Wittenberg Magazine P.O. Box 720 Springfield, Ohio 45501-0720
Phone: (937) 327-6141 Fax: (937) 327-6112
photos of World Trade Center Towers by Bill Bridge '87
campus photos by Jeff Smith '96, Jim Dexter and Amy Wenger '02
edited by Karen Saatkamp Gerboth '93
1. The Wittenberg Community Responds
2. A View of Terror: One Alumnus' Observations
Almost two months have passed since the unthinkable occurred on U.S. soil, and in that time, we’ve heard from a number of alumni directly and indirectly affected by the tragedy.
One alumnus was in the second tower at the time, while others personally watched the nightmare unfold from outside the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
They all survived, and they now share their stories — stories of fear, hope, friendship, community and strength — of this defining day in American history.
Nate Walsh ’01 had only been in New York for two days before Sept. 11, 2001. He was scheduled to be in the city for three weeks to train with Morgan Stanley, the financial company and the largest tenant of the World Trade Center complex with roughly 3,500 employees.
Walsh arrived for training at 7 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 10, along with 50,000 other employees of the World Trade Center complex. After being shuttled from uptown, followed by a four-block walk underground, Walsh entered the lobby of WTC 2, hopped on the elevator with 50 other people, and headed to the 61st floor.
Once on the floor, Walsh remembers gazing out the windows during the training breaks at the fantastic view of the Statue of Liberty and New York City. He also recalls seeing a large amount of air traffic — small planes and helicopters.
Monday ended, and Walsh reversed the process of entering the building and headed back to his hotel. He then repeated the routine Tuesday morning, again arriving on the 61st floor.“I walked in, immediately got a cup of coffee and went to the windows,” he said.
“The sun was shining and you could
see the Statue of Liberty perfectly. I leaned
over and commented on what a clear day
At 8:30 a.m., Walsh and his fellow trainees grabbed some more coffee during their first break. Ten minutes later, they heard an explosion. A 767 had just smashed into the north face of WTC 1, though no one knew that at the time.
Seconds later, a giant fireball rolled past the windows where Walsh and others were standing, followed by a rainstorm of papers and huge chunks of burning debris.
“It literally rained papers for about 15 seconds,” Walsh recalls.“I looked up and thought the explosion had come from 10 or 15 stories from where we were and that it was our building that had gotten hit; the size of the explosion had created that illusion.
“I looked down at the street and saw small fires everywhere. The roof of the building across from us had caught fire, and I actually remember saying, ‘We had better call 911.’”
Walsh initially thought that one of the helicopters or small planes had lost control and veered into the building, and that there were going to be at least 50 to 100 dead or injured.
He remembers thinking how terrible that was going to be. Minutes later, however, Walsh’s managers began ushering people out to the stairwell.“I had to walk by the room where my desk was to get to the stairs, and I figured since I’m walking by I should grab my briefcase because it had my wallet and everything I needed in it.
“I got to the door and one of the managers was standing there telling me to go to the stairs. I politely explained about my briefcase and how I really needed it.
He defiantly crossed his arms and nodded
toward the stairs. Realizing the situation was becoming more and more dire by the
“As I walked past he spat out, ‘I hope that was worth your life,’ and again not realizing exactly what had happened, I couldn’t believe he actually said something so melodramatic.
“I eventually got into the stairwell and
joined the flow of people making their way
down. Everyone around me immediately
Word quickly shot through the stairwell that a 767 had hit the building, and I could sense everyone bristle and stiffen as they continued downward.
“I stepped onto the landing of the 50th floor and stopped with my back to the wall to scan the crowd to see if anyone needed any help and to catch my breath.
I was looking up the stairs to my left and could see down the stairs to my right, when the second plane hit our building. I remember hearing it hit, but I don’t remember a loud explosion.
I don’t remember the building shaking or jolting, but I remember just about everyone on both sets of stairs falling down.“I was one of the few who didn’t fall down, and we began helping those who did to their feet and making sure they were OK and could walk.
The only time I thought I was going to be hurt or killed occurred within a few seconds after the second explosion.“As a few other guys and I were helping everyone to their feet, we could hear the rumbling of feet on the steel stairs from above us.
I thought, ‘There’s going to be a stampede in the stairwell, and 300 people are going to be trampled to death.’ “Everyone else heard it too and began panicking and running down the stairs and shoving each other and knocking people down.
I saw a woman get shoved from behind and basically slide down the set of stairs on her chest. Luckily the two guys behind her whisked her up and got her moving without even missing a step.
“The three or four of us on the landing who were helping people up stopped and began shouting and waving down with our arms for everyone to calm down, don’t run, take your time, step at a time.
Somehow it worked, and everyone calmed down and quickly started down again. Every now and then I would stop and help some of the ladies who were having trouble moving with the fast pace on the steps.“
At one point I rounded the turn of a set of stairs and saw a woman cowering in the corner of the landing. The look on her face was a mix of panic and absentness. It was like she wasn’t there but was still frozen with fear.
I stopped and told her we have to move; it wasn’t safe for her to stay there. She looked through me and didn’t move. At that point a guy from my class, I don’t remember his name, but he was from California, appeared at my right shoulder, and we decided to pick her up and move her.
“We each grabbed an arm and pulled her to her feet and began walking her down the stairs. After a few steps, she popped out of her trance and said she was better and could walk. I told the guy to stay with her, and I stopped on the next landing for a few seconds to scan the crowd again.
Anyone who looked in bad shape was already flanked by two guys and was doing OK, so I started back down.“At this point my legs were beginning to weaken. We were at the 30th floor, half way there and oblivious to the magnitude of what had been happening around us.
“Just as I reached the 30th floor landing, I heard a deep moan and the entire building shuddered as if it were trying to re-adjust to something. Nobody panicked when this happened, which I thought was strange, because that shuddering moan seemed to be the worst thing I had seen or heard all morning.
At this point dust began showering down on all of us from above, and the stairwell was starting to fill with smoke. People around me were coughing and tearing up. I unbuttoned the collar of my shirt and used it to breathe through as we continued down.
“The floors began passing by quickly
as the crowd settled into an uncomfortable
rhythm — 20, 15, 10. I was on the
stairs before the 8th floor landing, and we
were at a stand still. For whatever reason,
there was a traffic jam, and we weren’t
The building moaned and shuddered again and a few seconds later, a huge crack shot down the cinder block wall of the landing. I stood there stunned. The guy beside me nudged me numbly and asked if I saw that. I answered slowly, ‘yes.’
Neither one of us had taken our eyes off the huge crack.“Finally, I arrived at the exit and was out of the stairwell. There was a loose system of police and firemen pointing us where to go, and I eventually came up a set of stairs into the lobby of WTC 1.
At the top of the stairs was the most glaring example of heroism I have ever seen.“The entire way the only uniforms I had seen were for the police and fire departments, but at the top of the stairs there was a different one.
The man wearing it was calm and pointing and shouting orders:‘Everyone take your time; you’re almost there; stay calm.’ The uniform didn’t have a badge, but it had a shoulder patch that said MTA on it. MTA, Manhattan Transit Authority.
This man worked for the subway. His job wasn’t to guide traffic in the middle of a national disaster; his job was to clean stations, or collect money, or maybe even drive a train, yet here he was doing something that most certainly cost him his life. He was volunteering before the call for volunteers went out.
He took up a post, and he probably still occupies that post beneath those buildings.“After I walked out of WTC 1, there was a policewoman standing there telling us to keep walking and not to look up.
I looked up. I was shocked by the size of the gaping holes in the buildings, the black smoke streaming out, the destruction of the whole scene. I took my eyes off the buildings so I could walk away safely.
There were burning piles of debris everywhere. I saw a chunk of ceiling tile next to a hunk of the plane fuselage, both with charred, smoking edges. The most plentiful object out there seemed to be shoes.
At the time I couldn’t decide if they were all down there because their owners were violently blown out of them by the explosions or if they had just come off when they were escaping, like I was doing.
I like to think it’s the latter, but I’m not really sure.“I also saw many examples of the fragility of the human body, how there’s no way one can survive the explosion of a jumbo jet or a 90-story fall caused by trying to escape from that black smoke.
Things happened to people that I will never be able to speak or write of.“After I made my way through the debris, I walked north quickly. For some reason I didn’t run once during the entire morning. I was five blocks away when I turned and looked at the buildings for the last time.
I figured I was about 10 blocks away when they collapsed.“I continued to make my way north through the city, and it was a while before I found a pay phone that didn’t have a line and was working.
I quickly dialed my office in Columbus and told one of my supervisors that I was safe and to call my parents and tell them I’ll call them later.
“I hung up the phone and went north on Lexington Avenue, then west on 28th and ran right into the only person I knew in that entire city. Jo-El Miller ’99 had lived and worked in the city for two years and was on her way to her apartment to camp out by the phone and watch the news.
After we hugged and she made sure I was alive by touching my face and arms with both her hands, we went to her place.“I called my parents to let them know I was fine. They’d known for about an hour and a half by then, so they were pretty calm on the phone.
I then began watching the news.“I sat in shock for the next eight hours as they showed the planes slamming into the buildings — how the buildings swallowed the planes, seemingly absorbing the machine for an instant before the explosions and fireballs of paper, steel and death rip apart the faces of the towers.
“I can’t make the connection that I was in those buildings that entire time, that I was so close to evil, that I’m fortunate enough to be sitting here writing about this experience instead of being silenced forever.“There are many things I experienced that morning that I’m sure will fade with time and some that will never leave me.
The subway worker selflessly helping get people out of the buildings, the fireball rolling past the windows, the smell of jet fuel filling the stairwell, the empty shoes scattered everywhere, and the horrible carnage and violence this terrible act caused.”
Working nearby the WTC at JP Morgan, Charles Giffin ’00 also cannot forget the images of Sept. 11, 2001. As word spread throughout his Wall Street office and evacuations began, Giffin started walking north on Williams Street where he saw the World Trade Center for the first time, a mere three blocks away.
“I saw the smoke and the fires from huge gaping holes in the buildings,” Giffin says. “I saw people on high floors trying to avoid the choking smoke and extreme heat by clinging to the side of the 110- story buildings, and I saw those who could not or chose not to hold on.
“I continued walking north to the corner of Fulton and Beekman, when I heard a loud cracking sound behind me. I turned and watched the South Tower begin to collapse in slow motion, one floor slamming into the next. Dust and debris began to fill the streets and billowed toward where I was standing.
The crowd of people around me began to run hysterically from the rapidly approaching black cloud of dust and debris. I managed to barely stay ahead of the cloud as I ran about four blocks; the dust cascading to my feet.
I kept fervently walking north, not wanting to turn around and relive the horror. I did not see the North Tower collapse, as I was well into Soho by that time.“I then had a daunting two-hour, 120-block walk to my apartment on the Upper West Side as public transportation was suspended.
The walk was very therapeutic to both process the events of the day and to watch the reaction of those around me. The city immediately came together in ways uncommon to the average New Yorker. I saw groups of people from all walks of life gathered around car radios and pay phones.
I saw strangers become
friends. I saw the pain of the city
on the faces of tearful children.“The true legacy of this disaster
A week after the attack, Heather Connor ’99, who works 30 blocks fromthe WTC and who heard the blasts while watching the horror on her boss’ TV, continues to feel a sense of emptiness.“I could see the towers as I walked to work every morning. I could see them from my apartment in Hoboken, N.J.,” she said.
“The smoke has finally cleared, and there is something missing — not just 220 stories of steel and concrete that were easily some of the most recognized and most photographed buildings in the world. The Manhattan skyline is lacking.
The Towers stood watch over Manhattan and were a symbol of wealth and power — two things New York City prides itself on possessing. Now rubble and debris mark the site.“The streets are barren. Stores are closed, and there are few people even walking.
Missing person signs with photos are posted in every free space — trees, poles, walls, buildings. At least 4,700 people are unaccounted for, and sadly, I believe that to be a minimum number.
“The aftermath in New York is more devastating than imaginable, although the strength and support of those in and around this city is inspiring. New Yorkers have shown their resiliency in this tragedy.
As the core of the attack still smolders, and smoke, be it much less, still rises into the sky, I try to focus on the uplifting stories that I hear, those of courage, and most importantly, hope.” Further south in Washington, D.C., Alan Liotta ’82 remembers thinking it would be a perfect day to coach one of his youth soccer games.
Cool temperatures and a crystal blue sky with big puffy clouds characterized the morning.“I left for work earlier than usual that day because I had to attend a senior staff meeting in the Pentagon. My office, The Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office, is actually located about 1/2 mile from the Pentagon.
We occupy the eighth floor of a 12-story building with clear views of the Pentagon and National Airport. The staff meeting was routine.“I had some other business to do in the Pentagon, but because I had another meeting in my office I left the Pentagon about 9 a.m.
About 9:15 a staff member interrupted my meeting to inform me the World Trade Center had been attacked.“I turned on a TV to watch and had just restarted the meeting when I heard a loud ‘wumph,’ felt our building shake, and literally watched our windows pulse in and out.
I asked the person sitting across the table from me, ‘Did you feel that?’ and then the sirens started.“I looked out the window, only to see people streaming into the street and emergency vehicles heading toward the Pentagon.
I immediately asked my director for resource management, whose personal network to key Pentagon security and personnel officials is unparalleled, to find out what was happening.
Alarmingly, she returned two minutes later to tell me no one was answering any emergency numbers at the Pentagon, an indication of the chaos and confusion.
About that time, several staff members reported seeing smoke coming from the Pentagon, and the news reporting was that the Pentagon was under attack.
At this point, I realized the danger was real and that our office was at risk. I conferred quickly with my general counsel and resource director, and decided to close the office and evacuate the building.”
Once on the road, Liotta tried to call his wife, Kathryn Avery Liotta ’82, but the phones were jammed. The police had also cordoned off every school, raising Liotta’s anxiety about his wife, who teaches elementary school, and their two sons. Fortunately, everyone was safe.
“My most vivid memory clearly remains the mixed emotions of confusion— borne by the lack of credible information— and the calmness instilled from successfully controlling those events over which I had control.“My other most vivid memory is the sky.
That day I drove home past a Pentagon ablaze and a crystal blue sky pierced by a billowing column of acrid black smoke. “When I arrived home (about five miles from Dulles Airport), I immediately noticed the serenity. Nothing was stirring outside, and most visibly there were no planes.
That night I went for a walk, and it was the first time in my life I could recall looking up at our sky and not seeing ANY moving lights.” That Saturday on the soccer field coaching, though, proved to be a telling moment for Liotta.
“During the first game, there was no airplane traffic at all, despite the fact that Dulles had reopened.“As the morning wore on, however, traffic began to pick up — mostly small planes.
But I will never forget how everyone spontaneously stopped and looked up to watch first large plane, a 767, fly over the field — despite the fact that less than a week earlier we would never have even noticed it.”
The prolonged wait for answers of those who still have loved ones missing also continues to reverberate with Liotta.“In my daily work, I spend considerable time talking and working with family members and veterans who have searched for their missing loved ones for 20, 30, even 50 years.
These families, above all others, deserve our deepest prayers.” Across from the Capitol, Stacy Rastauskas ’98 was trying to catch up Tuesday morning following an overseas trip. She then heard the news about the World Trade Center.
“We have televisions all over our office to watch C-Span when Congress is in session,” Rastauskas says. “Like many people, I began paying attention when the first WTC Tower was hit, then I couldn’t believe it when I saw the plane fly into the second tower.
I was staring at the screen when one of my colleagues came into our office and darted to the window, announcing that the Pentagon had also been hit.Tuesday was the scariest day of my life,” she said, remembering the sky filled with black smoke from the Pentagon.
A week after attack, Rastauskas was amazed by the sense of community that had developed in the nation’s capital. Flags were everywhere, and donors were lined up to give blood.“Most people who live and work in the D.C. area do not claim it as their home.
For instance, whenever anyone asks, I usually say that I’m from Ohio. But after the attack, the fragmented feeling has been replaced by a strong sense of togetherness.“This tragedy reminds us that we can’t take anything for granted.
And for me, I have to admit that now I never forget to say ‘I love you’ to my friends and family.”
Please share your thoughts by e-mailing the editor at email@example.com
Wittenberg Magazine P.O. Box 720 Springfield, Ohio 45501-0720
Phone: (937) 327-6141 Fax: (937) 327-6112