Janice Brooks is a British survivor of the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.
Almost 3000 people were killed, making 9/11 the most devastating terrorist attack in history. Read some of Janice's remarkable story below.
I’m just an East End girl who found myself in an incredible moment in history
Janice Brooks moved from London to New York in late August 2001, taking up the opportunity of a lifetime to live in the heart of Manhattan and to work in the iconic twin towers of the World Trade Center. As someone who had long felt a deep affinity with American culture, Janice touched down in the US with just a dog and a suitcase, ready to make the most of living in one of the most vibrant cities in the world.
September 11th 2001, just three weeks into the New York adventure started like any other day, the sky was completely clear and a stunning September blue. Janice made her way to work with her colleagues at Euro Brokers, based on the 84th floor of Tower 2, World Trade Center. At 8.46am that morning, Janice's life, and the world, would change forever.
The first plane struck 1 World Trade Center, the tower adjacent to Janice in 2 WTC. Although the people on Janice's floor heard the noise of the first strike, they were unaware that a plane strike was the cause. It was only by phoning the London office that Janice was informed of the gravity of the situation - by a colleague who had watched the attack live on the news from across the Atlantic Ocean.
Several thousand people inside 2 World Trade Center began evacuating, unaware that a terrorist attack was underway. The Public Announcement system inside the building told the people inside to return to their offices, as there was no indication at that time that a second plane would strike - the people leaving 2WTC were preventing the evacuation of 1WTC on the ground.
At 9.03am, the 2nd hijacked plane hit 2 World Trade Center, as Janice, her colleagues and thousands of other workers were in the process of evacuating. Janice’s remarkable story of escaping from the 84th floor is characterized by formidable tales of heroism and strength, from people she knew, from people she had never met, and from people she never saw again. Although Janice was able to escape, 61 of her colleagues did not survive the attack. 2,977 innocent people were killed in the 9/11 attacks, at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon building and on board United Airlines flight 93. Several thousand people now live with illnesses (caused by exposure to toxins), injury and emotional trauma as a result of the attacks.
Today’s schoolchildren were not yet born when 9/11 took place. They have only lived in a world since this happened. If I can help just one person to take a minute to remember all the people that died, that’s a wonderful thing.
Janice has since returned to the UK, working in London in the financial sector and living just outside of the capital. Janice is also working closely with SINCE 9/11 to tell her extraordinary story to groups of young people.
For today's young people, 9/11 was a historical event, whereas for most adults, it was the day the world turned upside down. Our hope is that through Janice's story, the events of September 11th 2001 are not merely remembered as a date or a statistic, with people appreciating that many thousands of people still live with the impact of that day.
Janice's full account of events on September 11th 2001
Tuesday September 11th 2001
I arrived in the office early as Gil Scharf; the CEO of Euro Brokers, and my boss, was in London and I needed to fax over the previous day’s New York reports to him.
It was a glorious day, I had been up at six running, cooling down by walking through Battery Park. I left for work relaxed and happy at about 7.20am.
I was at my desk by 7.30am, had breakfast – sent the first fax, was working on getting the second set of figures for him, and had a wire transfer going through to CIBC.
I remember picking up the telephone to dial London, and I heard a loud bang…my pc screen flickered, the lights flashed on and off, and I saw paper and dust floating through the office window opposite where I sat - it was like an American ‘ticker tape’ parade, as the paper swirled and danced in the air.
I ran around the corner to see Brian Clark, who told me not to panic, that it was probably a construction explosion, and that he would investigate. I went back to my desk, sat down, and then I heard a mans voice shout ‘‘Everybody Out”…(I was later to find out that it was Bob Twohig from our Convertible Bond desk) I remember walking along the corridor, seeing Mary Paterno and telling her that I was going to leave…I then remember seeing Walter Dulski and telling him the same thing.
I then went back to my desk to collect my bag. As I was about to leave, I hesitated and decided to call London to tell Gil what was happening.
Kerry Stewart; the London receptionist, couldn’t find him, so I asked to speak to Robin Clark; the Managing Director of the London office, and until recently my boss, and I remember vividly my conversation with him:
J: Rob, something’s happening next door, we’re all okay, but we’re leaving.
R: Something’s happening next door?!?!?!?!? Fucking hell Janice, a plane’s gone into the building - get the fuck out of there!!!!
The urgency in his voice made me move…I don’t remember saying goodbye nor putting down the phone, I just grabbed my bag and ran. I ran right and into the small bond dealing area where I saw Brian Clark, Dan Smith and Domenick Mircovich. As I ran I told them what Robin had said, I vaguely remember smelling what I now know to be airline fuel as I ran, and asking if I should stay or go…Brian told me that whatever I was doing that I needed to stay away from the windows, I remember Dan turning, walking towards me and smiling…I didn’t even stop to talk to him - I just kept running. I left the dealing area and ran into the main corridor, still not knowing what I was going to do. The first person I saw was Steve Chucknick - he and Jose Marrero were standing at the crossroads in the corridor, Steve said “come on Janice – down you go”. The decision to stay or go was taken away from me with those few words, and he herded me into the fire escape staircase.
The staircase was already full with people coming down from above, it was a steady pace, but people were chatting, joking and relaxed. A chap from Euro Brokers had entered the staircase just before me, but three girls separated us, he kept looking back, but as the stairs kept turning I struggled to keep him in sight. I knew that I needed to be with someone I at least vaguely recognized, so I asked the girls if I could squeeze in. I felt happier being with someone from the same company, although I didn’t know who he was. I was wearing some ridiculously high clip-cloppy shoes, and he suggested that it would be quicker if I took them off, so I put them in my bag, and continued down in bare feet.
When we got down to the 72nd floor, there was an announcement from the building security. They assured us that our building was secure, that the emergency services had requested they not evacuate our building as the space on the plaza was being used as an emergency medial center for those being evacuated from One World Trade. The announcement went on to say that we should take a note of which floor we were on, go back into the building at the nearest reentry point, and make our way back to our own offices. Our nearest was the 70th floor. We carried on down two more flights, and entered back into the building on the 70th floor…we followedthe crowd, walking into and through the offices of Morgan Stanley, and into their lift lobby.
There was a further announcement whilst we were walking, repeating again that our building was secure, and that the lifts would start to work again momentarily.
When we got to the lift lobby there were already about ten people there, I was still with this chap I didn’t know, but now we had caught up with some other people from Euro Brokers who I did know, in particular – Paul Gilby (Daisy), and Robert Coll (Woody). Daisy is English, and I remember saying to him that I hoped this type of thing didn’t happen too often…”every eight years” I remember him saying, and I knew that he was referring to the bomb attack in 1993, when his dealing area was on the 31st floor of One World Trade Center. We waited for about three minutes, the lifts did not come back on, and a suggestion went up that we should start walking…Daisy and Woody turned and left very quickly…I tried to keep up, and remember calling to Daisy to wait for me…he called back “hurry up, old woman” and then turned into the staircase. I never saw him again. I stayed with this unknown chap, and now several others I knew to be from Euro Brokers, but again I didn’t know who they were - we walked into the staircase which was still full of people walking down…we tried to walk up, and I remember a girl asking me where I was going. I told her that we had been assured that our building was secure so we were heading back to our office. She carried on walking down. We waited for probably a minute or so, for the staircase to clear, and then we started on our way back up.
There were now about seven of us.
After walking for about ten minutes, we left the staircase and walked into a connecting corridor. I was about five steps into the corridor when I felt a dull thud, the building shook for about five seconds, and I fell back against the wall, I also remember the ceiling coming down behind me, and smoke or dust filling the air, and I remember a man with a white shirt running back and forth. He tried both the door that we had just come through and the door up in front of us…both were blocked with fallen debris and rubble.
Then I heard a woman’s blood curdling, high pitch scream, and I remember a man’s voice shouting for help and some frantic banging. We all moved further into the corridor to see where the noise was coming from, we could hear crying and shouting from the other side of the up door, so, led by the man with the white shirt, we cleared the rubble, and pushed and pulled on the door until it opened. About six shocked and dazed people came through…all were bloody and the women were crying.
The first woman had blood all over her arm, which was cut, almost neatly, from her shoulder to her elbow, I remember seeing the bone, and her skin just flapping around…one of the guys took his t-shirt off and wrapped it around her arm, tying it in a knot under her arm pit, she also had a wounded foot, glass in her hair, and cuts on her face. She was with a man who had cuts all over his arms.
One man had a cut across the back of his neck, and the back of his t-shirt was soaked with blood. Another man had a blood-splattered shirt and had huge pieces of glass in his chest, which the others were pulling out.
One of the men said that he had heard a loud hissing sound, looked up and saw a huge fireball coming towards them from the direction of the other building, and that the windows were all blown in on them as they ran back to the door. My initial thought was that Tower One had fallen on us.
The last person to come through was another woman who had long dark hair. She had cuts all over her face, and had one eye full of blood…this was the woman who was screaming…she was saying that she couldn’t see, and was waving her arms frantically in the air…someone gave her a bottle of water, she washed her face, and the blood in her eye was from a deep gash on her forehead, which had dribbled down. When she shook her hair, glass showered everyone.
We all then moved towards the down side of the corridor, to the door that we had originally came through. This door was now blocked with rubble and the buckled wire ceiling grid that had fallen down. Together we moved all the concrete and plaster and the man with the white shirt eventually pulled the door open, as he looked down he said that the stairs were gone, and all that he could see was smoke and darkness.
…almost magically there was another door…flush with the wall, and the same colour…one that I had walked straight past and never even noticed…again, the doorway was blocked…the men all pulled back the rubble, and we opened the door…just a little at first, as something was blocking it from the other side. The man with the white shirt squeezed through…he then pushed from the other side, as the men on our side pulled…(the man with the white shirt I was later to find out was Peter Rogers, who works on our Caps desk). The door was then open enough for us to get through. I remember going through sideways…and feeling with my bare feet to find a hold…there was a huge plank of ceiling that had fallen, and that I eventually walked onto. There was one lady behind me, the same lady who was in the corridor when we heard the screaming, and she was coughing loudly. Then lastly was the man from Euro Brokers, who made sure that everyone was through before he left.
He came through, and then we all set off down the stairs…the lady with the arm and the bad foot was in front of me, with the other lady with the cough behind me.
(I was later told that three other people from Euro Brokers were in the corridor with us: Steve Hudson, Mario Lopez-Lena and Greta Mayans, all from our Mexico desk. I do recall seeing Steve Hudson – but I did’nt knowat the time who he was).
We entered a well-lit staircase, which was littered with pieces of ceiling, wire, plaster and concrete. Plastic coke bottles had exploded, and there was a broken pipe gushing water down the stairs, which mixed with the coke made them very slippery… the woman in front of me was sliding all over the place. It was very dusty, I remember coughing, and my feet feeling sticky and wet.
After about six flights of stairs, the debris cleared, and the staircase was deathly quiet. All that I could hear were people coughing, and the woman with the long hair still crying.
As we were walking down, the man from Euro Brokers was constantly running back and forth between the people at the front, and me and the coughing lady at the back. He kept telling us to stay focused, watch where we were walking, to hold on to the handrail and to keep moving.
I remember the woman behind me crying, and coughing even louder, she told me that she had asthma, and she had to keep stopping to take deep breaths. The woman in front, with the arm, keep saying over and over again that she was moving house on Friday, she was crying and saying that she would not be able to help her husband with a bad arm. Her left foot was bleeding badly and I saw that she only had half a shoe on. Each step she took left a bloody footprint, I remember looking down at my left foot and seeing blood oozing through my bare toes as I stepped behind her. I remember a sheer panic sweeping over me, and a scream building in my throat, until I heard a voice in my head telling me to calm down, everything was going to be okay, that it was not my blood, and that I needed to focus and listen to the man from Euro Brokers.
I stopped dead a few flights later when I saw blood on my shirt, it was on the front and on my left sleeve, not much, but still it shocked me. I remember pulling my shirt from my body and mouthing to this still unknown man “I’ve got blood on my shirt” I kept repeating it again and again, standing dead-still. He put his arms around me, told me that it was okay, but that we really needed to keep moving. I remember starting to cry, and stopping again a few flights later and saying “I don’t even know your name”. His name was Bob Mahon.
We carried on down – we never saw anyone else until we were on about the 8th floor - when we saw three firemen walking up…they seemed to look us over, probably noting that there were walking wounded amongst us, but otherwise that we were okay, and then they carried on up without saying a word.
With about ten flights to go, the lady in front of me stopped, started crying loudly and started shaking uncontrollably, her foot was hurting, clearly she was having trouble walking. She said that she couldn’t go on, that she needed to rest, that we were to leave her, and to send help when we finally got to the plaza level…Bob said no, and without much fuss at all – he gave her a piggy back, down - I don’t know, eight, ten, twelve flights of stairs – he carried her right to the bottom.
At concourse level it was a tad chaotic, and we were directed by Port Authority workers past Cosmetics Plus, towards the Path Terminal, then across by Sabarro’s around past Nine West and then up the escalator by Torneau, all the shops were locked and empty. There was a steady stream of Firemen and Police officers going back into the building as we were leaving.
We left the World Trade Center by Borders book shop, and came up onto Liberty Street, opposite the Millennium Hotel – at that point the lady with the arm, and the man who had stayed with her all the time were taken to the emergency medical center which had been set up on the Plaza…the last I saw, she was being led away by a paramedic.
As I watched her leaving, a policeman stopped us at the top of the stairs and told us to “keep your heads down, don’t look up, don’t look back”. Bob grabbed my hand, and we took off running.
As we ran I remember seeing a woman standing there, coffee in one hand, Krispy Kreme donut in the other looking up at the building in a total trance. I wanted to grab her…shake her, and tell her to run.
We crossed the road, and ran towards a policeman who was waving frantically at us, we ran past the Church into Vesey Street, and kept running until we came to the mouth of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Lower Manhattan was clearly being evacuated, and the emergency services were directing everyone over the Bridge into Brooklyn.
Bob asked me where I lived, I told him Battery Park, and so we made a plan to start walking across the crowds to my apartment.
He asked me what time it was…it was 9.43am.
Then for the first time I looked up at the World Trade Center… I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, where our floor should have been there was a huge gaping hole, and I could see smoke and flames… I could taste sick in my mouth as a wave of nausea swept over me, and I stood in a trance…just like the Krispy Kreme woman, and I started to cry. I cried all the way home.
I walked barefoot through the streets holding Bob’s hand and crying. He was wonderful, he kept me moving, and kept me calm. People were looking at us, someone pointed at me and said – “look that girl has blood on her shirt”.
I cried even harder.
The streets were full… and instead of leaving Lower Manhattan people were all just milling around, not knowing what to do, there were Police and Emergency Service officers everywhere, directing people, and still moving them towards the Brooklyn Bridge.
We were still walking against the crowds, but eventually, we crossed the West Side Highway, and walked into my apartment block.
The park opposite was full of people just standing around in small groups talking and looking up at the Towers in shock and awe.
My apartment was on Rector Place in Battery Park, Bob came in, tried to call his wife – the lines were constantly busy, so he gave me a hug, told me that I was safe inside, and that I should try to relax. Then he left.
Once he had gone. I just kept trying to call London. After about ten minutes I was able to get through and I spoke to Gil. He asked me if I was okay, where I was, who I was with, and who I last saw on the floor. For the first time, I thought about who I had last seen...I told him about Brian, Dan and Domenick, and that it was Steve and Jose who had herded me into the staircase. I told him about Bob, that he was okay, but that he had left and was going to try to get home to New Jersey.
The line was disconnected after about three minutes.
I kept trying and eventually got through again. This time I spoke to Robin, and then to my best friend Jill Whitfield. She later told me that I was hysterical, which was strange… I thought that under the circumstances, I was quite calm.
I then tried to call my family and friends in Florida, and Ray, who was looking after my dog; Sidney, in upstate New York. I remember talking to him, and again the line being cut. Each time I finally got through to anyone the line was disconnected after a few minutes.
When the first tower fell, I heard the rumble a long time before I saw anything. I thought that it was another plane, and I remember screaming and ducking and waiting for the inevitable crunching sound.
There was a small flurry of dust and I saw paper swirling around outside my window. The telly stayed on, and everything in the apartment continued to work.
I was still trying to call my friends, the lines were either constantly engaged, or just ringing, and then going to a voice recording saying that my call could not be connected at that time.
Then I heard the same rumbling sound that I had heard before - this one was much louder…I was on the telephone to a friend in Houston, and the line went dead, the telly flickered off, I felt the building move, the crockery in the dish washer began to rattle, the windows were vibrating and making a humming sound, and as I looked up I saw darkness creeping around my building. I watched in a trance as the billowing cloud seemed to move in slow motion as one by one my windows were blacked out. It was as if there was someone on the roof unwinding a heavy roll of carpet…until eventually it was pitch black inside, and I could not even see my hand in front of my face, I remember sitting down and crying…I sat on the sofa rocking back and forth, and I thought that I was going to die. I was so frightened. I was going to die, and I was alone. I will never forget that feeling. Even now, in my dreams I see this girl sitting alone in the dark rocking back and forth and crying, thinking that she is going to die.
The humming and rattling stopped first as the building seemed to shudder and come to a rest.
I remember being shocked into action, and getting up racing to find a torch, trying the telephone, turning the telly on and off, the lights…nothing was working, and I had no water…I ran into my bedroom to get my sports radio, and I just sat in the dark crying and listening to the news.
After a while the black turned to gray, then to light gray and then to just swirling paper and dust. I remember standing up and looking out at the Statue of Liberty in the harbour – one side of my apartment looked like a picture-perfect summers day, the other side was chaos and people were dying.
I was shocked out of my daze by the telephone ringing, the only thing in my apartment to spring back into life, it was Sylvia Connors who was calling me looking for her husband Kevin. Whilst I was in London, Kevin stayed at the apartment, and still had the keys…she was hoping that somehow he would make his way back to Battery Park, and just turn up on my doorstep, I was to speak to her at least three more times during the coming hours.
Then I heard a commotion in the hallway outside my apartment…someone calling for help – I opened the door to a cloud of black dust, and called out for them to walk towards the light…out of the darkness came firstly a young girl, and then a young man.
She had been in the lift, which opened at my floor, as she got off – the dust cloud came up the lift shaft. He was from an apartment on my floor, which was nearest to the World Trade Center – he had glass in his hair, and cuts to his face and arms – but was shocked more than anything else. He was looking out of his window as the second tower began to fall, and as he tried to close the window it smashed and fell in on him.
We cleaned him up, putting plasters on his hands and arms, and then sat, alternatively trying the telephone – but mostly getting the voice recording.
The girl had a call on her mobile phone, one of her friends was at Pier 11, and there were ferries leaving for New Jersey, so she left almost immediately. She lived on the 19th floor, so was first going up to her apartment to collect some belongings. I gave her my telephone number and told her to call if she needed any help. I never heard from her again.
After an hour or so, I went with the man back to his apartment – there was dust and glass everywhere, all the windows on one side of his apartment had blown in, and his belongings on that side were scattered all over the place. He collected some clothes, and decided to make his way to Greenwich Village where his office was and where most of his friends lived.
I went back to my apartment and decided that I needed a plan.
After I got through, I had been leaving messages for Eileen McMahon; the Euro Brokers New York Personnel Director, and finally she called me. She had heard my messages, so knew that I was safe, but had trouble getting through to me.
The train she was on had been terminated at City Hall, and she had come up onto the street about ten minutes before the plane hit our building.
After walking for over an hour she eventually found a Queens bound bus, which took her almost to the top of her road.
I can’t remember if she invited me, or I invited myself…but a plan was hatched that I would make my way to her place if the power did not come back on in my apartment.
The plan was set that I would have to leave my apartment by 5.15pm, in order to get to her before it started to get dark. So I busied myself packing a small bag.
I tried to contact the house management, there was no answer at the reception desk of the building, so randomly calling – I finally got an answer from the on-site dry cleaners…who actually told me that they were based at the far side of Battery Park – he said that my building had been evacuated about three hours before, and that I should think about leaving…I told him that I hoped that the power would come back on, and that I could stay – he told me it wouldn’t happen, that the whole area had no electricity, gas or water.
I told him that it was pitch black in the hallway outside my apartment, he told me to get into the fire exit, and make my way to the ground floor.
He asked if I had a torch…I did have, but it seemed to only flicker on when it wanted to…I told him that I had a candle – he told me not to use the candle as he had been told that there were underground gas explosions – I told him that I would open the door and see if I could smell gas – he told me that by then it would be too late!!
He wished me well, and said that he was just leaving and was going to try to get to New Jersey by ferry.
I did not have a mobile phone, so knew that once I left the apartment that I would not be able to get into contact with anyone – I remember feeling very vulnerable, especially not knowing where to go…every subway train that I had ever taken had been from The World Trade Center, so I really didn’t know where to start.
Eileen told me to head to Canal Street, but again, the only time I had walked to Canal Street had been via The World Trade Center.
I remember sitting and hoping that the power would come back on.
It never did.
I walked out into the hall, opened the fire exit door, and as I could not smell gas I knew that it would be safe for me to use a candle.
So at 5.15pm, and after one final heartbreaking conversation with Sylvia, I left my apartment to head to Canal Street, in the hope of getting a train to Queens.
I had two bags, my sports radio, and a scrappy piece of paper with Eileen’s address and phone number.
As I locked my apartment, my bags strapped across me, and balancing a candle, I made my way to the fire exit…the door opened easy, but it was pitch black inside and echoey…I called out several times, but with no answer, I then started to walk down…when the door made a heavy clunk behind me – I started to cry. I stood in the dark with my candle, my legs were like jelly, and my heart was beating so hard…I was ankle deep in dust and paper and coming down those 17 floors was so much harder than coming down the 84 floors in the World Trade Center.
I finally got to the bottom, but when I tried to open the door…I couldn’t, it was blocked with dust and paper, and what looked like pieces of cardboard.
I turned to put the candle down, and as I did it blew out, I was in total darkness…my heart stopped, and again I felt a wave of panic sweep over me …but this time there was no Bob to help me, and I knew that I had to do it myself…so I started to kick all the paper and dust out of the way, and kept pulling on the door. After what seemed a lifetime, but in reality was probably only a minute or two, I was finally able to pull it open, and was blinded by a flash of sunlight…the reception area was deserted, one of the huge picture windows was smashed, and there was dust, paper and glass everywhere.
As I pushed the front doors open, I waded out into almost knee high dust and rubble – the park opposite was totally dust covered, and I was the only person around…I shouted out several times, but no one answered…it looked much like I image it would after a nuclear explosion, and it was so so quiet
…it was really spooky, nothing…no traffic, no ferry horns, not even a bird.
I would never have known that a city with a reputation for being so loud, could be so deathly quiet.
I stood for a few moments looking around, and then I started towards the Brooklyn Bridge, going wide of the way we came before, as the road Bob and I had walked down was now covered in building parts, and I could see cars flipped on their sides.
After walking for about ten minutes two firemen walked up to me and asked me if I was alright, I told them that I needed to get to Canal Street, and they waved me in the general direction…but each road I tried to walk down was either blocked by rubble, or by police and firemen.
I walked for at least two hours, and knew that I was in the Canal Street area by the Asian supermarkets and shops, but could not find anyone who spoke English…then – almost out of the gloom – I heard a very commanding voice say “this way everyone” and I looked around to see three girls and a guy following the man with the booming voice…I quickly tagged on, and the girls fell in beside me asking questions…they could see that I was upset, and when I saw them looking at my bloody shirt – I explained, the best I could, what had happened to me…by the time I had finished I was in tears, and I remember giving the booming voiced man the piece of paper with Eileen’s address on, and told him that I needed to get to Canal Street station. They were heading that way, and he said that I should stay with them. They would look after me.
When we got to the station, I just let them take charge…someone gave me a ticket and then I was on a train…the booming voiced man still had my piece of paper and was writing down where I should go, and which lines I had to change onto – each time he wrote something down…someone would shout out that the line was closed and come up with an alternative – I still have the piece of paper, it looks like it has been through the wars, discoloured and tatty, but with the vital address I needed to get to Eileen’s, and the trains I needed to take.
Two of the girls got off one stop before me at 33rd Street.
Then it came to Grand Central – the stop where I had to get off…the booming man leaned out of the train pointed down the platform, and told me to follow the directions for the number 7 train, which would take me to Queens.
Another man got out at the same stop, and told him that he would look after me. He took my arm and just led me…he took me to the platform that I needed, and waited until the train came in. I was aware of him talking to the conductor, and I got on. The conductor came out of his cab, made some people move, and had me sit down. He talked to me the whole way, and also started talking to two ladies that were sitting opposite, one of the ladies was getting off where I needed to change, and the conductor instructed her to take me to the R train. I remember walking up two flights of stairs, before being on the right platform. She put me on the train with the conductors cab, and as before, she spoke to him before putting me on.
The conductor came out of his cab, talked to me for the rest of the journey and put me off at 63rd/Rego Park.
I called Eileen from a petrol station just outside the subway, and she came to meet me. It was 8.55pm, a normal 45 minute journey had taken me nearly four hours.
I cried when I saw her.
Her niece Elaine, Elaine’s husband Rob, and their daughter Ciara were there, and I remember feeling very detached, as we sat watching telly and eating pizza.
I don’t remember much about anything else that night…I do remember spending about an hour in the shower washing the dirt and dust away…and
I remember looking at myself in the mirror and knowing that my life would never be the same again.
I was aware of Eileen talking to Roger Schwed; the Euro Brokers legal counsel, on the telephone, and him telling her that 80 people were still missing, which I couldn’t understand, and I know that she said that we would go to the help-desk, which was being set up at Michael Scharf’s office on Madison Avenue, the following day. I think that I spoke to my Aunt, and my Dad, but I am not really sure…it is the only time that I can’t remember clearly what happened…everything else is so vivid and has stayed with me – this alone I am vague on.
I don’t remember what time I went into bed…but I remember looking at the clock and seeing 3am blinking at me – I couldn’t close my eyes without seeing the flames and smoke coming from our floor, and that billowing black cloud moving slowly around my apartment. I woke exhausted.
Wednesday September 12th 2001
We arrived at Michael Scharf’s office at about 11.30am on Wednesday September 12th.
Already at the help-desk were Sue Sullivan, Roger Schwed and Steve Vigliotti, together with Debbie Leible, who works for Michael Scharf. Sue, Roger and Steve had been there since the day before at about 11.00am, so had worked through the night, together with Walter Danielsson – who had left about ten minutes before we arrived.
I remember Sue giving me the piece of paper with the names of the people who were still missing.
Looking down at the list…with each name I saw a face, and recalled a conversation; some of them I had seen the morning before in the kitchen, others I had made plans to go out with later that week…I saw Dan’s name, Domenick’s, Steve’s and Jose’s - of the last five people I saw on our floor, four were missing…also included in the list I saw Kevin Connors name, and I thought of my conversations with Sylvia the day before, and I remembered how, with each call and the passing hours, her voice became more and more desperate, and I felt particularly sad…all these people were missing, and I didn’t understand.
Overnight the list had come down from 80 people to 60.
Our main job was to answer the telephones, and give out what sketchy information we had.
Eileen and I arrived at the help desk at 11.30am, and did not leave until 2.30pm the following day, and the telephones were ringing all night. The calls were heartbreaking. Desperate voices, all hoping for some good news…and in so many cases, we had nothing to say…