My September 11th Survivor Story

Social media is all up in its feels today with 9/11 remembrance stories.

Good.

I hope no one ever forgets because to be honest.. some of us survivors often feel forgotten.

The best way to prevent history from repeating itself is to keep these stories close to heart. Remember how it felt. How it all changed… and dont let that shit happen again.

So I ask YOU… WHERE WERE YOU ON 9/11/01?!

HERE’S MY STORY:

(as brief as possible):

My brother and I went to school (High school) like any other day. My dad was already at work (He was a locksmith for the PA NYNJ … at the WTC … which meant he was all over ALL of the WTC complex buildings all day).

After the first plane hit my mom sent my grandpa to our school to pick us up (this wasnt our first rodeo. My dad barely survived the 93 bombing. His office was B2 level where the truck bomb was. His coworkers were killed.)

I was about to take a test in my english class when the office said I was going home early but I was only told it was because of an issue my dad was having. I joked (not knowing what was going on) that my dad probably just got hurt.. he is super accident prone and has terrible luck. I figured my mom was overreacting or something. Mrs.E – our office secretary – looked super concerned so I stopped talking and asked what happened ..she said my mom would tell us.

My brother was waiting in the office with school staff around him. Crying. Whatever happened, he knew and no one would tell me.

My grandpa drove us home where my mom greeted us crying on the stoop. Looking over her shoulder I saw the TV in our livingroom showing the one tower was on fire. My mom said she didnt know where my dad was yet.

We finally got a hold of my dad on his cell phone. He had no idea what was going on either. He went outside to the plaza to see what was happening. (He just knew there wasn’t a parade scheduled that day so he didn’t understand the confetti he saw falling past his office window… until he saw obvious debris and his panic alarm went off.. flooding his brain with flashbacks from the 93 boming that killed his coworkers while he was on break.)

We (brother, mom and i) were huddled together listening to my dad on our kitchen phone with the cord stretched all the way into our living room so we could see the TV. We watched the second tower get hit and realized this was no accident and we all started to flip.

We could hear these insane crashing noise on the phone… intense loud slapping sounds. My dad finally realized these were bodies of jumpers hitting the plaza around him. He later said that people exploded like thrown tomates and that he’s sure it’s a myth that you’ll have a heart attack mid air.. bc many of these people screamed until they hit the pavers.

He said he would call us back. He was going to try to assemble a headcount of his guys at a safer location (he didnt want to chance anything after living through 93).

Fast forward, we get back in touch with my dad. All huddled on the phone again.. the 3 of us ear to ear listening to my dad and watching the tv. We are begging him to leave and come home.
All of a sudden the tower starts to crumble and we start screaming.. like I dont remember ever screaming before, for my dad to run. Get out. We love you. Run.

(My dad, who is practically bionic after a horrific car accident in 79 is not in the greatest shape…) my dad tells my mom to sedate me, and then yells, “I’m not f@#$%^& Forrest Gump, I cant just run.” …and then the phone cuts out.. tower collapses.

At this point we figure my dad is dead. We just listened to him die on the phone. His last words were that he wasnt “f@#$%^& Forrest Gump”.

It seems like forever has passed. Our house is now full of family members and friends who came to ride out the insanity with us. Waiting to hear if my dad made it or not.

There’s pretty much no doubt that he was gone. Theres no way he could have survived that. My dad was pieced together … a total referb after his accident. We knew where he was when the call dropped. We were in shock but no one was saying what we were all thinking.

Out of nowhere we get wind that a friend of my dads was able to reach him on his cellphone (which is insane because no one had service after the towers fell). We couldn’t get a hold of him.

Randomly we get him. Not only is he alive but he is the only person in this group who has service so we take down all the phone numbers of these strangers families (writing them on our kitchen wall in sharpie) so we can tell their family that they survived and they are trying to find a way home somehow.

More hours pass. My uncle answers our phone and it’s my dad. He and a coworker managed to get on a ferry, hitch a ride, and then will be walking into town so he gathered us all outside to meet them.

It was like a scene from a movie when my dad and his coworker were walking up our block. A group of us started walking down knowing what direction they would be coming and all of a sudden we see their ash covered heads bobbing up into sight.

I dont think I’ve ever jumped on my dad like that since I was a kid and I used to insist he catch me when I jump from a step.

Not everyone has the happy ending that we do. We lost a lot of friends, a lot of people we really cared about.. a lot of kids our age and younger …. we sat with at their parents memorial services together.

We are so lucky my dad physically came home that day, a huge chunk of him is left at ground zero.. but he was home and too many people cant say that.

Everyone involved that day. All the fellow survivors, families, friends, 9/11 families… you are always in my thoughts and prayers.. not just on 9/11.

18 years later and my disabled father is STILL fighting for help from the 9/11 fund. Still having surgeries to fix what was hurt, and not mentally the same. He is loaded with medical bills and survivor’s guilt.

I’m so mad that the system let him and his hurt coworkers down. They fall through the cracks since they were not first responders… despite my dad being one of 2 people who personally survived both attacks at the WTC. One day they will be remembered… I hope they live see it.

Never forget.

That’s my 9/11 story.

(This photo was taken of my dad during search and rescue after the 93 bombing. He barely made it alive. He spent 2 weeks helping dig through rubble… often identifying body parts of his friends/coworkers)

Where were you that day?