Lorraine M. Escoto
Contributor's location on 9/11:
New York, NY
February 17, 2005
September 11, 2001
It was a beautiful September morning. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was commuting from my new apartment in Astoria to 2 World Trade, where I worked for AON. Everything was going good, I just moved into my first apartment with my sister-in a great neighborhood; I loved my job and the location of it?I worked the Trade Center, what more could I ask for. I had the typical morning, arriving early, getting coffee and chatting with people in the office.
I was in the coffee room when I heard a loud boom and someone screaming ?oh my god!? I ran out of the coffee room and into an office what was facing 1 World Trade Center. The only thing I saw was fire coming out of the building and paper shooting out of the building. I did not know what was happening. So I ran to my boss? office, which faced directly across 1 World Trade, to see if I could get a better look of what happened. As I walked into the office I felt this incredible heat from the fire that was directly across from his office. At that point I knew it was time for me to leave the building. I was afraid that something in 1 World Trade would explode and directly hit our offices. So I shut my computer off, grabbed my sneakers & bag and started heading down on the first stairwell I could find. I didn?t wait for anyone, I felt I couldn?t- I had to leave at that moment. And so my journey from the 100th floor began. I had always joked that if there was a fire or something that I had to walk down 100 flights of stairs. But never in my life did I actually think that it would truly happen. The stairwell was a little crowded in the beginning but there was no panicking. I had stopped on one of the landing to put my sneakers on and ran into my friend and colleague on the landing. I was joking with her that I can now go home and unpack my apartment that just moved into that Saturday. We came upon the 78th floor (that was an elevator bank that took you express down to the ground floor) - there where so many people on that floor waiting for an elevator to go down. My friend stayed to see if she could get one down. I told her that I?m going to walk down and that I would call her later. She said ok. (That day I found out she didn?t make it, she was one of the thousands that died that day)
I proceeded to go down the stairs. I stopped on a floor to see if I could get a signal on my phone so that I could call my sister or mother and tell them that I was ok and that I would meet my sister at her job (41st and Park). The floor that I stopped on was dark and people in the hallway saying that a plane flew into tower one. And I remember thinking to myself what a HORRIBLE accident. At that point I was even more determined to get out of that building and away from the Trade Center. I was more afraid that the fire across the way would hit a gas pipe and it would explode with debris hitting our building. So once again I headed down the stairs. It wasn?t crowded, a lot of people where going back up or stopping waiting for an elevator. There were announcements telling people to go back to their offices that it was just a fire in tower one and that tower two was secure. And people listened to them.
I can?t remember what floor I was on when I felt the building shake and saw some debris come down from the ceiling(I learned later that this is when the second plane hit tower two; so I was below the impact). I began to panic a little bit at that point, but I continued down the stairs. I remember thinking to myself ?God, you know I am ready to go when you call for me. But I can?t go like this; my family will not be able to handle this. This will break them. Please carry me out and bring me to my family. I will do anything, just bring me home.? Finally I reached the ground floor and it was complete chaos. They where telling us what entrance to go out of. I remember going up the escalators and seeing people covered in blood walking out. I had exited the exit that faces the church-it was where the Borders Books was (I believe its Trinity Place). I remember there was a cop in civilian clothes telling me to keep walking up and don?t look back ? to keep walking toward the Brooklyn Bridge.
I will never forget the expression on people?s faces as I walked. They stood there in horror looking up at what was happening behind me. I didn?t dare look up. I wanted to get as far away as possible from that area. People where glued there, didn?t move, it was like they where under a spell. I frantically pushed my way through the crowd, trying to get a signal on my phone to call my sister or mother and tell them that I was out of the building and I was fine. I was going to pick up my sister and go home. I couldn?t get a damn signal. So I stopped by this smoke shop and asked if I could use their phone to make a quick call--- I told them that I had just came out of tower two and needed to call my family to tell them I was ok. They just had this stare on them, almost that they couldn?t believe I walked out of there. I called my sister at work, needless to say she was not in the best condition?she had been watching the whole thing on TV. She had already thought I was dead, that there was no way I would have survived that. Once I got her on the phone I told her that I was ok, that she needed to pull herself together and call mom and tell her that I was ok. I told my sister to stay where she was, that I was going to be there shortly. I don?t know what possessed me to get on the 6 train to go to Grand Central, but I did. As it came to 14th street/Union Square I thought to myself I can get off here and take the 4 or 5 and it will get me there in one stop. So I got off the train and wouldn?t you know---they stop all service. The subway system was on shut down. I walked out of the subway and people were all pissed off, I saw this woman cursing at a cop telling him that the MTA is constantly screwing her, that she was seriously inconvenienced at the moment?she clearly did not know what was happened on the ground level just downtown from her. I walked out of the subway station asked the local hot dog guy which way uptown and where is Park Avenue. He kindly showed me which direction I needed to go. I started walking to my sister?s job (42nd and Park). Once again people where stopped in the middle of sidewalks looking at the TV in the window, there were lines at the public phones, people crying, etc. I still didn?t know the whole story, I hadn?t stopped to ask any questions, to inquire; I was focused on getting to my sister- she needed me there. I stopped in a church just blocks from her job. I fell to my knees and started crying?I didn?t know why I was crying, I just thanked God that I was safe. Once I got to my sister?s job, there was a mob outside (they evacuated the building) I couldn?t find her-so I went upstairs to her office-she was not there. I went back downstairs and she was there with her friends from work. She just started crying and hugging me like she never wanted to let me go. Then I told her that I heard someone on the stairwell say that a plane flew into tower one. At that point our friend Nancy told me that it was a terrorist attack and that both towers were hit and they just collapsed. Words can not explain what was going through my head. I thought I was the only surviving person from my job ? you have to understand I just came from that area a saw all of those people standing there, glued to the ground looking up in shock and horror.
I went upstairs to call my parents and told them that I was now with my sister and we were going to try to figure out what to do. Nancy had a friend that lived close to their job. She called him and asked if we could come by. So we went to this friend?s apartment and the TV was on ? of course showing images of what had just happened. This was my first time actually seeing what had happened. On the TV I saw the first plane hit the towers; then I saw the second plane hit the building I was in. Then the part that I could not believe; and still don?t ? was the falling of the buildings. I just started crying, I didn?t know what to do. I thought that everyone that I saw on the floor before I left had died because they didn?t make it down the stairs in time. (I later found out that a lot of them survived) We stayed at the apartment for a little bit then decided to walk over the 59th Street Bridge to our apartment in Astoria. The first attempt was not good; since we were near Grand Central there was chaos. As we turned the corner onto 42nd Street towards the bridge we saw this mob of people just running down the street. At this point I really couldn?t walk that well after climbing down 100 flights of stairs and walking almost 30 blocks. So I told my friend and my sister to lean up against the building in a little nook so they would get trampled. Well after that we decided to head back to the apartment that we were at. We stayed there for a little bit longer then decided that we really needed to get home. So we started heading home, there was this eerie feeling about the city; you could here the fighter jet circling the city. We weren?t the only ones walking across the bridge. Once we reached the middle of the bridge I looked to my right and saw a huge cloud of smoke where the towers once stood. It still all felt like a REALLY bad dream. I received a call from my aunt telling me that my uncle is at the foot of the bridge. We finally reached the end of the bridge and people where handing out water; I saw my uncle and just started crying ? I remember telling him to take me home to my mother. He met us at our apartment and a friend from the neighborhood drove us to our apartment.
We were on our way to Long Island where my mother lives; and there was no one on the road. People just started calling my cell to make sure that I got out and that I was fine. We got to my mother?s house and the first person I saw was my stepfather outside on the steps ? I went to him and gave him the biggest huge. When I saw my mother I started crying again. My aunt came over with my cousin and we had something to eat. Then we all went to the living room and I remember watching the TV. All they kept doing is replaying the airplanes going into the buildings and then the buildings collapsing. And every time I started crying. That night I spoke to some friends that were wondering if I got out ok. Told them the story.
In the following days this overwhelming wave of sadness just consumed me. I didn?t eat, all I wanted to do is sleep, and I felt I had to be strong for my sister and family. I didn?t allow myself to mourn properly. I didn?t want to admit to myself the feelings I was feeling. Almost if I didn?t think about it would eventually go away. At times I felt that the sadness I carried with me was too big for me, for the first time I didn?t have the answers or a plan for what I was feeling or what was going on. It was all around me and I couldn?t escape it. And dealing with the loss of friends was too much for me. I cried myself to sleep every night. I had the guilt; you know why I didn?t try harder to convince them to go down the stairs with me. Why did they stay for an elevator? How in a heartbeat I would trade places with them so that could be here with their families.
One night my friends who died came to me in a dream; I was at ground zero looking frantically for them. And when I came upon a huge black box, as I lifted it up I saw the three of them in pure white gowns with beautiful smiles on. They told me that it?s ok, that they are ok.
About a month after the attacks it was time to go back to the city and go to work. I will admit this was very scary for me. How would I go back to work and be among those people who experienced the same thing I did, if not worse. When I walked around the city or on the train; I felt like people could see what I went through, that they somehow knew what I was feeling. Having to deal with the terror warnings, the planes flying over NYC, the bomb threats that happened in our new building ? my nerves were SHOT!!!
I still get those feelings once in awhile. Its worse the week of the anniversary, it?s almost like I?m preparing for it to happen again. I make a mental note of that I have to do, how I would evacuate the building I?m in now.
There is not a day that goes by that I don?t think of that day and my friends that died. My mother says that I was reborn on that day ? that I was given a second chance at life. That it was a miracle that I walked out of it. I guess someone up there is not ready for me.
I would like this opportunity to tell my family and friends that I love them with all my heart and that without them I?m nothing. I would like to thank them for their support when I was going through it and when I have my moments now. To my friends who are gone, I miss you terribly and think of you often. I know in my heart you are in a better place ? we will meet again one day.
Lorraine M. Escoto
Lorraine M. Escoto,
Story #11303, The September 11 Digital Archive
, 17 February 2005, <http://911digitalarchive.org/stories/details/11303>.
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