By Susan Frederick
Dear Family and Friends,
While I hope to be able to speak to each of you personally over
the next few days, I wanted to immediately send my thanks for your
good wishes, thoughts and prayers for me during yesterday's unbelievable
As I told my husband, I truly never expected to add "survival
of a terrorist attack" to my resume. As you are all aware my
company was close to ground zero. When the plane struck the building
it felt exactly like an earthquake.
The only advanced sound was a large windful swoosh. At first we
had no idea if it was a bomb or the building had been struck. The
mayor was correct when he talks about the toughness of New Yorkers.
It was amazing how calm, supportive and helpful everyone was throughout
Here's my personal account of the day.
Our personnel immediately headed for the stairs as smoke began Filtering
quickly down. One wall outside our company had been pushed in so
far it was impassable. The only stairway open got us only as far
as the 77th floor when we came up against a door that was jammed
shut. In the WTC stairways, down are not a straight shot. At various
levels you have to
cross hallways and through additional doorways to continue.
We were invited into another company's offices on that floor while
their people sought out an alternative route. We went into a conference
room and turned on the TV. We learned that our building had been
struck by a plane but it was not announced at this point that it
was a terrorist attack.
As we watched TV, the building shook again and what we thought
was debris from our own building began striking the windows of the
conference room so we immediately left. We know now that this was
building number two being hit by the second airplane. Within 5-10
minutes, someone had found another way out and we began our trek
down the stairs. We had to walk through a hallway at this point
where the ceiling was being hosed down by an employee from the company
we had taken refuge in. This is what I mean by the spirit of New
Yorkers. It is because of their initiative that we got out. No one
from the building security or city rescue had been able to get to
us at this point, as the only way up or down was stairwells. All
the elevators had been immediately knocked out by the flames and
smoke shooting down the shafts from the explosion of the plane's
fuel on impact.
The calm of the people around us as we walked down was amazing.
People who had been hurt or were having a problem getting down were
being assisted at every point. When congestion slowed us to a stop,
no one shoved or made a scene; we respectfully waited until we could
move again. People passed information up and down the line to try
people informed about what was happening and those with Blackberries
sent as many emails as they could for folks around them as none
of our cell phones worked.
We finally got out of the smoke when we hit the 35th floor. It
felt great to breathe fresh air and that lifted everyone's spirits.
We also started running into building personnel. Around the 27th
floor, we ran into firefighters climbing up. I can't imagine what
it must have been like to walk up that many flights with all the
gear they had. They looked so winded at that point. I doubt that
they made it out before the building collapsed and my prayers and
thoughts are with them and their families now.
By the 7th floor, the stairwells were flooding with water from
what we assumed were the firefighting efforts. We were feeling buoyant
when we hit 3 and thought we're almost out of here. It had taken
us a little over an hour to get this far. But the adventure it seemed,
was far from over. At that point, as we learned later, building
2 collapsed and hit our building.
Once again it felt like a bomb had gone off as the building shook
again and there was this tremendous whoosh of air that almost knocked
us off our feet. At that point the lights went out. There was so
much debris that our way out was blocked. I remember thinking there
is no way I walked down 77 flights to die 3 floors from safety.
We climbed back up to floor 4
where a firefighter punched a hole in the wall to get us out. We
made a human chain hanging on to the person in front and the person
in back of us as we made our way out into the 4th floor rotunda
in the dark. We got our first glimpse of what looked like a war
zone. We walked through ankle deep dust and out through a doorway
to the outside plaza in front of the US Customs building. As we
were led to a stairwell to street level we climbed over
girders and moved around office furniture and layers of office papers,
twisted metal, broken glass, and other debris.
By now we were wet and covered in this ash. People all looked like
their hair had turned pre-maturely gray. We were told to walk quickly
up the street. Within minutes (we now know it was no more than 4),
we heard a rumble, turned to see our tower begin to collapse and
a large cloud of black moving up the street. We ran. We spent the
better part of the
rest of the day in someone's apartment on 10th Street calling to
track down the rest of our co-workers. We have now accounted for
all but 3.
It is by God's miracle alone, that I am convinced I got out. It
is your prayers that helped make that happen. I am grateful to be
alive and grateful for my family and friends. Amazingly, I never
felt afraid and I believe that was because I truly felt God's hand
upon me. It was not my time and I'm sure he heard all your prayers.
I'm not sure what is next. But for now smelling the flowers is just
fine with me.