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Stories of September 11

Contributed by: Michael Nam
Contributor's location on 9/11: New York, NY
Contributed on: August 22, 2002

On the morning of September 11th, everything seemed exceptionally clear and positive. My birthday was that previous Sunday (the 9th) and I had just recently found a new job after months of employment at AIG Global Real Estate (located at 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza, a couple of blocks east of where the towers stood).

I remember oversleeping. Originally I had planned on getting up early to go to the Borders book store in the World Trade Center mall before work. It turns out I was spared a great deal by being tardy.

By the time I dressed and got out onto the street it was about 9:00 a.m. or so. I walked down Essex Street to reach the JMZ subway line at Delancey. It was when I began my routine commute that I noticed the top of one of the towers was smoking. I called my roommate from a payphone since my cell phone didn't seem to be working. He worked evening hours in Jersey City, so I told him to think about alternate travel plans (rather than the PATH) to work if there was a large fire at the WTC.

I kept walking to the train station where I found that the platform was overly crowded for such a little-used commuter line. It was then that an MTA worker came down to the platform to explain to us what had happened. He said two planes (two? I thought) were flown into the towers, and terrorism was suspected. The trains would be stopping at Chambers Street/City Hall at that time.

So, worried about my co-workers and friends I hopped on a train, got out at City Hall and proceeded to walk down a chaotic scene of people milling about and gathered around radios/TV's in order to get as much information as possible. I had to bypass Broadway and Nassau Street by using alleys and side streets in order to make it down to my office building.

I noticed then that the building was undergoing evacuation as people kept streaming out. My cell phone was useless and I was unable to find anyone I knew. I then headed west toward the Towers on Liberty Street. Weaving through a mob of people scurrying around I made my way down the street when a uniformed officer loomed up in front of me, pointed at my chest and said, "Get the hell out of here now!"

Stunned to the point where I couldn't challenge anything that remotely looked like authority, let alone a cop, I walked back the way I came. I moved up Fulton Street while numbly staring at all the whey faced, frantic people around me. It was when I reached the buildings of Pace University by City Hall park that I heard a terrified shout: "It's falling!"

I turned around while I heard the most horrifying rumble and roar. A tower was collapsing, and the panic of thousands of people propelled us forward as if a sea had just receded from the lower portion of Manhattan. I twisted around to see if the building was 'chasing' us, but the cloud of dust and ash settled about two or three hundred yards behind me.

While I walked home, a bit lost in my thoughts, I overheard a person talking on Canal Street. "I can't believe it...both of them!" I looked back once again, and both towers were gone.

I spent the rest of the day at home chain smoking while my roommate brought me beer, with brief moments where I would email, instant message or (when luck allowed) phone friends and loved ones.

I returned the next Monday to work, same building, gasping in the dust and smoke, surrounded by national guardsmen and police officers. It didn't stop me from lighting a cigarette every hour that day.

Cite as: Michael Nam, Story #1400, The September 11 Digital Archive, 22 August 2002, <>.
Archival Information: 626 words, 3471 characters
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