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"Where did everybody go?"

The loss of life following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center was appalling, but what is perhaps even more extraordinary is that more blood was not shed.

The loss of life following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center was appalling, but what is perhaps even more extraordinary is that more blood was not shed.

By Jenny Anderson, Rich Blake, Jacqueline S. Gold, Deepak Gopinath and Justin Schack; compiled and edited by Ruth Hamel
October 2001
Institutional Investor Magazine

Some 50,000 people worked in the Trade Center on any given day; 90 percent escaped harm, for any number of reasons. Some had not yet arrived at work when the attacks began at 8:45 a.m.; others were out of the office on business. Survivors can thank a combination of location (those on the upper floors suffered far more devastation), preparation (Morgan Stanley lost only six of 3,700 employees in the two towers, in part because it chose to ignore building announcements and evacuate immediately) and good luck. Survival for some meant simply choosing to descend one staircase and not another. What follows are the accounts of some survivors and eyewitnesses.

Brian Finley, 33, reinsurance broker for Aon Corp., Tower Two, 99th floor.

"Usually, I'm at my desk at 8:30 a.m., but that day I met a client across the street at the Millennium Hotel for a cup of coffee. We didn't see the first plane hit, but we heard it, really loud, like it was taking off right outside, and then 'Boom!' I looked over and saw flames shooting out of the building. At first I thought it must have been some idiot flying a prop plane. You know, an accident. We had no idea what was going on."

Robert Bloom, 60, president of growth equity at asset manager Friends Ivory & Sime, Tower One, 21st floor.

"It knocked me down. My first thought was that it had been a bomb. Plaster was coming off the wall, pictures were falling. I was trying to stand, and it took me ten seconds or so to get up. I didn't even think to grab my suit jacket, I just got up and went to look for my co-workers. One of them had already taken off, so it was myself and two others. The first door to the stairwell we tried wouldn't open, so we ran down the hall to another one, debris falling around us. The building was shaking, and we had trouble standing. It was crowded and slow going, but people stayed calm. By the fourth or fifth floor, we were walking in two to three inches of water and smoke. There were firefighters who kept assuring us that we could get out. We didn't know what had happened."

Edward Donovan, 32, bond trader at Weatherly Securities Corp., Tower Two, 29th floor.

"It was my fourth day on the job. In fact, I was literally signing a contract that my manager had just handed me. The pen was in my hand and I was about to sign my name on the dotted line when we heard an explosion. Immediately, my manager started yelling for everyone to get out. We got down the stairs and into the lobby, where there were Port Authority police officers saying everything was okay, the fire was in the first tower and we should go back upstairs. I said, 'F--- that, I'm getting out of here.'"

Michael Dangler, 30, risk management specialist for Aon Corp., Tower Two, 101st floor.

"I had just gotten off the elevator on the 78th floor, where there's an elevator bank going to the higher floors. Just as the doors opened and we were getting out, we heard this loud explosion. I looked out the window and saw paper, smoke, debris flying everywhere. People were screaming to get out. I ended up getting back on the elevator and went down to the lobby. I ran out of the building in front, and I looked up and saw people jumping from the first tower."

John Herrlin Jr., 44, oil exploration and production analyst at Merrill Lynch & Co., north tower of the World Financial Center, across the street from the Trade Center.

"My assistant came in, she whips up the blind and says, 'The trade towers are on fire!' The fire didn't look that big, but then all of a sudden I saw papers all over the place. By 9:00 the first body had gone down. You see one body fall 60 stories or whatever, then you see a few more, and you just can't take much more. I called up my wife and my mom, saying, 'I'm fine. I really don't know what's going on. One World Trade Center is burning. I'll keep you informed.' When the other building was hit, I said, 'I'm outta here.' My first thought was to get the hell out of Dodge."

Richard Fern, 39, IT manager for Euro Brokers, Tower Two, 84th floor.

"I was in the computer room when I noticed the lights flicker. I didn't hear anything because of the loud AC units that cool the room. I went out to the trading floor and saw all the brokers clamoring by the north windows, screaming. When I looked out I saw the flames and papers coming from the upper floors across from us. The Port Authority emergency PA system was announcing that a plane had accidentally crashed into One World Trade Center and that Two World Trade Center was secure. I went back to the window. I saw one of the partners, Brian Clark, and told him I had seen people jumping. Brian then went to the window, and more people were jumping. Both of us turned away in disbelief. The Port Authority PA system was now announcing, 'If you wish to leave, you can.'"

Lauren Smith, 36, senior analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Tower Two, 89th floor.

"After the first plane hit, I had a clear view of what was happening. I could see people were dying. Dean Eberling, Russ Keene and myself have always been a team, so we just sort of stayed together. We got on the elevator with about 12 other people. We were riding down, and I'm not sure exactly what floor we were on when the second plane hit. The cable snapped, and we went into a free fall. It felt like we fell 15 floors. I thought, 'We're going to crash,' but suddenly, it just lurched to a halt. I found out later that an emergency brake had kicked in.

"The elevator was damaged, but everyone was okay. We were stuck about eight feet above ground level. Some of the men were able to muscle the doors open, but only about six inches. There were only two of us small enough to fit through, myself and another analyst, Linda Rothman. She went first. Dean and Russ were pushing me from behind, and when I jumped I missed the lobby and fell down into the shaft. The elevator car wasn't lined up evenly with the floor. Luckily, I landed on a metal beam or I would have fallen further down. I hung there for a few seconds. That's how I broke my ribs. I was able to pull myself up using the cable and started screaming for help. Linda had already gotten some firemen. They pulled me out of there. They were trying to keep me still because they weren't sure if I'd injured my neck. Some EMTs grabbed a thick plate of glass and used it as a stretcher to carry me out. I looked over and could see the firemen were using the jaws of life to try to get the elevator open."

Brian Finley: "We ran up to my client's room to begin calling people. I called my wife and my mother. We were way up in one of the top floors of the hotel, and I looked out at the tower and saw what I thought was debris flying off the side. Then I did a double take and saw it was people. Some of them looked like they were hanging on to the edge and just getting blown out by the flames. I must have seen six or seven people falling before we both turned away. That's right when the second plane hit, so we didn't see it, but we heard the explosion and ducked into the doorway. I'm watching, I'm thinking that it can't be real."

Richard Fern: "I headed for the elevator, pushed the hall button and stepped in just when the second plane crashed into my building. I landed on the floor on all fours in the dark. I jumped from the elevator before the doors could close and trap me. I headed for the nearest emergency stairway to find it unlit and filled with smoke. I started running down the stairs, following the white glow-in-the-dark stripe on the steps. When I arrived on the 78th floor, I was shocked to discover that the stairs ended. I reached along the wall and found a door handle and I heard someone yell, 'Don't go down that staircase, use this one.' I started down the next staircase; I was moving quickly and passing people. I turned a corner and saw a woman and man standing on the steps in front of a wall that had fallen in from the explosion and blocked the way. I did not even acknowledge them; I just put my hands under the wall and lifted. The wall came up and came to rest on the banister, just enough for us to crawl under."

Daniel Hochman, 41, day trader at Streamline Trading, Tower One, 83rd floor.

"I was on the eighth floor of Four World Trade in 1993 when the bomb went off. So this time I thought the place was going over. My first instinct was to head for the stairwell. There was smoke and debris in the hallway, and another trader who was burned came at me, so we took him back inside the office and tended to him. We closed the office door to keep the smoke out. All of a sudden our computer guy said in this commanding voice, 'Let's get out of here.' We headed back for the stairwell. Everything was pretty civilized. There was no panic. But it was very slow going down the stairs, about five minutes per flight. We let the burned people go by. Twenty floors down we hit a wall of people. In the high 40s it got totally jammed. There were firefighters coming up and that made it more difficult, but we were glad to see them.

"On the concourse level there was debris all around the elevator banks. I was surprised to see damage so far down. The sprinklers were on, and there was broken-up marble all over the place. I stopped to make a phone call, but somebody said to me, 'Get out.'"

Richard Fern: "Further down I ran into a co-worker, Peter. He said, 'We should stay together.' I remember responding, 'Okay, but you have to keep up with me.' I switched my two-way radio to the channel our facilities people use. I heard one of our security persons, Jerry Banks, who was outside the building, calling Dave Vera, who is in the communications department. Dave was still in the building, telling Jerry that there was a lot of smoke and to send help.

"When we reached the 30th floor, my legs were shaking. I was concerned that I would collapse, but I kept on going. We exited on Church Street by the Borders bookstore. As we walked up Fulton Street, Peter stopped to look up at the building. I grabbed him and said, 'Let's move before something falls on us.' We continued to Broadway, then up to Park Row, stopping in front of a J&R electronics store, where a group of Euro Brokers employees were gathering. I sat down on the curb."

David Kotok, 58, CIO of Cumberland Advisors in Vineland, New Jersey, was attending the annual meeting of the National Association of Business Economists in the ballroom of the Marriott Hotel adjacent to the Twin Towers.

"We were sitting in the room, about 225 of us, when we heard an explosion. Many of us thought it was a bomb. In the hallway we saw smoke and debris. I was out of the building in five minutes. I could see the north tower in flames. I ran about three blocks to an Avis office in the World Financial Center, where an employee named Julio rented me a car. It probably was the last car they rented. Julio probably saved my life. Avis says the office is covered with rubble. I hope he is okay."

Scott Wall, 38, head of the bank loan group at Cantor Fitzgerald, Tower One, 104th floor.

"Normally, I would be at my desk by 8:15 or 8:30, but I was up late the night before with my one-year-old son. I knew I had a dinner Tuesday night that was going to go late, so I slept in a little bit. Instead of taking the 6:39 a.m. train out of Greenwich, I wound up taking a later one. I remember coming up from the Fulton Street station and it was 12 minutes to nine. I turned the corner and it was like a ticker-tape parade going on, except there were flames. I thought at first that a gas main had broken at my firm. I arrived at the building to see a gaping hole and what I initially thought was falling debris. It was people jumping to their deaths. I kept looking up. The people were coming out in groups, holding hands. I thought I had better turn away. Then overhead I heard the loudest noise you ever heard in your life, and that was when the second plane hit. I thought, 'God gave me a second chance and I blew it,' because I thought the building was going to explode and fall down on top of me. I just took off."

Matthew Andresen, 30, CEO of Island ECN. His offices are on Broad Street, a few blocks southeast of the World Trade Center.

"We had heard about the Pentagon and that crazy report about the bomb at the State Department. You just had that horrible feeling that you didn't know what was next, and two doors away is the New York Stock Exchange. I looked north out of my window and saw people running down Wall Street, down Pine Street, down Cedar and turning onto Broad Street toward me. And right behind them came a 40-story-high wall of ash. Then someone said the tower fell."

Jeffrey Neubert, 58, president and CEO of New York Clearing House, which is located eight blocks south of the Trade Center.

"I could hear the first tower imploding. Our lights flickered. Within two to three minutes, we began to see ash outside. It was raining ashes. Everything was gray. The next thing you know, the people outside in suits with briefcases were covered with ash. Broad Street and Water Street became jammed with traffic."

Richard Fern: "I walked to the barbershop where I normally get my hair cut. Antonella helped me into one of the chairs, and another barber wiped me down with wet, cold towels. I asked if I could use the phone to call my wife, Christina. Unable to reach her, I called my mother in Brooklyn and told her I was okay and to call home for me. While resting, I listened to the two-way radio and could still hear Dave Vera saying his situation was grim and pleading for someone to help. We heard a deafening rumble, which sounded like a jet going overhead. People in the street were screaming that a third jet was going to crash. I walked into the back of the barbershop and stayed until the noise stopped. We learned that one of the towers had fallen. I did not hear Dave anymore."

Lauren Smith: "I was carried to an ambulance across from the Millennium Hotel on Broadway. Linda was with me, uninjured but there for support. There was another woman who was in bad shape. They were taking vital signs and trying to assess my injuries, and it seemed to take forever. They had just shut the ambulance doors, and we were about to pull away when all of a sudden we heard this loud explosion. It was the tower coming down. The vehicle was shaking, and we could hear stuff hitting it. Smoke was seeping in. The ambulance driver said, 'Okay, we're going to have to make this trip on foot.' We told Linda to get out of there as fast as she could, and one of the EMTs held my hand and led me out. We made it to the Bank of New York building, where people had taken refuge in the lobby. I stayed there for a little while, but I knew I was hurt. Another woman decided she wanted to walk out of there, so we set out. I had lost my shoes in the elevator. I was barefoot, and it was very difficult to breathe. I saw two men in FBI coats, and they led me to the hospital. It was like a MASH unit in a war zone."

Jeffrey Neubert: "It began to look like it was clearing and you could see the sun again when the second tower collapsed. There was a huge boom. The monitor on my computer went out. It became black outside, like a horrific storm was going on. The blackness lasted for a few minutes. There was another very heavy shower of ash. The pitch-blackness became gray and stayed gray for 45 minutes. Streams of people were moving briskly in the street, evacuating their buildings. We continued operating. You began to hear constant sirens. What was rather miraculous to me was that within two hours, the street was empty. I kept wondering, 'Where did everybody go?'"

Edward Donovan: "I was trying to get home to Staten Island, so I started walking toward Battery Park. I thought I'd just made it out clean, that I had dodged a bullet. I was near the West Side Highway, and I ran into my cousin Carrie, who's an EMT. We talked for a few minutes about who we knew, then all of a sudden you hear a noise so loud you couldn't even hear the person next to you yell, 'Run.' And then I saw No. 2 coming down, this avalanche coming toward me, the black smoke on top and the gray smoke below it, and I started running for my life. I made it into a parking garage, but there was so much dust and rubble you couldn't breathe. There were four firemen in there and an EMT, and we shared their oxygen masks. I thought I broke my arm; I don't know if I got hit by something or if I ran into something or one of the firemen. It was chaos."

Michael Dangler: "I have friends at American International Group nearby, so I ran there and we went down in the AIG basement, but we were evacuated because there was too much smoke. Some of us held hands and started going toward the Brooklyn Bridge. I didn't think we were going to make it. You couldn't see, you couldn't breathe. It was total darkness."

Matthew Andresen: "I tried to call my wife but couldn't get through. Finally, my phone rang, and it was her. We live across the street, and she had been taking our two sons - two years old and six months - to story time at the Borders bookstore in Five World Trade Center. Fortunately, she was running late and was still out on Broad Street when the first building collapsed. When I found her, she was really hysterical. An ambulance came by, and they asked if there were any small children around, because it's very unhealthy for them to be breathing that stuff. We got in the back. There were like a dozen kids back there."

Robert Bloom: "When we finally got outside, we looked up and saw what was going on, all of the smoke. I said, 'Nothing good can happen here,' and the three of us walked up to City Hall. Along the way a kind woman offered me her cell phone. I got through to my wife at 9:45 a.m., so she had been in uncharted territory for about an hour. I said, 'I'm fine. Call my father, call our son, call my brother. I'll call you later.' We set off for our emergency office space in midtown. We were set up there by noon. I already went through this in 1993."

Matthew Andresen: "The ambulance brought us to a hospital, right by the South Street Seaport. As soon as I got my kids checked out, I said I had to go outside and help. Then I noticed I was in a group of about 150 doctors and nurses with empty stretchers."

Jeffery Neubert: "As soon as we realized we had a full-blown disaster on our hands, I called Jamie Stewart, the No. 2 guy at the New York Fed after William McDonough. We agreed that the clearing house would provide a forum with the Fed and Depository Trust and Clearing Corp. for the banks to come together to get through this crisis.

"I stayed in my office until 10 p.m. The most important thing we did was make sure we kept the payment system running. We also made sure our people were okay, which they were. We worked very closely with the Federal Reserve. We decided to extend the processing day for federal funds payments - if company A wanted to make a large payment to company B, say $25 million or $50 million through their bank, we extended the closing time for four hours for Clearing House Interbank Payments System, Fed Wire and the automated clearing house, which is for smaller electronic payments. We wanted to have an orderly close. By extending, we could do that."

Daniel Hochman: "I got a block and a half north of the Trade Center when the second tower fell. I was running for my life, right at the edge of a plume of smoke. When I got to our apartment in Tribeca, there was another trader there with his wife, comforting my family. They thought I was a goner."

Edward Donovan: "If I hadn't run into those firemen, I would have choked to death. And if I hadn't run into my cousin for those few minutes, I know exactly where I would have been, in that wide-open field near Battery Park with nowhere to run. If I had gone back upstairs, I'd probably be dead. I know some people who did go back and who didn't make it out."

Robert Bloom: "For the first week or so afterward, I was doing okay. But for some reason, on the night of the president's speech rallying the troops, all of a sudden the impact of everything I had been through - what the world has been through - hit me. I couldn't stop crying. It just hit me all at once."

Brian Finley: "My client and I are both in reinsurance, and it's one of the industries that's going to be most affected. But looking back, neither of us even thought to say a word about business. We were just so concerned for the people in the buildings. There was word on one of my co-workers who was seen downstairs, but they think he got caught in the rubble."

Lauren Smith: "From my hospital bed I could still see the smoke. There was no air conditioning, no running lights. I was there 11 days. I'm still trying to digest what happened. I not only lost co-workers, I lost close friends. I am thankful, but this has been devastating."

Jeffrey Neubert: "By midafternoon Tuesday we started hourly conference calls with 14 to 20 banks, the Federal Reserve and DTCC. Occasionally, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. would join the calls. In subsequent days it was every 90 minutes. Then the calls became every two and a half hours. We checked in with each other about how Chips is working, how Fed Wire is working, how ACH is doing and other relevant payment systems issues. We basically pulled together a coalition to work together to preserve the integrity of the payment systems."

John Lyden, 27, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. floor clerk at the New York Stock Exchange. The exchange reopened on September 17 after its longest shutdown since World War I.

"Over the weekend all I thought about was that I knew they were going to open Monday and my job was to come back and not be scared, to not be afraid. Everybody had that same sentiment. People who were scheduled to take off showed up today. I knew over the weekend that everyone was okay, but you want to see them, to shake their hand, to give them a hug and say, 'We'll get through this.'

"The orders came in fast and furious, but everybody's been so supportive. They may not be brokers who work for my firm, but if they were there, close to the stock that I needed to get to, they were there to help me. Everybody's helping each other. New Yorkers don't run. We don't hide. We need to show terrorists that we're resilient, that they're not going to scare us. If they scare us, then they've accomplished their goal - to terrorize."

Scott Wall: "Lucky is not a word I like to use. You thank God you're there for your family. And you feel the pain of all of those other families. There is so much pain it's unfathomable. My entire division was wiped out. My mentor, Joseph Shea, is gone. I've been to nine funerals this week, and I have two more tomorrow and probably one a day all next week. Every time I think I can't cry anymore, I see another mother trying to explain to her child that their daddy is gone, and I just break down and sob again. But we need to try to regroup as a firm, as best we can. We have to."

Written and reported by Jenny Anderson, Rich Blake, Jacqueline S. Gold, Deepak Gopinath and Justin Schack; compiled and edited by Ruth Hamel.