Eight years ago, Hamza al-Ghamdi and Ahmed al-Ghamdi arrived in Boston together on September 7, and checked into the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, beginning the final steps in their planned attack on the United States.
September 11, 2001, 8:46 AM:
My cousin's wife was on a delayed train taking her to her job with AON in one of the top floors of WTC #2. My doctor's wife was attending a meeting with staff in one of the state agencies with offices in Tower 2. My staff member's wife (a former member of my staff) was at her job as a database programmer for Merrill Lynch in the World Financial Center, located just across the street from the WTC and still in its shadow at that time of the morning. Another staff person's son had just completed a double shift as a security guard at the WTC and was on the way home on the subway. Victor Saracini, a neighbor, had taken off from Logan Airport shortly before as pilot on United Airlines Flight 175. A few minutes earlier, the Flight 175 pilots reported hearing a strange transmission from American Flight 11, but no further transmissions were received from Flight 175 after 8:46 when it became clear that the crew was no longer in control.
I had worked in lower Manhattan for most of my career and even wandered over to be in the crowd scene during the making of King Kong shortly after the building was opened and before the plaza was completely finished. I never got there since the crowds were so great that the Port Authority ordered filming stopped since they were afraid the plaza would collapse. In 1976, I watched the bi-centennial celebration from the Offices of the State Department of Mental Hygiene in WTC Tower 2 as resurrected sailing ships from around the world gathered to sail in procession up the Hudson. My then three year old daughter was in heaven, spending most of her time running around the office while the adults watched out the windows. For my tenth anniversary, my wife and I ate at Windows on the World on the top floor of Tower 2. The food was a little overrated, but the view couldn't be beat. I attended many receptions there, but never stuck around again for dinner even when a friend worked there as a chef for a brief period. After the first bombing attempt, I did all that I could not to attend meetings in the WTC when I had a choice. I wasn't concerned with safety. However, security was such that you needed to get to the building at least 30-40 minutes early to get to you meeting on time. However, the Port Authority was a client and we needed to visit them on a regular basis.
On the morning of September 11, I was in my office in Somerset NJ. As usual, I was at my desk by about 7 AM checking the status of all of our systems and catching up on the prior day's work.We didn't open until nine but most of my staff was already there by 8:30. Shortly before nine one of my staff yelled out that a plane had crashed into Tower 2. We gathered around his computer to see what was happening. My network manager called his son, the security guard, on his cell phone and reached him successfully as he got off the subway near his apartment. One of my developers reached his wife in the World Financial Center. She said that they were being held in the building because of debris falling from the Tower. She had already seen a couple of people falling into the street. After that we were unable to reach anyone. Almost everyone knew someone who worked in the Towers. Everyone knew people working nearby. I told my staff that they were free to go home whenever they wished. Most stayed to watch the horror unfold.
Victor Saracini may have died when his plane was hijacked but may have lived until his plane struck Tower 1 at 9:03. Happily, the other people with whom I had connections survived. My cousin's wife never made it into Manhattan as her train was stopped and returned to NJ. My doctor's wife managed to make her way out of the building before it collapsed although it was many hours before she could reach her husband. It was almost 24 hours before my staff person's wife managed to get home from her job in the World Financial Center, but we knew she was physically OK. My network manager's son, the security guard, was among the 10% of his co-workers who survived. Had he not been sent home because of his double shift, he would undoubtedly have died with his friends.