Remembering 9/11: Tom Biro

Tom Biro shares an email he originally sent out the day after, describing his escape from under the World Trade Center.
Hello everybody – hope all is well with each of you… I’ve probably
talked with all or just about all of you by now, and thanks for your
calls and emails and such – twas very nice to hear from you all –

sorry if I’ve been short with any of you – had a lot of craziness
going on….. TatteredI figured I’d use my little email list here to send out
a little story….all of which is totally true…all of which is
totally insane. most of it you have heard parts of on television, but
I have a slightly different perspective… So here goes. And I think
for once I won’t be telling you to enjoy it…..if it doesn’t make
sense totally at some points, keep in mind it’s the middle of the
night… =)

Hello everybody – hope all is well with each of you… I’ve probably
talked with all or just about all of you by now, and thanks for your
calls and emails and such – twas very nice to hear from you all –
sorry if I’ve been short with any of you – had a lot of craziness
going on….. I figured I’d use my little email list here to send out
a little story….all of which is totally true…all of which is
totally insane. most of it you have heard parts of on television, but
I have a slightly different perspective… So here goes. And I think
for once I won’t be telling you to enjoy it…..if it doesn’t make
sense totally at some points, keep in mind it’s the middle of the
night… =)
6 something a.m., 9/11/01… I woke up… Decided not to rush and
take the 6:30 train, and took the 7:05 out of Belmar. Gets me to
work, in my chair before nine a.m….. No big deal… Take the
train, read my book, get on the PATH in Newark at 8 something, ride my
22 minutes to the Trade Center.
just about 8:50, or whatever the clock said…. – got off the PATH,
went up the escalator to the ticket level – walk about 30 feet, fire
alarm flasher things start to go off in the Akbar’s or whatever
breakfast place. No one is running, figure it’s just something in
there like a kitchen issue with smoke or something… Make my left
turn, up the left side of the escalator…. Get right about to step
off, and see what I described to my friends as “50000 cops” but you
know what I mean – RUNNING into the area screaming for us to run,
orderly, but RUN out the doors to my left. I pass the Sbarro pizza
place, up the stairs, out the door. Police and security are calm and
keeping everying in order. I get out the door.
Out the door, there’s some little rocks of concrete around, nothing
really bad… Then I see the huge metal trash can crushed about 30
feet away… There’s literally thousands of people across the street
standing there looking up – I’m in the shadow of this little trade
center building, can’t see anything – I cross the street and turn
There are holes in at least three sides of the North tower… smoke
and fire are blazing – it’s now been maybe two minutes…. I keep
walking up the street trying to get through to the office on my
cellphone..dammit, doesn’t work. keep walking, looking up the whole
way…. and then back at the road…. I’m at the corner of whatever
that damn street is now that’s parallel to broadway – liberty or
church or something like that – I think it’s liberty – kind of odd how
you don’t remember these things after crossing them every day. I’m
now about 200 feet from the base of the north Tower.. There’s a 2
foot wide piece of building in the middle of the road – it’s easily 4
or 5 inches thick… Bad…. Not good.
I cross the street with the cops getting us over there safely around
the firetrucks and police cruisers and ambulances – the bulk of the
people are still standing – within 300 feet of this building. Someone
next to me screams…. I turn around, we’re looking up… People are
jumping from at least 80 floors up, if not higher. It’s been maybe 10
minutes since I got out of the building, so I’m guessing about 9am or
so. I walk down the street towards the East River, avoiding people
running, talking to people who are lost, just trying to get through on
the phone to the office and getting away. Someone mentions for sure
that it’s a plane accident as per the radio or something….. I’m now
about a block and a half or two from the buildings…. I turn south –
go one block, and I’m closer to the Federal Reserve buildings – we’re
all kind of walking slowly but not getting anywhere. I’m calling and
standing and walking back and forth – a couple minutes pass – people
don’t know whether to run or walk or scream or sit down – it’s very
It slows down a little bit, like everything wise… I get right about
to the two Fed buildings – the big one is blocking my view of the left
side of the South Tower – we’re looking up, hear the boom, and then
the explosion…. Holy you know what. You couldn’t see the plane
from where I stood, but you heard it and saw the hole open up on the
other side – we didn’t look – debris is hitting us – i have to be two
city blocks away and dust and little rock type things are landing here
– the woman next to me is hysterically screaming and trying to run or
walk – pandemonium. it was like television, only worse.
I run around the other Fed building, and people are looking for
shelter – I tell two or three people NOT to go in the Fed, no one knew
where to go – I didn’t think the Federal Reserve Building was a good
choice at this time, just a reaction – I’m now running down Nassau
St., which also runs parallel to broadway. I turn left, then right
and I’m on William – running past the back of Chase Plaza, people are
all over the place – no one knows which way to go – there’s just fire
you can see with no problem from anywhere – I get to the back door of
my building, and they let me in. I get to the elevator to go up, out
of it a bit.
I get to the fifth floor – four or five people are standing with a
building employee talking at the door – they’ve heard but not seen – I
tell them what I just saw, and they’re just like agape about it – I
get to my desk, throw my bag in the corner – get on my computer –
start trying to make phone calls. thank god i didn’t turn off the
msnbc – no dice. drudge report. no dice, cbs, nope, nbc, nope, cnn,
nope. damn. phone rings.
it’s jill, one of my agency people from chicago – she’s on a treadmill
asking if I’m okay – i tell her quickly what i saw, answer another
line with her on hold… it’s a little fuzzy here. I just know I
talked with Pat and Ursula in greensboro, my mom at some point, my
friend jill. I have friends in the towers – just a few I know well,
but lots of people from college and from the train that I’m familiar
with and see around frequently. jill can’t find her friend diane –
diane works for Morgan Stanley on floor 70. no dice in the office, no
dice on the cellphone. where is she… (I just tonight found out the
plane hit like floor 71) My friend Johanna from my last job is a WTC
person as well. I call my old boss Tom – left a message, he’s not
there – I asked about Johanna – then I call Kelly, his wife to find
out where Tom – he works in a health care place. I try a bunch more
people at home – diane again, jill, no dice on anyone – after about 10
tries randomly I get through here and there… but otherwise busy
busy busy-.. At work, people are all on the phone – trying to figure
out what to do. some co workers, Myron and Rosemarie – both live in
Brooklyn. we knew we could huff it to the Brooklyn Bridge and walk
across. It’s now 9:30. Oddest 20 minutes I’ve ever had. I can’t get
through to my friends at the WFC Amex tower… I change my voicemail
to say what time it is – it was about 9:40 and I was okay, but leaving
the office. Call my cellphone if you need me. Myron is ready,
Rosemarie is ready – people are all getting a gameplan – some going to
metro north – some to brooklyn, etc.
We leave the office. I don’t know the exact time, but I guess it was
like somewhere after 9:45. By the time we get downstairs, we’re all
anxious, the three of us.
We exit the back door…. Walk across Pine, around the corner of
chase plaza that I’ve just ran through earlier. Now you might
remember my stupid joke a few months back in this message, that how
far the Trade Center was from where I work…. Doesn’t seem too funny
to me now, but you catch my drift. We’re like 1500 or 1600 feet away,
tops. I guess. something like that – …. we get to a point 30 feet
down William where you can see all the way to the towers. then the
noise. I’ve never seen anything that big move in my whole life – we
can only see about the left half of the building, but it’s all coming
down, like blocks, almost – not smoky like you saw on tv. i saw the
freaking building dropping. papers that have been flying for almost
an hour now are filling the air again. Then the debris came. It was
like a movie – jill from chicago summed it up from something she
heard, being “like independence day, the movie” It was actually
coming straight at us – it’s been maybe 5 seconds. we’re running like
hell down whatever side street this was…. people are tripping,
falling, helping each other up – it’s been maybe 10 more seconds –
myron gets way ahead as I help rosemarie get her keys and stuff – it’s
at william street now – a man is opening a door as I’m about to run
past it – I scream at him to “get in!” but he comes out anyway – I
cna’t believe he ignored the hundreds of people running past… we
get to the next block – or maybe it was two blocks = i don’t even know
– we make a left – and watch the dust and stuff fly right past –
starting to seep around the north-south blocks – I was going east at
the time running. There’s an HSBC behind us – I’m screaming with
other people to get inside somehwere – the bank opens the outside door
to the ATM thing.. Then lets us all in….. Safe… Outside, the
debris/dust stuff is coming down, left right, all around – people
outside look grey. cars have easily an inch of covering on them. – it
was like snow. we get in someone’s cube… We’re on the phone –
people are all talking, crying, sitting, standing – the bank has a
huge water cooler – they let us do whatever we need to – a woman in
the next cube has no shoes and is absolutely covered in dust… you
can only see her eyes and that’s because they were red. A girl and a
guy, who didn’t know each other but had come in together are talking.
she’s crying – rosemarie is trying to use the phone – we get her to
sit down with us – she has no bag, no money, no id, no nothing. on
the whole the place is calm. It’s been maybe three or four minutes
now since the south tower came down.
We all have water now, people have gotten through on the phone to
others. We don’t know where Myron is… No cellphone working at this
time – radio reports are sketchy – we shot a plane down, (which didn’t
happen) then suddenly, the pentagon has been hit – time was kind of
odd at this point – it had to have been a while in there, maybe half
an hour – we hear a rumble, no one knows what it was… i guess it
was the other building coming down – but i am not sure – it might have
been a little later – you heard screaming planes and all kinds of
craziness. finally it seems to have cleared a little – we get a
ragtag bunch together, cathy with no shoes, rose the girl with no
anything, rosemarie, and another woman whose name escapes me,
unfortunately. we get a bunch of water, tons of paper towels. I
throw them in my bag… I guess I forgot that I had thrown in my
laptop at this point – literally unhooked it, hit the power button,
screw SHut down dammit, and now had all kinds of random things in
there… We talk to the manager guy – we ask for his card and stuff –
he’ll be getting a letter from me, that is for sure. They were
excellent to us, telling us we didn’t have to leave, could stay as
long as we needed to, etc. But we wanted out of the city – so we get
out the door – out towards the east river again – something you’d
never think to see if you weren’t from here – all that you heard on
the news about people being helpful, etc – it all happened…. I did
it, people next to me did it – it was very cool…. All the fishermen
on the outside of the island in their shops near the south street
seaport were outside with paper towels, hoses, ice, cups, whatever,
just giving out whatever they could as hundreds upon hundreds of
people walked north. we trudge along a while, just trying to get to
the bridge – winds come up here and there kicking more dust and
whatnot along. Finally we get to the bridge – we saw cops mobilizing
everywhere – cars parked in the middle of the road and people running
to help out, it was insane… We get up on the bridge, people are
walking at a nice pace, everyone offering water or anything they had –
two other guys sort of got in with us, we’re all talking – one of the
guys whose name escapes me as well and I keep looking back at the
skyline, which was totally acrid black/grey smoke, remarking that the
towers looked gone. Keep in mind, we didn’t know they were gone at
this point. We had just thought that like chunks of it were falling
and were running so fast it didn’t matter. So we trudge along to
Brooklyn. We arrive, and are just trying to find transportation for
those who are far from there – we find a store that is open for cathy
to get shoes or something – they only have socks her size it seems –
but she gets them, and we all get out – subways are shut down – buses
are running. we walk along for a while – one apartment complex has 20
or so people outside handing out cups of water…
some of the group gets on a bus finally – cathy needs to go another
way…. finally we get to a point where she decides she’s going to
walk a bit across a few blocks at the direction of a woman on the
street to where her bus should be. we get her telephone number of her
daughter to call to let her know cathy is on the way…. she takes
rosemarie’s – we go to her apartment, and get up on the 4th floor –
are looking at the skyline, and this is when we realize that the
buildings are gone…. we just sat there for a while – I don’t know
how long it was… maybe 20 minutes… I get my mom on the phone, and
am amazed when she tells me that they are flat to the ground…. what
the hell. I can’t get out a call on my cellphone, but messages are
piling in. we spend the next hour or so just making calls, watching
tv, etc. I go to get water across the street at the grocery store –
it was busy, but orderly – cash only, telephone lines are not
working… no problem. get back to rosemarie’s, continue to make
calls… she runs out to try and get money at the bank… i clean up
a bit, getting dust stuff out my face and eyes and hands and stuff –
that feels better… I knew there was a lot when I realized my
sunglasses were covered in it – but I had nowhere near as much as the
people who were outside for all that time….
finally i start getting through to my voicemail – make a ton of calls
– rosemarie’s telephone bill is going to be huge – we were both making
calls all over the place – sometimes my cellphone worked and the
landline didn’t – but whatever – we were going to give blood soon…
rosemarie couldn’t get money, ended up going back out to try and cash
a amex gift cheque – that worked with a little hassle – but that’s
good – she had some money then. not sure where I was going – we had
accounted for everyone that day except for Abby, one of the managers
in the group – i could have put this earlier in the story but was
frantic and it was just sort of out of my picture – myron had done so
in the office – abby’s cellphone got voicemail, and we hadn’t heard
back. Turns out she was on the ferry from hoboken and watched the
second plane crash into the tower. abby finally gets through to
people, myron has accounted for her… I talked to like 30 people
that afternoon.
finally we are going to give blood – i hear that I can take the ferry
to atlantic highlands if I could get back on manhattan island… I
could have stayed, but knew it would or could be days if i didn’t go
then.. we walk to the hospital, but they’re not taking the blood
there anymore….. you had to go to a hotel – i decide i’ll go when
I’m home at jersey shore medical center near me – i’m going to go
tomorrow morning, they were apparently backed up today.
We walk to the brooklyn bridge, and are told it’s closed going back by
police – dunno what to do… there’s the manhattan bridge up ahead –
and people on it – going both ways – and subways – we walk over to it
– i give my regards to rosemarie, and she goes back to her place –
it’s now sometime around 4 or so, I guess – I walk across the bridge –
it takes you to like canal street, like chinatown – it’s busy there,
people all over, but like places were open – good sign… police
everywhere – I walk east again, and begin to make my way south…. I
need to get to pier 11, at the end of wall street for the ferry…
make a bunch of calls…. finally get a friend at home on the phone
after we had traded voicemails all day. she is going to pick me up at
the highlands when i get there if I can get a ferry – I tell her I’ll
call her on my way if I get one…. it’s now like 5:20, i’m just
about on the ferry – I figure out which one it is, and get on – I
guess it was 5:30 or so… we leave shortly thereafter…… phone
rings again – it’s another Tom, he works for NY Hospital in like
midtown – he’s goign home via train…… somehow… i’ll talk to
him later…. my ferry ride was free, i got a nice iced tea for free,
thanks to the seastreak people – after getting my stuff looked through
by police on the boat – which was fine – just a little odd…
I go up top on the boat, and we are out on the water a few minutes now
– maybe 5-10 minutes out, the WTC #7 building collapses – we see parts
of it from our view, but see the dust cloud cross the island just like
the one I was in earlier – out over the river – we just missed it –
there are little silver NJ police on board, talking to people, and
we’re all just happy to get out of the city….
I get to highlands – they tell us to have id out.. they spray off my
shoes, and ask me where I was near the trade center, if at all. i
tell the first policeman, and end up talking to nypd there who takes
my information – i have to spill that same story, at least the early
parts, to him – short form…. i somehow didn’t have to get sprayed
off or whatever, because i had cleaned off quite a bit –
unfortunately, i had thought I would have a way to get via bus or
something to where my friend was meeting me at shore casino, but no
luck. it had to be at least a mile and a half, considering up the
mountain, down, left, right, whatever…. people are at the top of
the hill gawking and taking photos of the city – smoldering all the
way from here… they kind of look at me funny, but don’t say
anything… i have to go through a closed road section, jumped
through that, and the workers didn’t even say a word as they were
cleaning up for the day…. it’s like 6 something now… like 7:15 i
finally get to shore casino – it’s another triage type center….
they’re giving out water, food, shirts, everything. pretty amazing –
you’ve not seen that many cars there ever.. I had gotten water from
when I got off the boat, they gave us some there… i polished that
off plus the water rosemarie had given me in a container… there is
my friend waiting for me, and i get to leave… finally.. I’ve never
made that many phone calls in a day in my life, and i’m on the phone
all day at work more or less, being that people i work with are all
over the country, media people, blah blah blah….
So I’m sure I’ve skipped some stuff, because it’s 5 minutes to three
on thursday – i think it’s thursday now…. now i’ve heard that the
amex tower is being used as a morgue and no one knows if and when it
will be inhabitable…. i literally walked out of a structure and
tunnel system that no longer exists within an hour and a half of it
being there. I can’t believe i saw people jumping off of a building
from 80 stories and whatnot. Downtown must look horrible. what you
have seen on TV is nothing…. the skyline is gone. it sounds so
stupid but the freaking thing is totally gone…… i can’t make fun
of the victoria’s secret screen in the hallway anymore… no more
sbarro’s pizza for $8. no more bitching that people are holding up
the left side of the escalator…. where is the j.crew I can go to in
the morning if I spill iced tea on myself to buy some clothes….
this is so ridiculous…. the mayor won’t say so yet, and i guess it
makes some political sense, but there have to be 20,000 people dead in
that place… absolutely insane. and for what exactly? nothing
useful. if i see the people cheering in the streets again on
television in whatever country that was I might just have to damage my
little tv, which I’ve had since 8th grade graduation (thanks mom). I
think it’s wierd that i have no work to do for a few days… what
about having no office? oh – i knew i forgot, you’ll have to forgive
me… diane called out of work and johanna was not in the WTC that
day. how crazy is that. they are both fine from what I’m told…
diane, however, has no work. like it’s actually gone…. I can’t
even grasp that… I know a ton of people whom i’ve met at lunch, or
on the train, or from college were in that building…. I have no
idea where any of them are…..
Anyway – I’m sleepy now and need to go to bed. don’t mean to throw
any of you off more than you all already are most likely, but thought
you might find this fascinating. it’s somewhat surreal here to
me….. still… All I know is, all my group at work is accounted
for, and a bunch of my friends at amex who were in other locations are
okay from what i’ve heard – a couple of whom walked uptown 70 blocks
yesterday morning……..
so thanks to all of you who called me repeatedly, left me all kinds of
messages, sent around emails to all my friends, offered to do
anything, let me stay at your place, or spent time with me in the last
day or so…. and if you called me and i haven’t gotten back to you,
either i was out of it and just didn’t write everything down or
couldn’t get through to you – sorry about that… hope you are well,
and I’ll talk with you all soon…

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