By all accounts, Tuesday, September 11, 2001, was a beautiful, clear day.
In Boston, Mary Alice Wahlstrom and her daughter, Carolyn Bueg, boarded American Airlines Flight 11 at Logan International Airport. They were on their way to their respective homes in Utah and California, having dropped off Bueg’s 18-year-old twin daughters at the Rhode Island School of Design. But the unthinkable happened when five terrorists hijacked the Boeing 767 and intentionally crashed it into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. Wahlstrom and Bueg perished instantly in a fiery explosion, along with 79 fellow passengers, 11 crew members, and hundreds who were on or near the 93rd floor.
Victor Guzman, an attorney who was working on the 85th floor, caught himself as the plane’s impact rocked the building forward. “There was a lot of smoke, and there was debris falling from the ceiling,” he recalls. “We didn’t know what was happening.”
Guzman and another attorney jumped into action, evacuating everyone from their floor and down the stairwells in a single-file line. “I remember saying a silent prayer,” Guzman recalls. “The first few levels were pretty dark. There was smoke and a strange smell, which I later realized was fuel.” Seventeen minutes after the North Tower was struck, United Airlines Flight 175 collided with the South Tower.
According to Guzman, it took nearly an hour to descend the stairs and evacuate the building. “When we reached the mezzanine, emergency workers told us not to look outside, which automatically made us want to look. It was a horrible sight—plane parts, body parts, flames, debris everywhere, papers on fire falling from the sky,” he recalls. “In between the Twin Towers there were a lot of broken pipes with cold water gushing out, but it was the only way to exit. Soaking wet, I turned around and saw the gaping hole where I was just working. Emergency workers were rushing into the building while others yelled at us to get away.”
Guzman and other evacuees began walking toward the Brooklyn Bridge. Minutes later, at 9:59 a.m., he heard the sickening sound of crunching glass and twisting steel. The South Tower was collapsing.
Photo by Matt H. Wade/Wikipedia.
“I looked back and saw this thick plume of dust. As we were running, the plume got closer and closer—it felt like we were running in place,” he recalls. “Three or four blocks later, it overcame us.”
Already drenched from the leaking pipes, Guzman was now caked with a thick layer of dust. He made his way to nearby Pace University, where he was able to find refuge and wash his face and hands. “While I was sitting there, I heard the North Tower come down. I slumped in my chair—all the emotion just drained out of me as I realized that was the building I had just come out of.” It was 10:28 a.m.