One of 'our' scuba board members was in the World Trade Center

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Natasha

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I'm a Fish!
Although 3 weeks have gone by, the events of September 11th are still heavy on my mind. I'm sure many others must feel this way, too. Some of you may recall me typing that there was still someone I had not heard from. Steve is a diver on this board, went with me on the group Bonaire trip, and is paid in full for the Cozumel trip.
Steve Cywin, is his whole name, and he just wrote to me yesterday. Here is his story.
:
From 1984 to 1990, I worked for Touche Ross, which merged to become Deloitte & Touche in One World Trade Center, which was the first building hit. I worked mostly on the 93rd floor and for a few months on 97. No one made it out of those floors alive. I was not there when the bombing occurred in 1993, but that prompted my old company to move. Otherwise, I would have lost a lot of good friends in this incident. I had just started a new job with Morgan Stanley in July, which placed my office in Two World Trade Center. Morgan Stanley was the largest employer in the World Trade Center with 3700 employees there.

I was sitting at my desk on the 63rd floor of Tower Two when I heard what sounded like an explosion. It was actually the first plane hitting the other tower, but I did not know what it was. I looked out the window and the air was full of debris, mostly paper, but also some ceiling tiles and some of the debris was on fire. I knew something was seriously wrong, but I did not know what. I spent less than 60 seconds putting my laptop computer in my bag and was moving. I took a quick look around for the few people that I work with, but saw none of them. Three of us were actually on the floor, but none of us saw each other in the process of evacuating. Each floor of the World Trade Center towers was about an acre in size. I headed for the elevators hoping to get down before the elevators were cut off. The elevators on 63 take you to the 44th floor. I got to 44 by elevator, but was directed to the emergency stairs to get the rest of the way down.

Some of the people who were directing us at that level probably did not get out. I distinctly remember one fellow who worked in the cafeteria, and must have been a fire warden, directing me to the fire stairs on 44. I do not know if he made it out alive. Morgan Stanley lost 6 people out of 3700, but those 6 were mostly security people and fire wardens. I also don't know if the cafeteria employees were Morgan Stanley employees, or if the cafeteria was contracted out. I didn't know this fellow's name, so there is no easy way to find out if he is alive or among those killed.

Walking down the stairs people were not panicked, but were moving briskly. When I reached the twelfth floor, the building shook as though there was an earthquake. That was the plane hitting my building. As soon as the shaking subsided everyone resumed moving and I was quickly to the lobby level. There more people were directing us as we came out of the stairwell, but they were directing us away from the nearest exit, which happened to be the side where the second plane had entered the building. With hindsight I suspect there was too much falling debris to go out that side. I doubt that the people directing traffic at this level made it out either. We were routed through the mall level, where I saw firefighters entering the complex. We wound up exiting on the east side of the complex. There was some debris falling there too, so I hustled across the street and continued walking toward Broadway. When I got far enough away to look back at the Towers, both were on fire high up. Tower One (aka north tower) was on fire higher than Tower Two (aka south tower). I knew that there was no returning to work that day. The fires would need to be put out and the whole building checked out before anyone would be allowed to reenter. I kept moving to Broadway and then turned north. My goal was to get out of New York before the exits were closed. I thought my best bet was the 32nd Street PATH. In case you are not familiar with the PATH, it is a rail line that connects New York City and New Jersey.

I walked quite a distance. I tried using the cell phone but got busy signals. I heard one person say they had seen people jumping from one of the towers. This struck me as extremely far fetched. I had seen nothing of the sort. I had not seen anyone hurt in any way. A few people had been a bit winded from the walking and there was enough debris falling around that someone must have been hit with falling debris, but I had not seen anyone injured.

I heard from someone that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I thought of a small plane and this made no sense to me because there was no way a small plane could set both Towers on fire. I passed a newsstand that was open and bought a bottle of water. I finally got far enough away from the crowds to catch a cab. A black woman piled in beside me and asked if she could share the ride as far as I was going. I agreed and the cab driver started driving and turned on the radio. This was the only direct news I received. I got to the PATH and got on a train headed for Journal Square, which is not where I wanted to be, but it was on the other side of the river. The train did not make any of the intermediate stops where I would ordinarily have changed trains for Hoboken. I believe it was the last train out of NY before the PATH and the tunnels were closed. I talked to a lot of people on the train and heard that my Tower had collapsed.

When we got to Journal Square, there did not appear to be any way to get back to the stops at Exchange Place or Pavonia Ave where I could catch the PATH to Hoboken. A fellow I had met on the train and I decided to look for a cab to Hoboken then started walking. We were walking toward Exchange Place but started to run into people who were coming from Exchange Place. We learned that the entire Jersey waterfront had been closed. We changed direction to walk all the way to Hoboken. On the way we caught glimpses of the NY skyline and there was a large impenetrable cloud where the World Trade Center had been. With all the smoke you could not actually tell it was gone. I made occasional attempts to use the cell phone. Still no luck. By this time the Verizon switching complex near the World Trade Center had been damaged but I did not know this. Essentially a record number of calls were being made at the same time massive amounts of communications capacity was going up in smoke.

At Hoboken the station was cordoned off to receive injured. There were ambulances, stretchers, etc. all over the place. Some of the people arriving were covered with soot. A fellow was handing out bottled water and I had gone through the bottle I bought earlier, so I took one. By now I had been on the move for over 3 hours and had walked five miles and down 44 floors.

My train line splits at Summit. The next train to leave on that line was scheduled for 12:30 but would go down the wrong branch. I decided to take it anyhow, figuring to get to Summit and change trains later or at least be closer to home if the trains were cut off. I bought a couple cookies while waiting and got on the train. Everyone on the train was talking about what had happened. They were amazed that I had actually been in the Trade Center and I had my 15 minutes of fame. While on this train I finally made a connection to Mom and Dad and asked them to call everyone else. At Summit I got off. The train that was supposed to go down my branch was late. When it arrived, a bunch of people in medical garb got off and were talking about letting them get the injured off the train. I realized they were taking people to Overlook Hospital in Summit. Once they were done, I got on the train and it took me out to Morris Plains. I got home about 2:30pm, having left my desk about 8:45am.

I got home to find over 15 phone messages and a large number of email messages from people trying to check on my safety. I spent the rest of the afternoon responding to all of these, still not having seen any news. There were messages from my children left before my parents had gotten in touch with them. Both sounded somewhat panicky so I called each of them but hit answering machines, so I left messages. I had two calls from my ex-wife, who has a life insurance policy on me. I am not on speaking terms with her and did not call her back.

I finally got to turn on the news after 5:00pm and learned that there had been two planes, that both towers had collapsed, etc. As it turns out Morgan Stanley 6 employees, none of whom I knew. I did know two other people who were killed elsewhere in the complex, but had not seen either of them in many years. Deloitte & Touche had moved across the street to the World Financial Center after the bombing. Their offices were destroyed, but they also lost one consultant and ten auditors who were working at client offices in the World Trade Center.

I was not called back to work for a week afterward, but since then have been involved in getting new offices set up in Brooklyn. Unfortunately this is an awful commute for me. It would have been tough to get to the new site if the attack had not affected transportation, but the World Trade Center sat on top of a key PATH station and every subway that went to the west side of lower Manhattan had a stop there. It takes from two to two and a half hours to get to work, one way. I am going to have to move or change jobs. I am hoping to switch to a different job within Morgan Stanley although I have been thinking of moving anyhow, so this might be the time to finally do it.

Steve







 

aquaviper

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Happy to hear you made it out Steve.

Thanks for sharing Natasha. It's a very uplifting message after what we have been through.
 

lildiver

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Steve,
so gald to know that you made it safely out! And Natasha, thanks so much for sharing this with us.

~lildiver
 

detroit diver

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Glad your friend made it out safely. I thought his best comment was:

"I had two calls from my ex-wife, who has a life insurance policy on me. I am not on speaking terms with her and did not call her back."



 

Rick Murchison

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I am glad you're ok, Steve. I grieve with you and all New York for so many lives snuffed out in their prime...
Love,
Rick
 

joewr

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I have shared this with the Regulators and I guess it is okay to tell the rest of the gang.

I have occasionally written about my son, John, the atty, who works in New York. Well, his new office was in the WTC, but I had forgotten that he told me that this summer.

On the morning of the 11th while we were in Hawaii watching CNN with the same horror as the rest of the world I got a phone call from my sister-in-law. She said, "Just calling to tell you that John is okay. He was at his old office uptown when the bombing occurred." Talk about being speechless!

It took us most of the day to finally get through to John and I kept thinking, "What if I had remembered his casual remark about changing office locations?" "What if I had remembered that and he had not been able to get ahold of my sister-in-law?" It gave me just a slight inkling of what the people who did have relatives and friends in the WTC were experiencing...

He told us that had the bombing taken place 1 1/2 hours later he would have been at the WTC! The thought continues to haunt us...

Our next trip to New York--in November--will be very
special.

And, Steve, I am happy for you and your family, too.

Joewr
 

ScubaBaby

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Natasha - thank you for sharing that with us all.

It shows how close to home it is when it happens to people we communicate with.

Steve, if your reading these messages, our hearts go out to you for all you've been thro.

-x-Abby-x-


 

scywin

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I appreciate all the kind sentiments expressed. I originally wrote the piece Natasha posted for my sister, then added a bit for my cousin. I have mixed emotions about my story so I have simply used the same piece to relate what happened to me when people have asked.

When the event was happening I was completely unharmed and had no idea what was going on or that so much death and destruction would occur only a few minutes later. I have heard so many really heroic, or tragic, stories that it is hard for me to see my story as particularly interesting. However, everyone is talking about this event so the minute I say "Oh by the way, I was there." I wind up describing what seems to me to be a rather lucky, but otherwise trivial, set of events.

It was not until two days later that it sunk in that I had missed being killed by minutes. At the time I was mostly annoyed at the inconvenience!
With all the discussion about those killed, it is worth taking a moment to discuss the impact on those of us who were lucky. Virtually everyone who survived is currently suffering from "survivor guilt". Is there anything I could have done, or should have done, that would have saved lives? I can't imagine what, but I suspect I will ask myself that question every day for the rest of my life. I have learned that virtually everyone who survived remembers someone from the evacuation, as I remember the fire warden from the cafeteria, and wonders if the person got out, or was there something I could do for that individual?

As the case against Osama bin Laden comes out in the press, I have concluded that he has managed to personify evil in a way that Hitler personified evil for an earlier generation. Whatever course our government takes to stop him is fine with me. My only objection will be if we decide to just let the memory fade and drop the matter. There doesn't seem to be much risk of that, but evil personified must be fought.

New York is a mess and will be a mess for at least a year while the transit system is rebuilt and reopened. There is a real estate scramble underway as companies cram into contingency quarters or try to lease additional space. However, I don't think Americans will ever look at the securities industry in quite the same way again. Before this attack, most people thought of the securities industry as a bunch of rich men or crooks, not as a vital function of our economic system. If that is all there was to the industry it would not have been worth attacking, but it was as worthy of attack as the Pentagon. That sort of makes you think.

Every American is vital. We all add value to the system from which we all benefit. I think that all Americans will appreciate that a bit more in the coming months and years.

I am glad that those of you who read my story found it worthwhile. I was extremely lucky that day, but I hope the message you will take from this is that we are all lucky to not only live in such a wonderful place, but to have been placed by fate on the side of good, as we watch this story of good vs. evil unfold.

Stephen Cywin

 

joewr

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Steve,

I think we will all remember the WTC for one hell of a long time. If there is a tendency to forget, all we have to do is show that video clip of the airplane plowing into Tower #1 from time to time. Or the "Ground Zero" videos.

We owe it to those 6000 souls to not forget. I do not think we will....

Joewr
 
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