Contributor's location on 9/11:
I was on the 68th Floor of the South tower
September 11, 2004
My Experience on 9/11/2001 / Steve Collupy:
I was on the 68th floor of tower 2, working for Morgan Stanley, and had started work at 8am as usual. Everything was rolling along like any other day when all of a sudden, around 8:45, we started hearing a sound like someone was pelting the side of a house with snowballs. It was hitting along the windows, and we saw thousands of pieces of paper flying by. At first we thought it was some kind of joke, like someone had dumped confetti off the observation deck on the roof, but then we saw that a lot of this paper was on fire. Next thought was that a bomb had gone off, either in the other building or in ours and we started following our drill plans and heading for the stairwells. I remember passing my friend and co-worker Chris who was on the phone, and yelling ?get the f--- off the phone and run?. At 2 flights per floor we were looking at 136 flights of stairs going about 800 feet down, a lot, when you want to be out of the building RIGHT NOW. I was surprised to find no one panicking, everyone was filing down the stairs semi-calm. It took us about 15 minutes to get down to the 44th floor where the security desks and main elevators were. We had flat screen monitors on the walls in the lobby normally showing the financial news, but right now they were all showing tower 1 next to us on fire. We were being told that possibly a small plane had hit tower 1, that our tower was secure, that we were as safe here as on the ground, and that it was safe to return to our offices if we chose. All I knew was that we were still 500 feet up, and for me, that was 500 feet too high. I think it was a group decision that we go for the stairs again. I know that some people stayed, and that others went back up to their offices feeling the building was secure. My family is glad I didn't make that decision, because I wouldn?t be writing this now.
We had only gone down a few flights of stairs when there was a loud rumbling explosion, and the whole stairwell shook violently, some people falling down, I was lucky to be holding on. I found out later that the second plane had hit us 30 stories above, but only several stories above our offices, where we could have returned to. The worst part was that the building started tipping sideways, swinging sideways, I was sure the other building fell into us and we were tipping over. I closed my eyes and waited for the floor to go out from under us, or the floor above to come down on us. My thoughts were, this is real, this is happening, I?m going to die, right here, right now. That was the strangest feeling. When I was about to die, and absolutely positively knew it, beyond any doubt in my mind. I just seemed to relax, because there was nothing I could do to avoid it, I didn?t pray, I didn?t panic, I didn?t try to run, because there was no place to go. I just thought about all the family and friends that I loved, and I just wished that I could tell them how much I cared about them, and to say goodbye, because now I knew I?d never ever get that chance. Note to those who read this: (Do it every day) because you?ll never know when it?s coming, and if today is going to be your last.
The building stopped at an angle and moved back the other way, it rocked back and forth for a few more seconds then stopped. That was when everyone started to panic, because we thought we might actually have a chance. We all yelled at each other to stay calm and started counting the floors out loud, 39,38,37. We continued down. The police were on the sound system in the stairwells telling us not to worry, that they were waiting for us at the bottom of the stairs. I can't explain the relief we all felt getting to the ground. The police were there in a line to guide us down through the underground mall. We were upset that they weren't letting us just go out the door on the ground level, but we didn't know that debris and bodies were raining down outside. We were escorted out through the basement and out onto the street from under building 5, being told to run and not look up.
My cell phone didn't work so I started looking for a shop that would let me use their phone. I remember, just walking behind the counter at a deli and using the phone, just pushing aside the employee trying to stop me. The phone wasn?t working. I went looking for another phone. It was then that I looked up and saw both buildings on fire. At that time I couldn't understand how ours had come to be that way. All I knew was that the buildings were a quarter mile high, so I needed to be a quarter mile away if they came down. I didn't know until I saw it on TV in one of the stores that a second plane had hit us, and that it was a terrorist attack.
There were groups of people, men and women screaming and crying "oh my god they're jumping". It took me a few minutes to believe my eyes that the debris I saw falling wasn't just glass and concrete, they were people. I?ll never forget the sight of that man in his grey business suit still holding his briefcase. He must have broken a window to get outside. I was watching him 80 floors up on the outside of my building, standing on a one foot ledge, clinging to a window, trying to make it from ledge to ledge. He didn?t make it. I keep thinking of myself in his place, and it?s horrible. I?ll tell you the other situation where I put myself in their place, and still have to shake it off almost three years later. A lot of those who looked like they jumped, didn?t. They weren?t jumping to escape the flames. They just couldn?t see where they were going because of the smoke, and ran right out through the hole in the building. I think I?ve pictured and felt this horrible scenario a thousand times. I imagine running through thick smoke looking for a way to escape, all of a sudden, you can breath, there?s a clear blue sky, it?s a beautiful 80 degree day, you?re out of the smoke, but there?s nothing under your feet, you?re on your way down in a 1000 foot drop, and you know right then that you?re dead. I don?t know if I would have been screaming all the way down, or if I would have just blacked out, because it wasn?t quick like I wanted it to be, it would have been the longest 12 seconds of the last of my life. I truly hope they all blacked out.
I eventually found a shop where I could make calls, leave messages, and contact my parents, and leave a message for my wife, just to spread the word that I was alive. My wife Julie had been asleep at the time and awoke to about 9 calls on the answering machine.
The first one was from my parents asking her if she knew if I was ok because of the accident at the world trade center. She didn?t get to the other messages right away that let her know I was ok, because she turned the TV on. The first thing she saw was the second plane plowing into my section of the building. She told me she just started screaming and mumbling, I?m a widow, and shaking her head, oh my god, he?s dead, but then she listened to the rest of the messages and got the message that I was ok. I truly think she went through more than I did that day. It?s hard for me to think of the tens of thousands watching the same thing and their family member never came home.
I had been out of the building about 20 minutes and was standing in a pub having one of several well needed drinks. Everyone was standing, watching President Bush make the announcement that it was a terrorist attack. Then the network jumped to a shot that showed tower 2 start to fall. As TV has a way of taking you away from reality, we all forgot that the building was outside the door. There was this loud rumble and people outside were yelling that the building was falling. That brought us back to reality. We ran out and started running up the street. If there is such a thing as a funny memory of that day, it wasn?t so much me running up the street with my drink still in my hand, but of the waiter in the bar running, still carrying someone?s food platter and not knowing it. Anyone who wasn?t running, we screamed at to run. I was glad I thought to get that far away because it gave me a head start. I looked behind me, and I don?t care what anyone says about that debris being only a couple hundred feet high. I watched this thick dark grey cloud rolling over buildings 50 and 60 stories high. It was high enough to go over another 20 stories. It was a thousand foot cloud. It was moving faster than I was running, I kept looking behind me, I could see pieces of things the size of small cars raining down, I just stopped looking back and ran. I think it was instinct to use the buildings to block what was coming straight up the streets behind me, so I zigzagged between a few buildings until I found the lobby of an apartment building. People were coming down from the apartments asking us if we needed any water or help. A group of us, including a police officer, stayed in there until the dust cleared enough to breath, and then I started to try and find a way out of there
I started walking and following everyone toward the water, toward the Brooklyn Bridge. It just went through my mind that if they planned this, then what better target to hit next than another icon, and also the bridge that everyone was packed on to get away, so I avoided that and kept walking hoping to get a cell phone signal. I kept walking, and a man in a business suit carrying a briefcase, covered in dust asked me if he could call his wife to let her know that he had made it out. I told him I still didn?t have a signal. I asked for the number he needed to call, and started calling over and over as we walked along together. We got a signal at one point, but it was lost, so we didn?t know if she thought it was a good call, or a bad one. I left him with an officer along the way and explained the help he needed.
As we were walking, because communications were out, people were gathered around stranded cars with their radios on high, listening to what was happening.
I finally got through to my wife a little while later. I was trying to explain the direction I was walking, she finally had a basic idea of where I was, and found a car rental place where I could rent a car to get out. Her not knowing how bad it was, and me just wanting to get out. Not a good idea. I had to abandon the car within several blocks, but it got me close enough to a subway entrance
I was able to get home around 5 o?clock that day to a distraught, but now happy wife, and our close friend Ingrid, who was there to comfort Julie in case I ended up as one of the posters on the fence.
I just wanted to add this special section.
If you were or were not involved in this, and would like a very moving experience, please paste this link into your browser, and turn your sound on, and listen and watch. It?s one of the best tributes.
My friend, Alan Mars, and a manager who was on his floor (69th) at the time the plane hit, entered his story on here, along with mine www.911digitalarchive.org. His story starts with ?It started out like any other Tuesday? under the Morgan Stanley search.
I was spared the site of people jumping to their deaths from a hundred feet away, and disintegrating on the ground, that Alan witnessed. I was also spared what one of my co-workers Kevin went through, backing up and literally splashing into the blood of someone who had jumped. I hope to this day that they are both holding on.
I?ll never forget those officers who guided us out of there, and those firefighters who had to know they were going to die on this one, but ran up over 70 floors carrying heavy equipment anyway. I think I remember that they made it to the 78th floor of tower one. I do remember how tired I was getting to the ground floor, even with all the adrenalin flowing, but I still have a hard time believing that a group of people carrying 60 and 70 pound loads of equipment and hoses, on their backs, in full gear, could run up stairs 10 stories past where I started down. If those aren?t heroes, then I want to know the definition. Those NYPD and FDNY stayed and died getting us out of there.
I'm happy to see a web site like this, which will hopefully keep future generations from ever forgetting what happened here. The enemy hates us because we believe in personal freedom, something that we are trying to give to their oppressed peoples, to make the world a better place. I believe in this and believe that eventually these animals will be removed from power. My Nephew Mike is a Military Police sgt. and just came back from Iraq. He is proud of his service there. He feels he made a difference, not just from a military stance, but having fun with, and teaching Iraqi children to play soccer. Now that makes a difference. They now know that unlike in the past, they won?t be tortured or killed if they lose the game.
Thank you for letting me tell my story, it always helps to talk about it :)
Story #10939, The September 11 Digital Archive
, 11 September 2004, <http://911digitalarchive.org/stories/details/10939>.
How do I know that this item is factual?