Mount Pleasant Magazine Sept-Oct 2023

62 | | 16 acres of land, it was a district unto itself -- the headquarters of 430 companies from 28 countries around the world. “We were at the bank very early, prepping for rounds of presentations that day,” explained Dean Cornier, who worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, two blocks away from the World Trade Center. “We heard an unusual noise and I personally thought it was construction. Now, I realize it was the whoosh vibration of the first airplane heading towards the tower, before the explosion. A technician came in and said, ‘a plane has hit the World Trade Center.’ We all thought it was one of those small planes because commercial airliners don’t fly over Manhattan.” United Airlines Flight 175, carrying 51 passengers and nine crew members had already been hijacked and slammed into the South Tower. As soon as the second plane struck, Cornier and his colleagues were in a state of panic, not knowing which building could be next. The bank was on lockdown until late afternoon. While Cornier and his team members were trying to figure out if their building was next to be hit, Kevin Ortega, now a real estate agent living on John’s Island, was working on the 84th floor of the South Tower as a bond broker for EuroBrokers. His firm had 300 employees working that morning, and 61 of them didn’t make it out. Ortega and his boss saw people from the North Tower jumping out of windows. “At that moment, something clicked and I left. It all happened so fast. I was in shock, seeing someone jump out of the window.” Ortega made it out safely. He traveled down from the 84th floor and took one of the last subway trains leaving the WTC. At 9:05 a.m., then President George W. Bush was informed about the Twin Towers while visiting an elementary school classroom in Florida. “I made the decision not to jump up immediately and leave the classroom,” Bush explained. “I didn’t want to rattle the kids. I wanted to project a sense of calm… I had been in enough crises to know that the first thing the leader must do is to project calm.” At 9:37 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77 from Dulles airport in Virginia was hijacked en route to Los Angeles. It crashed into the Pentagon, killing 53 passengers, six crew members and 125 civilians and military personnel. Around the WTC, a community of neighborhoods, schools, shopping centers and restaurants are going about their day. Jessica Williams was only 15 years old; it was her second day of school and her birthday. Williams attended the High School of Economics and Finances and was just two blocks away from the catastrophe. Once Williams and her classmates exited out of the school, she saw papers and documents scattered everywhere and as they looked up, they saw smoke coming from the towers. Subway entrances were blocked as they started to walk over to the South Street Seaport/Brooklyn Bridge. our town FDNY EMS medic first responder Kenneth Johnson navigating the World Trade Center debris pile looking out for crevasses and exploring voids for survivors.