Letter: Working in New York City on Sept. 11

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 12, 2021

By 9:20 a.m. I was on the 21st floor of the McGraw Hill Building on Sixth Avenue. Until that time, it was just a beautiful day in New York City from what I could see on my way to work.

That changed once I joined colleagues watching the TV in our conference room. Aside from what the world saw on the TV, I saw nothing else with my own eyes of the unfolding chaos downtown only 4 miles away. For the next hour, my time was spent running between the conference room and my desk to answer emails from friends as to my safety and if I could see anything.

The Dean Witter people of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Investment Management were somewhere in the upper floors of the South Tower. From what we could see on TV, we were certain the plane had hit them. About 10 o’clock, as I sat at my desk, I felt our building shake for a few moments. That’s very odd, I thought. I ran back to the conference room. People were distraught and exclaiming all of downtown had just been bombed. It was not until 11 o’clock that I learned that both towers had come down.

Later, I learned that seismographs 21 miles away at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory had measured seismic signals of magnitude 2.1 at 9:59 a.m. I am now certain what I felt as I sat still with my hands on my desk was the collapse of the South Tower. Upon evacuating my building at 10:20 a.m., I considered looking down Sixth Avenue where I would easily see the North Tower, but fears by all that Rockefeller Center might be a target urged me to walk the other way.

— Mark Stephenson