Vanadia

NYC Stories

Mauricio Londono

I was in building #4 of the world trade center since 7:30 am working for J&S futures ltd. This was a commodity Company inside the New York Board of Trade. The actual trading floor is on the eighth floor. It was about 8:50 am when I went to the copy room because I did not feel like eating breakfast that morning ( I eat every morning at the plaza which is the courtyard) and a fellow co-worker yelled “holy sh*t, look out the window” after that he ran out the room. The window that he was talking about was facing the plaza of the WTC.  I then proceeded toward the window slowly not knowing what to expect with 2 more co-workers. (I had thought the first co-worker that ran saw a famous celebrity or sports star and ran to meet them.)  so as the 2 other co-workers and me approached the window with little smiles that immediately turned into frowns as we saw in the window flying debris of metal and paper on fire hitting the window. I took a look at the center of the WTC complex where I eat breakfast every morning and saw it covered by papers on fire along with a good amount of steel. I yelled out “I eat breakfast there.”

When I ran out the room people were evacuating already it took me about 10 minutes to get down 8 stories. I got on my cell phone but did not work and could not call anyone.  I still did not understand what was going on, I thought it was a movie that went bad and a fire broke out in the upper floors. When I reached the first floor I exited on liberty st. where Pronto pizzeria is (was). As we exited I knew this was something more serious than a simple fire because you can smell, hear the loud noises of debris crashing down, feel and see it. I went to the little park across the street on Church Street and liberty.  When I saw a crowd of people already standing outside looking on I joined as well.

I met a another co-worker who said a plane crashed into tower #1 he said he saw it as he was smoking inside our smoke room in building #4, I did not believe him. Right after he told me that a second plane hit the other building but I did not know this I was thinking that the fire inside the other building somehow got to the next one. There was a little stampede when the explosion of the second plane hit the tower. I still stood where I was standing watching the people jumping to their deaths a trickle here and there you couldn’t tell if it was debris or people until the object got closer to the ground and you can see arms and legs wailing in the air as they fell to their deaths. Also you were able to tell when you hear the gasps from the crowd that someone had jumped. And there I remembered seeing a man and a woman jumping to their deaths holding hands from one of the high floors but only saw them in the air around half way down the building, someone with a zoom video recorder told me that he was watching them jump together holding hands. I realized it was a woman and a man because one person had a blouse and other person had a suit. They were holding together tightly and slowly began to drift apart from each other before hitting the concrete. I heard the most cries and cursing in my whole life when the freefall of the couple was seen.

The police did not know what to say them selves when people asked them “what is going on?” I saw the blank looks in their face. I also overheard people in the crowd say that “they bombed the pentagon” and the Brooklyn and all other bridges leading out of Manhattan were rigged with bombs, so I did not know where to go. I went up to a school safety officer that was doing crowd control. And asked how I can help (because I am a N.Y.P.D explorer which is meant for youths who are interested in law enforcement I was posted in the 70th pct. In Brooklyn) and showed him my id. He told me to run over to the firefighters but suggested that I just stay in the crowd and help out there.  He had stated that “this building can collapse and we are all gone” there was a little chuckle among the crowd and people started to say that the Twin Towers will never fall and people began to mention (as well as me) about the bombings before in the basement of the twin towers and the damage was not structurally massive when that happened. I also realized the amount of firefighters going in the building particularly the fire house across the street of the WTC.

I am not sure how much time elapsed between the groups talking about the bombings of before but I heard a big rumble sound and as I looked up I saw the top of the building begin to crumble and realized that the building was going to fall on us. As I turned around to run someone stepped on my foot and caused me to fall to the ground atop of other people already there and more people began to fall on me I kept focusing on getting out of the stampede which felt like an eternity but I know was a few seconds because the debris from the falling building did not hit us yet. I got out of the stampede some how, I saw this lady that was just standing there looking at the debris about to hit us looking at it in shock. I tried to get her attention by yelling at her to run she just stood there crying and waiting for the tower to rain down on us. I grabbed her by the arm and started to run toward the wall of a building that was closest to me.  But the debris got to us already before I could reach the wall for cover. when the force of air hit me, my cell phone that I’ve been trying to use since I got outside blew out of my hands and my glasses I remember turned black before they flew off my face, I just stood there hoping no metal or glass would hit me, and held on to the women crying hysterical so I held her hand tighter and told her to hold on to my hand, she did with the only tight grip and we both ran as hard as we could to a little ditch on the side of the building wall, While the air was still coming at full force. I put my self against the wall and my hand on my face trying to block out as much of the dirt out of my nose and mouth while holding the hand of the other women I was trying to calm down.  I can hear all of this glass breaking and other noises a movie could not reproduce. When the sound of the debris falling and flying died down a little I tried to open my eyes but I saw nothing just black I thought I went blind then I thought I was already dead. I was wondering how daylight turn to darkness and I remembered gasping for air trying to get as much air in my lungs as possible but the cloud of dust and others things in the air kept going in my lungs instead, I tied to calm my breathing so I wouldn’t breathe as much dust or smoke in the air as possible but with the adrenaline pumping the body was asking for more air. Every gasp I took more and more I felt pebbles, smoke and dust go in. I thought I would die because of suffocation because there was no air available. I began gasping for air but every deep breathe I tried to take more dirt and pebbles I took in. When out of no where a little air and light came from the sky. The women I was holding hands with let go and ran off at this point and faced me and with her body language I know she was telling me thank you.

I began to walk toward a light I saw in the building lobby located in the back of the building. I could not breathe clean air no more so I waned to make my under shirt moist to prevent particles from entering my lungs but my tongue was dry and when I took it out to lick my undershirt it was just dust I was applying on my undershirt. The sky began to give a little more light and I saw a revolving door some people went through and I decided to go in thinking there was ventilation. When I went in there was some comfort but soon turned into other round of chaos because of the people already in began shaking their clothes and more dirt began to accumulate in the air and people from the outside began breaking through the thick glass trying to get in and people from the outside trying to big out. were standing next to glass wall and I told them that people are trying to break in once behind them. When they moved the glass behind them shattered and more people began rushing in, bringing more dust in. I was now thinking that I had to leave this place and leave fast.

I decided to go out the space where a window panel stood before. By then the air cleared just a little to get breathing a little better. I then realized I had only one shoe on (I don’t know how my other shoe disappeared.) My pants were also a little bloody and saw it was my cuts that were the source of that blood. I hadn’t realized the affect this had on me until much later I continued to go toward the window pane, but I was afraid of stepping on all the broken glass on the ground outside but decided to go ahead anyway. When I stepped out there was no sound of sirens no more and no other noises in the air. It was still raining ashes outside with clumps of it hitting me. People around me started to get up and started to form a human chain to lead the way out. I was dazed, dizzy and confused.

There was a woman about 25 who came up to me and started talking like if we were long time friends and joined the chain.  This chain did not last long because of the roaring sound of another plane coming very close and passed right above us, someone had yelled, “they are coming again”  I did not know if I was running toward the WTC or away but I just kept going with this new lady I met , and ran until the sound faded. (I was told it was a US fighter jet later on) as we walked north I began to cough a lot and put my hand over my mouth and when I removed my hand I saw clumps of dirt and pebbles in my hand that I guess I swallowed or inhaled before. My throat was burning from the lack of water and inhalation of all the debris. The woman told me to come with her and we will find water and safety up north.  We began to walk toward the seaport when I realized I had no feeling in my shoulder this made me think that I had lost permanent feeling of my left side for good. The woman told me that that was better than losing your life and she told me to keep going. We reached a certain point where we joined a big group of people leaving the area and walked with them. a passerby who had a bottle in her hand took a look at me and started to ask I if I was alright I kept on looking at her water instead of paying attention to her words, she gave me the bottle of water and said “I know, I know” (I was very grateful) I drank some and shared some with my new partner.  This was the best feeling in my life, and I bet it was the same for my partner.

As we continued north I encountered a police officer and told him I needed an ambulance because of lost feeling of my shoulder and difficulty breathing he told me that there were no ambulances available so I decided to continue. He told me to go into a local store and take some fluids out to clean out my eyes and drink. I told him that I had no money on me and he told me to say that by the order of the police dept. I can take what ever I wanted. He immediately said “Jesus the second tower just fell.” I did not look and just kept on walking.  I had decided to go to the first store I saw and my partner told me that there was a snapple truck up ahead. As we went toward the snapple truck the driver and his passenger came out and opened the back to hand out snapples before we got to them. They already knew that we needed it. I could not use this to clean the dirt and glass but I drank it and thanked the guy so much. All of us in the crowd shared all the snapples we got with each other. (Normally I wouldn’t drink out of my brother’s cup) Me and my buddy walked some more north and met another 2 women who were walking north also on the FDR drive. They just joined me and my buddy and started to talk to us.  We became 4 and we all shared our stories and what we saw as we walked north on the FDR drive. We had all stopped at a verizon van with a crowed around it listening to the radio about the latest developments. We decided to go further north because of word that more planes were unaccounted for.

At this point I did not know what to feel between anger and fear. As we went on our way we stopped at a residential area and decided to settle there. We stood in front of this building for a while to try to phone home on cell phones but no luck. Passerby’s came up to me and gave me hugs despite the soot I had covering me. It was like the feeling that we were all family. As the cell phone attempt failed we went in the building that we thought was a school, but it turned out to be a homeless shelter. As we came in the hallway the residents began helping us.  I was given water another pair of shoes and a phone to call my folks, I told them I was ok and they began to cry without saying a word. I told them I was not sure how long it will be before I would get home but that I was coming.  When the 2 new buddies called their loved ones one of them had a boyfriend who works for the Dept. of sanitation and got in contact with him, he told her that he was going to pick her up and take us all home. After a while of listening to the news and talking to each other about what happened, the staff of the homeless shelter and the woman with the boyfriend who worked for the city began attending to my wounds on my legs.

The dept of sanitation guy came with his red little car and brang a first aid kit and food But I had no desire to eat. We were now 5 but At the same time my first buddy that I had met left with a group of co-workers that kept on going north, so we were 4 again but with 1 new guy.  We stuck around for a while deciding how to get home when one of the homeless person told me to go to the hospital to make sure I had no lung problems and to take a look at my shoulder, I was reluctant at first but was convinced to go. We went in the car and began driving toward queens so I could go to a Brooklyn hospital so I wouldn’t take up space in city hospital where space was much needed.  After getting the run around from the police who closed street after street we got on the BQE which was closed but we were let threw because the sanitation guy told the police that he was carrying a victim. He drove me to Brooklyn running red light after light until we reached the hospital. When I stepped out of that car I was decontaminated of asbestos and brought in a wheel chair because I was weak and walking tipsy.  I was treated for a separated tendon in my shoulder and smoke inhalation.


The doctors where surprised that nothing else happened to me for example holes in my lungs because of the things I inhaled.  I was released the same day and thanked God when I got home.  All I can say I thought I was lucky for getting a job in the World Trade Center right after High School despite the bad economy and all. I got the job after an internship which my employer was satisfied with the performance.

Mauricio Londono

↜Next / Previous↝