(Source unknown; found left in office copy machine)
One Survivor's Story... THE PRICE WE PAY
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 8:30am. 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 was 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
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 son for
his check up. I called my nanny at home and told here 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 t-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 in case.
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 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 heavyset 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 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 to get out, there is a 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
Starting around this floor the firemen, the 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 overwheming 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 and 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 God 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 10:30am. 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 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 lean 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 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 survivors' 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 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.