America Stands Tall

Sabrina's Story

The first thing that I'd like to do is thank everyone who e-mailed me, called me, posted messages in the club, and left me off-line messages. I honestly never thought that I was cared about this much, especially to some of you with whom I have not spoken in some time or ever. Thank you guys so much

Next, I'd like to wipe out the rumor that I was in the hospital in critical condition. I was not. I am physically unharmed, except for the bottom of my feet which were all cut up since I lost my shoes. Since, I'm sure you're all curious and I'd rather not repeat the story over and over. I'm going to tell the story in this e-mail and if you guys want to know anything else after that, feel free to ask. Here goes.

I worked on the 89th Floor of 1 World Trade Center. Yesterday morning I arrived at my office at 8:15 a.m. I proceeded with my morning routine, putting on the coffee, checking voicemail, going online and turning on Yahoo pager. I believe Joann was the last person I chatted with (around 8:35 a.m.) before this whole tragedy, but I honestly don't remember.

A few minutes later the entire front of my office, where I was sitting, blew up and the entire building swayed back and forth. Flames, smoke, and debris from the ceiling covered the entrance of the office. There were four other people in my office at that time. Since we could not exit the normal way, the only other option was to use the emergency exit, which was located a few feet away and luckily had not yet gone up in flames.

There was a problem, though. Because my company had never dreamed of anything of this magnitude happening, we used the narrow room where the exit was located as the Xerox room, in which were kept file cabinets about 9 feet high used to store supplies, etc. In the explosion, the cabinets fell over and the ceiling came down, blocking the exit door. I thought we were trapped and would burn right there.

One of my co-workers, Frances, was in the Xerox room and was almost crushed by one of the cabinets. In a matter of seconds we were all in the room trying to lift the cabinets and open the exit door enough so that we could crawl through. It's true what they say about superhuman strength when the adrenaline is pumping. We finally did it.

The entire floor was filled with smoke, and luckily the office two doors down was safe to go into. The five of us, could barely breathe due to all of the smoke we inhaled and were restlessly walking around the office, coughing, cursing, crying, yelling, trying to contact people we loved, holding each other. We had no idea what the hell was going on. We thought that perhaps a pipe had burst or something.

We dialed for help, but when you dial 911 in the WTC (which, not so coincidentally was yesterday's date 9/11/01, EMERGENCY), you do not get the police, you get the WTC emergency line. They wouldn't tell us what happened. Someone from the office we crawled into had the bright idea of turning on the radio and that is when we learned what had happened.

A plane intentionally crashed into 1 WTC - it crashed TWO floors above mine. We all stopped in our tracks at that moment, and I believe we all had the same thought: "Oh my god! I'm going to die." Well, I tried to call my mom, her boyfriend, my stepdad, a couple of friends and nothing went through. I called my aunt's job and finally got at least a machine.

At that point I was hysterically crying and told her that the building was on fire, that I was going to die and to please tell my mom and sisters that I really love them. I was actually able to hear this message late last night when I got to my aunt's apartment. I couldn't believe the terror in my voice...so close to death.

Anyway, a few minutes later we heard the radio announcer say that a second plane was heading straight for 2 WTC. A few seconds later our building once again swayed back and forth as the as result of the second plane crashing into 2 WTC. I hear now that it was 18 minutes between crashes. In those 18 minutes we heard no sirens, only the ones in the building when there's a fire, there was not one announcement from authorities at the WTC alerting us that there was an emergency situation and that we should evacuate, nothing. If we hadn't turned the radio on, we would not have known what the hell had happened. I was in such a rage.

The hallways were filled with smoke and we couldn't find the staircases. Finally, about 5 minutes after the second crash, someone who worked for the Port Authority entered our office and directed us to the stairs with a flashlight. Meanwhile, we were getting soaked because the sprinkler system had turned on, people were falling because the debris from the ceiling was piled high, and a couple of people fainted.

All five of us clung to each other and made it safely to the stairs. I think that the most terrifying part of this whole experience was the 45 or so minutes we were all walking down those 89 flights of stairs. I really doubted that we would make it out alive. There was a lot of blockage in the stairways. Every couple of minutes everyone would have to stop and move aside to let the firemen go up, someone would become fatigued and have to stop in the middle of going down, some of the stairwells were flooded, making everyone have to go down more slowly. It was a real nightmare. Frances and I became separated from our three co-workers. We were really trying to get down as fast as we possibly could.

Finally, we got down, drenched. By this time I was shoeless, had to walk over all the broken glass and debris that was on the ground. Man, I was fucking saved! However, my joy came to a halt about one block away when behind me, I heard WHOOSH! 2 WTC was collapsing.

Frances and I ran for our lives. The whole scene was like a movie, exactly like a movie. We found shelter inside of a Duane Reade. The second we got in and held the doors shut only blackness could be seen through the glass doors. We all ran into the basement, and were handed wet cloths with which to shield our eyes and mouths from the ash.

We were stationed there for about a half hour, when a couple of Duane Reade employees decided to check if the coast was clear so that we could evacuate and walk northeast, away from the buildings. Well, everything looked fine, several people left the area. As Frances and I were about to step out, again, we heard the rushing sound and immediately ran back as far back inside as we could. Now, 1 WTC was collapsing. It was another half hour before we were able to leave.

During that last half hour Frances and I walked into an office that had several phones and were trying to contact family members and friends, but I couldn't get in touch with anyone. My whole family thought I was dead. I couldn't believe I was alive. I just wanted to get home or at least get some shoes.

Anyway, we finally were able to leave, of course it was raining ashes, but the worst, for the time being, was over, so Frances and I had to walk about 2 and a half miles to her boyfriend's job. Luckily he worked in lower Manhattan.

On the way, she and I were turned down by four stores to go to the bathroom and two merchants in the Chinatown area refused to give me even a $2.99 pair of slippers to walk through the rest of Manhattan. Our fifth try was a lucky one, though. A fabric store let us in, gave us water, let us use the phone and bathrooms and we were able to clean up as best we could.

About 20 minutes later we continued on our way to the ConEd plant on 14th Street and Avenue C, where Frances' boyfriend met us. It was such a relief to see if a familiar, welcoming face. He led us into the plant, where we cleaned up some more and then he drove me to the area where my mother's boyfriend works. My mom's boyfriend contacted her. She and my 11-year-old sister were in tears when they saw me, at which point I just broke down. I could barely breath, speak, see, and think. I was just so relieved. God, relief doesn't even begin to describe how I felt.

After that point there isn't much to tell. I couldn't get back into New Jersey for obvious reasons, so me, mom and sisters spent the night at my aunt's apartment and today I was finally able to get home via Path Train and cab. So that's it. Most of it anyway. Of course all of the details aren't there... It's really so much to explain. I'm physically fine. I have a lot to deal with in my head though...

Again, thank you to everyone that I know, that I don't know. Write me if you want to talk about anything, really. I'm gonna be alright.

Sabrina

 

 

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