Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Amid Bloodshed, A Lucky Few, by Owen Moritz,
September 12, 2001, New York Daily News, Amid Bloodshed, A Lucky Few, by Owen Moritz, Daily News Staff Writer,
For a computer programmer, staying up to watch "Monday Night Football" made him late for work - and may have saved his life.
A systems architect was 15 minutes late because he was praying at a synagogue, and he prayed again after his life was miraculously spared.
Veteran Daily News photographer David Handschuh was lifted off his feet by the force of an explosion, then dug out from debris by a trio of rescuers just moments before deadly chunks of building facade came raining down.
They were the lucky ones.
A hiccup in their schedule, a sudden change of plans, plain good fortune amid unspeakable tragedy - those that survived had improbable stories to tell about how their lives were spared.
And how their lives have changed.
" 'Monday Night Football' saved my life," said Tom Maciejewski, 33, of Scotch Plains, N.J. A computer programmer for Lehman Brothers on the 38th floor of 1 World Trade Center, Maciejewski admitted he stayed up late to watch the Giants' season opener.
He got to the subway late.
"I left the train station and was walking toward my building . . . and suddenly, fire and chaos," he said. "I would have been dead. . . . All my friends are in that building. It can't be real."
The workday for David Auslander, a systems architect for Sun Microsystems, was delayed 15 minutes because he was praying at a Rockland County synagogue.
"I was about to walk into World Trade Center . . . it was 8:45 a.m.," Auslander said. "I was 15 minutes late. I heard a jet engine and looked up. The only thing I saw was a fireball that looked like it was going blocks in every direction. . . . I just started running."
Seconds later the sky turned black as the second tower collapsed. In the lobby of 42 Broadway, Auslander found a group of Orthodox Jews praying and joined them.
News photographer David Handschuh proclaimed yesterday "the luckiest day of my life."
Handschuh, 42, was next to the World Trade Center when the force of an explosion lifted him down West St.
Two firefighters from Engine Companies 217 and 131 and a paramedic pulled him out of harm's way as debris headed for the spot where he lay.
Handschuh lost his glasses, pager and cell phone, but somehow held on to his camera as he and his rescuers fled toward Battery Park City. Handschuh's leg was broken, but his life was saved.
"How much anger can prompt a group of people [the terrorists] to do this?" asked Handschuh, the father of three.
Ronald Coyne, a Fire Department paramedic, was on Vesey St. moments after he helped evacuate some workers from an office building near the World Trade Center.
As he turned, he saw a wave of debris coming his way. Seeing no escape, he broke open the window of a sport-utility vehicle with his flashlight and climbed inside. The deadly wave lifted the car and turned it over, but Coyne's life was spared.
"I crawled out," he said. Then he began walking on the hot ash. An hour and a half later, he met up with his partner, Paramedic Trinh Dinh. Coyne couldn't contain himself any longer.
"I cried," he said. "I cried."
City Corporation Counsel Michael Hess and Housing Authority aide Barry Jennings were trapped in the city command center on the 23rd floor of the World Trade Center, the scene of the second explosion.
As the first explosion rocked their building, Hess and Jennings made it safely down to the lobby - except the lobby was gone.
"I thought I was dead," Jennings said. "It looked like hell."
Glenn Vogt, general manager for Windows on the World atop the World Trade Center, was held up in traffic on the West Side Highway on his way to work. On the car radio he heard about a plane hitting one of the twin towers.
As he arrived, Vogt thought of the kitchen staff who were there early to prepare a private business breakfast.
An emergency badge allowed him access, and authorities let him walk right up to the foot of the tower. That's when he was gripped with the horror of what was happening.
"And then I don't know what made me do it, but I turned and walked back to my car and drove all the way home to be with my family," said Vogt.
Minutes later, the first tower collapsed.
Executive chef Michael Lomonaco also escaped injury. Lomonaco was not in the kitchen but was being fitted for a new pair of eyeglasses when the first plane hit, said Vogt.
"On Monday afternoon, Michael told me he needed new eyeglasses but his eye doctor couldn't see him for another two weeks," Vogt said. "Michael said, 'I can't wait that long. I think I'll go to LensCrafters first thing in the morning."
The eyeglass chain is in the World Trade Center Plaza.
"It's freakish," said a devastated Vogt.
Ari Schonbrun, a floor trader who worked on the 101st floor of One World Trade Center, was delayed yesterday morning helping his son pick out books for school.
As a result, he was late. It saved his life.
"I was lucky, really really lucky," Schonbrun said. "I was supposed to be there 15 minutes earlier than I was. I would've been on that floor."
Bianca Figueroa was four stories below ground in One World Trade Center when she remembers hearing "some kind of crashing, almost like the elevator had fallen in the shaft."
The blast blew out the walls, briefly blocking her exit. Then a maintenance worker opened a passageway through the refrigeration room.
"I was the first to get out," said Figueroa, a single mom with a 15-month-old. Figueroa works at Turner Construction Co.
Outside on Vesey St., she heard the second explosion and put her head under a car. Flaming debris barely missed her.
She got up and found a police officer with his pants on fire. Somehow, the two made it to safety.
"I thought I was dead for sure," she said.