9/11 Stories

Corey Fortuna

WTC 08/11/2001

I am a 30-year old Italian-American, originally from Oregon. I moved to New York City a year ago from California with his partner, Jeffrey. Corey managed a restaurant, Gemelli, located on the ground floor of World Trade Center #4—now gone. Here is my story.

I was on the J train on my way to work at Gemelli at #4 World Trade Center, when a guy yelled out, “My God, the WTC has been hit by an airplane!” I could barely hear him over my Walkman and thought to myself, “Right, sit down ya’ crazy.”

Just then the train rounded the next bend and I saw it myself! It was like being in some weird, science fiction horror movie. The first tower was burning! At this point, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I kept telling myself, “Is this for real? Is this really happening? Maybe they are just shooting a movie or the air pollution is rather thick this morning.”

At that point, I got my digital camera out of my bag and began to snap pictures. As the train creped closer and closer and I kept clicking away, it finally hit me. My great job was gone. My co-workers, were they all right? My regular customers who came in day after day, did they make it out alive? And all those employees inside the WTC, were they going to be all right?

At that moment I was overcome with emotion, sat down, and began to cry. Then a lady sat down next to me, handed me a tissue, put her arm around me and said, “Don’t worry this will all work it self out, at least you are here with me and not there at WTC.” I agreed, but still continued to cry. My next thought was calling Jeffrey to tell him I was okay and had not made it to work yet. He could call my family in Oregon to let them know the news.

I got off the subway at the next stop, about one half mile from WTC and ran to the first pay phone. Luckily, it still had a dial tone, so I was able to get through and leave a message about my status. (With whom?) I then called a co-worker, Melissa, just to make sure this was all happening around me. She said, “Get the hell out, go back to the other side of the river and get home!”

I immediately crossed the street and hailed a taxi. The driver was on his way home to see if his daughter had called. She was on the 47th floor of the WTC when it was hit by the plane. He was nice enough to not charge me and dropped me off at the first subway stop. I boarded the subway; it made only two stops and then the city froze. After about 30 minutes with all of us on the train sharing our personal story, we were able to leave the train; I just started walking toward my home on Long Island, with half of New York city walking right along with me.

I think back and the whole event is still very weird. In my mind, I go through moments where it feels like a bad movie on late night TV, but then I realize it is my life and we all have to find a way to move on from here. I have thanked God many times that Jeffery is in my life; I could not have gone through this nightmare alone. When he finally arrived home from he hugged me and let me cry and get angry with the awful people who did this. After taking my strength and comfort from him, I was able to put my story down, not just for my for my own personal recovery, but to share with others so they know what it was like that day.

Here are some pictures I took from the train and the back of the cab; I hope they give a more personal feel to this experience. I am not looking forward to taking the train into town and seeing the skyline of Manhattan without the two trademark towers, but at least I am here to tell my story.

Corey Fortuna

WTC on fire in the distance from window
WTC smoking in the distance from window
WTC in the distance from window
WTC in the distance zoomed in from window
WTC in the distance from bridge
WTC in the distance from street

My B.F.’s WTC Disaster Story

He was on his way to work as well. He works out in Great Neck, and he said traffic was VERY backed up, even going away from the city…and he was looking around and he saw 1 unmarked police car going the other way, very fast, then he saw 3 more, then 7 more, then a “whole herd” of squad cars, ER trucks etc, so he turned on his radio and that’s when he heard the first tower was hit. So he called home, I was gone, he called work, no answer, so he proceeded to work, it still was not a terrorist attack yet.

Then right before he got to his office the second building was hit and even then he was just concerned for my where abuts and what I might doing. Knowing I had my camera with me, he was afraid I would want to take the “award winning picture” and get to close. He was the only one in his office that had someone in the WTC that morning. He said everyone at his work was very supportive, most knew I worked in the WTC. They asked if he had heard from me yet, he said no but was confident I was ok. Then I guess about that time I called to tell him I was ok, and left a message and to please call my parents and let them know I was still alive. He was VERY upset that he missed my call, but called my parents to tell them.

So…..when he called my parents, the first thing he said was,” I have no idea where he is, but he left me a message saying he is not there and alive” and to that my mother replied “WHAT?” They had not yet turned on the TV and seen what had happened. At that moment when they turned on the TV and Jeffery was explaining to them what was happening, the first building collapsed. Needless to say my mother FREAKED OUT, I guess she collapsed to the floor, dropped the phone and started to scream. My dad picks up the receiver and Jeff and him were on the phone supporting each other for a minute, then they got off just incase I would try to call again. At that moment Jeff said he closed the office door and started to cry. I said before I am glad I have Jeffery in my life, I don’t know how he did it. If I had to call his parents at that moment….I do no know what to say. His boss said he could take off and do what he thought was best for the situation, but he stayed there to wait for my next call. I guess I called about 45 minutes later and he was very relieved, he said “I love you, get straight home, I am on the way” He called my parents back, told them I was ok and headed home to me.

Corey Fortuna