t know it, this was the impact of the 1WTC collapse. We thought another plane was flying overhead and perhaps had struck our building, or that we’d been bombed. The shaking in the building was so great that was the only way we could make sense of it. I grabbed a bottle of water on someone’s desk and made a beeline for the elevator to get the hell out of there. A few people went with me.
We bypassed the lobby area and exited on the Ground Level, right by the ATM’s I’d used earlier. When the doors opened, we were shocked. The entire Ground Level was permeated with thick white powder (apparently the WTC ball of dust had blown in the glass walls of the lobby, so I’m glad I wasn’t still down there.) People were staggering, injured, bleeding, covered in white dust, screaming and crying. Some people went back into the elevator and went upstairs, but I didn’t feel safe doing that. I dropped to the ground. I could barely breathe or see. I removed my shirt and doused it in the water I was carrying, folded it over and breathed through it.
Anyone who was in the lobby when it blew was covered in the white powder head to toe, so I had to share my shirt with a few other people b/c their own clothes were covered in the stuff. For the first few minutes I stayed low, assuming we’d been bombed or hit, but then this guy came up to me, he was covered in white and bleeding as well. He asked me if he was alive and I said “yes, but you have to stay calm.”
He told me he’d watched the WTC come down, and that’s what all this debris and dust was from. He, like a lot of people who were up there or outside, had facial cuts from the glass. I gave him a soaked sleeve to breathe through and wipe his face on, and my shirt still has all the debris and blood on it. I don’t mean to sound creepy, but I think I will keep it. I can’t imagine wearing it again anyway.
The air was getting worse so I told the people I was sharing my shirt with that we had to go lower. We ran for the stairs and made it down, where the air was a little better but worsening. We waited in a freight elevator area for awhile, which was a clean air pocket. It then began to fill with the dust and smoke. A security guard found us and moved us to the cafeteria, where a makeshift triage had been set up. No one looked badly wounded, just cuts from the glass, coughing, and trouble seeing. They handed out more water. They told us that the Pentagon had been hit and something had happened in PA but didn’t know what.
We were held there for about 90 minutes as the air got thicker with the dust & smoke. A lot of people were coughing but there was order and calm. Security would get on the PA every 5 minutes to tell us that we could not leave, the air outside was too hazardous, so I could only wonder what outside must’ve looked like. Then we were evacuated and told to move north…I was one of the first 10 to leave the building. I couldn’t see anything outside through that horrible cloud. I followed some people without knowing where we were going…turned out the Brooklyn Bridge! The air began to clear near the bridge and I decided to walk home. I got back home at 1pm.