It Was a Beautiful September Day...
Submitted by Brian Branco
June 6, 2002 - Started
July 31, 2002 - Finished
It was a beautiful September day. I had an appointment at the car dealer in Jersey City, but was running late. Last week, Bob was busting me about coming in late, so I cancelled my appointment at the car dealer. I called them at 7:15. There was a lot of traffic at the Holland Tunnel, so I decided to take in the ferry. I normally took the ferry off and on based on the traffic at the tunnel.
Since traffic seemed to be returning to post vacation volume, I decided to purchase parking tickets and ferry passes for 5 trips into the city.
I arrived at Baseline before 8:00 am, Bob was in already. As usual, I said good morning and chatted with him for a couple of minutes. I went to my desk and continued to work on the upgrade that we were preparing to cut-over on September 20th.
A little while later, Bob came over to me and said we need to speak to Arturo when he gets in. There is a problem with the Accounts Receivable. He told me that since Arturo was coming back from vacation, he will probably be a little late.
While I was sitting at my desk, I felt a little rumble, it seemed like the air conditioner was turning on, but not exactly. I didnít think anything of it, but a couple of minutes later there were 1000ís of pieces of paper flying around in the sky. I think my first thought was something above us exploded, like an air conditioner unit or something.
I went to the sky lobby and someone in the hallway said that Tower 1 was hit by a plane. I went back to my desk and called my wife and told her that I think Tower 1 was hit by a plane and everything was ok. Iíll talk to her later. It was a very short conversation since we were fighting all weekend.
I then decided to go downstairs and see what was going on. I had in my mind that Iíll see whatís going on and come back up, however I did take my stuff (my palm pilot case). When I was leaving, I saw Bob looking around and Steve right behind me. Steve said something like, I forgot something in his office and he would be right down. I told him that I was not waiting and left. I also remember Jill on the phone at the reception desk.
I went to the sky lobby and it was starting to fill up with people from the floors above. I was next to these ladies that form a human chain and pushed their way onto the first elevator down. For some reason, I followed with them. The elevator was packed, there was absolutely no room. Everyone on the elevator were screaming and yelling. I was thinking, why is everyone panicking? When it got down near the bottom, people were yelling to push the open door button; the elevator was going back up. This was just the elevator slowing down before the ground floor.
When the elevator opened, everyone exited the elevator, fast but orderly. The security guards were directing people into the mall. When I looked to the left, the doors that I normally used were shut. There were 100ís of pieces of paper on the ground. The lobby looked kind of smoky but not really, kind of dusty. I followed everyone else through the doors. There were more security guards blocking the way to the other tower, so everyone had to go right. When I got to the area by the entrance to the Path trains, there were several police officers there yelling to get out of the building. I went through this area heading toward the exit by Sbarroís pizza. I remember looking down the hallway and there was a guy just walking around eating breakfast and drinking coffee.
I donít have memory of actually exiting the building and being outside. I remember seeing a long hallway and walking up to the glass doors, but not leaving.
The next memory I have is being on a corner and turned to the left because I saw a familiar building on West Street. (Later we found out it was Church and Barclay, across from the federal building). This was 1 full block away from the WTC site. The familiar building was the one with the new movie theatre. I thought to myself that Iíll go there and get to the ferry. Iíll call Bob later and tell him that I left. When I turned the corner, all of a sudden there was a terrible rumble and everyone ran into a building. I found out later that this was 100 Church Street. Everyone ran through the lobby and out the other door. The entrance was on Barclay and the exit was on Church.
Once again, I donít have a memory of exiting the building, I just remember being outside. I do remember after exiting the building the top of the sidewalk was covered for building construction.
I remember walking and seeing phones, but the lines were too long, so I walked until I saw a phone with only a couple of people. I called Cyndi to tell her that I was far away from the building and she was hysterically crying. I told her that I could not talk because there was a line of people waiting for the phone and they had to call home also.
I remember being farther away and looking up at the building. There was a big hole in the right tower (Tower 1) and the left tower (Tower 2) was on fire. I was thinking how could the fire jump from one tower to the other tower. I was also thinking that this is a real life Towering Inferno.
I called her several more times to make sure she was OK, I also called Debbie and asked her to come over. The cell phones were completely down, so I had to stop at pay phones. I wanted to break my cell phone since others were working and go buy one, but I would have to charge the battery.
I remember thinking that I need to get far away from the building in case it falls over. I also needed money for some reason, so when I was far enough away, I took $200.00 out of the bank.
I walked from the site to the Port Authority. They just closed it and were evacuating the building. I then walked from the Port Authority to the ferry. I got on a NY Waterway bus, but it was stuck in traffic, so I got off and walked. I got to the ferry on 38th Street and 12th Avenue, but never actually saw the end of the line.
Someone said that the Circle Line was starting to take people to NJ. I got in that line and got on the 3rd boat out of Manhattan. The boats brought everyone to Hoboken. There were 1000ís of people and just as many cars. I asked someone how to get to Jersey City Financial Center. That guy told me that building also collapsed.
As soon as I got into Hoboken, my cell phone finally worked. I called Cyndi and told her I was in NJ. She wanted to come get me, but I had to figure out where I was.
I ended walking all through Hoboken into Jersey City and seeing Route 495. I walked along 495 until it ended and went down one of the exit ramps that were under construction to 1 & 9.
Cyndi picked me up on 1 & 9, she was expecting to see me covered with dust like on TV.
1) The barbecue at night at Andyís and James telling me it was for me escaping
2) Andy staying with me for the 7 days.
3) Going to the top of the hill and seeing the smoke for months.
4) Cyndi laying on me for 4 days
5) Jimmy asking me if I saw any bodies falling out of the building.
6) Going to see my car on September 12th during the day and the parking attendant telling me that the ferries are not running.
7) Going to get my car on September 12th at night and seeing Rob Reganís face when he saw the site from across the river.
8) Going to church on September 12th, September 13th and September 14th
9) Remember all the sleepless nights
10) Remember Bobís niece and wife calling the night of September 11 looking for Bob.
11) Remember Pete, Herb, Daron, Bosh, Phil/Michelle calling
12) Remember Mr Sabella telling the 3rd grade class that two plains hit the World Trade Center. Angel saying under her breath ďglad it wasnít the Twin TowersĒ. Miss Debbie saying they are both the same buildings. Anthony telling Mr. Sabella that Angelís dad works there.
13) Not knowing much as I was walking. People said the WTC, White House, UN building, Capital Building were all hit.
14) Remember there was no TV on any channel for 7 days other that media coverage.
15) Cyndi getting copies of the WTC maps from Westfield Corp to help me remember how I exited the building.
16) Remember NYC ordering 11,000 body bags
I remember going to the counseling session on September 24th at the Union Club and seeing almost everyone from Baseline. I also remember sitting in a room with a bunch of people and listening to their stories. We were with someone that was in the building when the 2nd plane hit. He and a group of 12 or so walked down all those stairs and ran away from the building.
I spoke after he told his story and said to the counselor that I donít feel like a survivor. I just left the building, no excitement, no urgency, I just left. She told me that there are 3 types of people:
1) People that stay and help
2) People that stay and freeze up
3) People that leave
I just fell into the group of people that leave the scene. There is no right or wrong way to behave.
Ron Alvia watched everything from a block or two away. When the buildings fell, he ran down into a subway station. They already locked the subway so people could not get into the tunnels. He had to cover his face with his shirt so he could breath. He walked out through all the dust.
Arturo was on the subway entering the building. He got pushed back and out a door. He saw bodies fall.
Myles was on the 78th floor with me. I didnít know he was in and he did not see me. He said he heard a bang and left. He went to his wifeís office a couple of blocks away and they were all hiding under the desks when the buildings fell.
Myles, Bob, Steve, Jill and myself were the only Baseline people on the 78th floor. Myles and myself got out.
Other that the people that died, only Florence was physically hurt. Her eyes were burned from all the dust and dirt.