It’s sorta weird. I’ve been thinking much about 9.11 of late—has just been in my head; not sure why, specifically, now.
Then, yesterday afternoon, my son had a play date at a friend’s house after school. I tagged along and hung out with the boy’s mother. Lovely woman named Debbie, etc … etc.
She started telling me how her husband, Adam, was a survivor of the Trade Center. Then she told me he wrote this e-mail about his experiences that went global. I was intrigued, and she was kind enough to print out a copy for me. Was riveted, awed, moved, blown away. Then I Googled it—and, indeed, it’s everywhere.
Hence, I’m running it here. Ten years later, we should still remember …
My name is Adam Mayblum. I am alive today. I am committing this to “paper” so I never forget. SO WE NEVER FORGET…
My office was on the 87th floor of 1 World Trade Center. Most of my associates were in by 8:30am. We were standing around, checking emails, getting set for the day, when the first plane hit just a few storeys above us. I must stress that we did not know that it was a plane.
The building lurched violently and shook as if it were an earthquake. People screamed. The building seemed to move 10 to 20 feet in each direction. It rumbled and shook long enough for me to get my wits about myself and grab a co-worker and seek shelter under a doorway. Light fixtures and parts of the ceiling collapsed. We were certain that it was a bomb. We looked out the windows. Reams of paper were flying everywhere, like a ticker tape parade.
Smoke started billowing in through the holes in the ceiling. I believe there were 13 of us. We did not panic. I can only assume that we thought that the worst was over. The building was standing and we were shaken but alive. We checked the halls. The smoke was thick and white and did not smell like I imagined smoke should smell – not like your BBQ or your fireplace or even a bonfire.
The phones were working. I called my nanny at home and told her to page my wife, tell her that a bomb went off, I was ok, and on my way out. I took off my tee-shirt and ripped it into 3 pieces, soaked it in water and gave 2 pieces to my friends. Tied my piece around my face to act as an air filter. And we all started moving to the staircase. One of my dearest friends said that he was staying until the police or firemen came to get him.
In the halls there were tiny fires and sparks. The ceiling had collapsed in the men’s bathroom. It was gone along with anyone who may have been in there. We did not go in to look.
On the 85th floor a brave associate of mine and I headed back up to our office to drag out my partner who stayed behind. There was no air, just white smoke. We made the rounds through the office calling his name. No response. He must have succumbed to the smoke. We left defeated in our efforts and made our way back to the stairwell.
We proceeded to the 78th floor where we had to change over to a different stairwell. I expected to see more people. There were some 50 to 60 no more. Not enough.
A brave man was fighting a fire with the emergency hose. I stopped with two friends to make sure that everyone from our office was accounted for. We ushered them and confused people into the stairwell. In retrospect, I recall seeing Harry, my head trader, doing the same several yards behind me. I am only 35. I have known him for over 14 years.
I headed into the stairwell with 2 friends. We were moving down very orderly in Stair Case A, very slowly, no panic. At least not overt panic. My legs could not stop shaking. My heart was pounding. Some nervous jokes and laughter. We checked our cell phones. Surprisingly, there was a very good signal. I called my parents. I told them we were all okay and on the way down.
I called my friend Angel in San Francisco. I knew he would be watching. He told me to get out that there was another plane on its way. I did not know what he was talking about. By now the second plane had struck Tower 2. We were so deep into the middle of our building that we did not hear or feel anything. We had no idea what was really going on.
We kept making way for wounded to go down ahead of us. No one seemed seriously wounded. Everyone cooperated. Everyone was a hero. On the 53rd floor we came across a very heavyset man sitting on the stairs. He needed help. My friend and I told him he could lean on us. He hesitated, I don’t know why. He asked us to send help. I told him he was on the 53rd floor in Stairwell A and that’s what I would tell the rescue workers. He said okay and we left.
Around the 44th floor the firemen, policemen, WTC K-9 units without the dogs, anyone with a badge, started coming up as we were heading down. I told them about the man on 53 and my friend on 87. I later felt terrible about this. They headed up to find those people and met death instead.
On the 33rd floor I spoke with a man who somehow knew most of the details. He said 2 small planes hit the building. We now knew that it was not a bomb and there were potentially more planes coming. We understood.
On the 3rd floor the lights went out and we heard felt this rumbling coming towards us from above. It was 10am now and that was Tower 2 collapsing next door. We did not know that.
Someone had a flashlight. We headed down a dark and cramped corridor to an exit. We could not see at all. I said everyone should place a hand on the shoulder of the person in front and call out if they hit an obstacle so others would know to avoid it. We reached another stairwell and saw a female officer emerge soaking wet and covered in soot. She said we could not go that way it was blocked. There was water everywhere. She stayed behind instructing people to do that. I do not know what happened to her.
We emerged into an enormous room. It was light but filled with smoke. It was the second floor. We were ushered out into the courtyard, where the fountain used to be. There was at least five inches of this grey pasty, dusty, drywall soot on the ground as well as a thickness of it in the air. Twisted steel and wires. I heard there were bodies and body parts as well, but I did not look. It was bad enough.
We moved out to the street. The odd thing is that there were very few rescue workers around. They all must have been trapped under the debris when Tower 2 fell.
It was just my friend Kern and I now. We were hugging but sad. We felt certain that most of our friends ahead of us died and we knew no one behind us.
Several blocks away we stopped and looked up. Our building, exactly where our office is (was), was engulfed in flame and smoke. A postal worker said that Tower 2 had fallen down. I looked again and sure enough it was gone.
We sat down. A girl on a bike offered us some water. Just as she took the cap off her bottle we heard a rumble. We looked up and our building, Tower 1, collapsed. We had been out less than 15 minutes.
We were mourning our lost friends, particularly the one who stayed in the office as we were now sure that he had perished. We stopped to hear the President speaking on the radio. My phone rang. It was my wife. I think I fell to my knees crying when I heard her voice. Then she told me the most incredible thing. My partner who had stayed behind had called her. He was alive and well. We started jumping and hugging and shouting. When I got home I cried on my son and held my wife until I fell asleep.
As it turns out my partner, the one who I thought had stayed behind was behind us with Harry Ramos, our head trader. This is now second hand information.
They came upon Victor, the heavyset man on the 53rd floor and helped him. He could barely move. Once on 44th floor they made their way back into the stairwell. Someplace around the 39th to 36th floors they felt the same rumble I felt on the 3rd floor. It was 10am and Tower 2 was coming down. They had about 30 minutes to get out.
Victor said he could no longer move. They offered to have him lean on them. He said he couldn’t do it. Harry told my partner to go ahead of them. Harry had once had a heart attack and was worried about this man’s heart. It was his nature to be this way. He was/is one of the kindest people I know. He would not leave a man behind.
My partner went ahead and made it out. He said he was out maybe 10 minutes before the building came down. This means that Harry had maybe 25 minutes to move Victor 36 floors. I fear that Harry is lost. However, a short while ago I heard that he may be alive. Apparently there is a website with survivor names on it and his name appears there. Unfortunately, Ramos is not an uncommon surname in New York. Pray for him and all those like him.
With regards to the firemen heading upstairs, I realize that they were going up anyway. But, it hurts to know that I may have made them move quicker to find my friend. Rationally, I know this is not true and that I am not the responsible one. The responsible ones are in hiding somewhere on this planet and damn them for making me feel like this.
But they should know that they failed in terrorizing us. We were calm. Those men and women that went up were heroes in the face of it all. They must have known what was going on and they did their jobs. Ordinary people were heroes too.
Today the images that people around the world equate with power and democracy are gone but “America” is not an image it is a concept. That concept is only strengthened by our pulling together as a team. If you want to make us stronger, attack and we unite. This is the ultimate failure of terrorism against The United States and the ultimate price we pay to be free. The very moment the first plane was hijacked, democracy won.