One Survivor's Story






My name is Adam Mayblum. I am alive today. I am committing this to
"paper" so I never forget. SO WE NEVER FORGET. I am sure that this is one of
thousands of stories that will emerge over the next several days and weeks.


I arrived as usual a little before 8am. My office was on the 87th floor of
1 World Trade Center, AKA: Tower 1, AKA: the North Tower. Most of my
associates were in by 8:30 AM. We were standing around, joking
around, eating breakfast, checking emails, and getting set for the day
when the first plane hit just a few stories 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. I watched out my window as 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. The
kitchen was destroyed. We were certain that it was a bomb. We looked out
the windows. Reams of paper were flying everywhere, like a ticker tape
parade. I looked down at the street. I could see people in Battery Park City
looking up. Smoke started billowing in through the holes in the ceiling. I
believe that 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. My wife had taken our 9-month old for his
check up. 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 grabbed my laptop.
Took
off my tee shirt and ripped it into 3 pieces. Soaked it in water. 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. We missed the staircase on the first run
and had to double back. Once in the staircase we picked up fire
extinguishers just incase. 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. 78 is the main
junction to switch to the upper floors. I expected to see more
people. There were some 50 to 60 more. Not enough. Wires and fires all
over the
place. Smoke too. 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 other 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. I made a crack
about ruining a brand new pair of Merrells. Even still, they were right, my
feet felt great. We all laughed. We checked our cell phones. Surprisingly,
there was a very good signal, but the Sprint network was jammed. I heard
that the Blackberry 2 way email devices worked perfectly. On the phones, 1
out of 20 dial attempts got through. I knew I could not reach my wife so I
called my parents. I told them what happened and that we were all okay and
on the way down. Soon, my sister in law reached me. I told her we were fine
and moving down. I believe that was about the 65th floor. We were bored and
nervous. I called my friend Angel in San Francisco. I knew he would be
watching. He was amazed I was on the phone. 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. Not many of them, just a few. No one seemed seriously wounded, just
some cuts and scrapes. Everyone cooperated. Everyone was a hero yesterday. No
questions asked. I had co-workers in another office on the 77th floor. I
tried dozens of times to get them on their cell phones or office lines.
It was futile. Later, I found that they were alive. One of the many
miracles on a day of tragedy.


On the 53rd floor we came across a very heavy-set man sitting
on the stairs. I asked if he needed help or was he just resting. He needed
help. I knew I would have trouble carrying him because I have a very bad
back. But my friend and I offered anyway. We told him he could lean on
us. He hesitated, I don't know why. I said do you want to come or do you
want us to send help for you. He chose for 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.


On the 44th floor my phone rang again. It was my parents.
They were hysterical. I said relax, I'm fine. My father said get out, there
is third plane coming. I still did not understand. I was kind of
angry. What did my parents think? Like I needed some other reason to get
going? I couldn't move the thousand people in front of me any faster. I
know they love me, but no one inside understood what the situation really
was. My parents
did. Starting around this floor the firemen, policemen, WTC K-9 units
without the dogs, anyone with a badge, started coming up as we were heading
down. I stopped a lot of them and 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. Now we all
started talking about which terrorist group it was. Was it an internal
organization or an external one? The overwhelming but uninformed opinion
was Islamic fanatics. Regardless, 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. I thought the staircase was
collapsing upon itself. It was 10 AM now and that was Tower 2
collapsing next door. We did not know that. Someone had a flashlight. We
passed it forward and left the stairwell and headed down a dark and cramped
corridor to an exit. We could not see at all. I recommended that everyone
place a hand on the shoulder of the person in front of them and call out if
they hit an obstacle so others would know to avoid it. They did. It
worked perfectly. 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. Go up to 4 and use the other exit. Just as we started up
she said it was ok to go down instead. There was water everywhere. I called
out for hands on shoulders again and she said that was a great idea. 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. I commented to a friend that it must be under construction.
Then we realized where we were. It was the second floor. The one that
overlooks the lobby. We were ushered out into the courtyard, the one where
the fountain used to be. My first thought was of a TV movie I saw once
about nuclear winter and fallout. I could not understand where all of the
debris came
from. There was at least five inches of this gray 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 hid under the remaining overhangs and moved out
to the street. We were told to keep walking towards Houston Street. The odd
thing is that there were very few rescue workers around. Less than five. They
all must have been trapped under the debris when Tower 2 fell. We did not
know that and could not understand where all of that debris came from. 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.
We came upon a post office 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. My heart was racing. We
kept trying to call our families. I could not get in touch with my wife.
Finally I got through to my parents. Relieved is not the word to explain
their feelings. They got through to my wife, thank G-d and let her know I
was alive. 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. I did not note the time but I am told it was
10:30 AM. 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 started
walking towards Union Square. I was going to Beth Israel Medical Center to
be looked at. 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 called her. He was alive and well. I guess we just lost
him in the commotion. We started jumping and hugging and shouting. I told
my wife that my brother had arranged for a hotel in midtown. He can be very
resourceful in that way. I told her I would call her from there. My brother
and I managed to get a gypsy cab to take us home to Westchester instead. 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. They helped him. He could barely move. My partner
bravely/stupidly tested the elevator on the 52nd floor. He rode it down to
the sky lobby on 44. The doors opened, it was fine. He rode it back up and
got Harry and Victor.
I don't yet know if anyone else joined them. Once on 44, 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 lead on them. He said he couldn't do it. My
partner hollered at him to sit on his butt and schooch down the steps.
He said he was not capable of doing 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 guess they moved 1 floor every 1.5 minutes. Just a
guess. This means Harry
was around the 20th floor when the building collapsed. As of now 12 of 13
people are accounted for. As of 6pm yesterday his wife had not heard from
him. I fear that Harry is lost. However, a short while ago I heard that
he may be alive. Apparently, there is a web site with survivor names on it
and his name appears there. Unfortunately, Ramos is not an uncommon name 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 kill us, leave us alone because
we will do it by ourselves. If you want to make us stronger, attack us and we
unite. This is the ultimate failure of terrorism against The United States
and the ultimate price we pay to be free, to decide where we want to work,
what we want to eat, and when and where we want to go on vacation. The very
moment the first plane was hijacked, democracy won.


Source: Adam G. Mayblum(Mayblum65@email.msn.com)

Posted:
One Survivor's Story