U.S. Navy photo by JO1 Preston Keres

      Ross and his colleagues did exactly what they’d been told not to do in an emergency—they took the elevator to the 44th floor. From there they partnered up for the long journey down the serpentine staircase. When they reached the 21st floor, the building shook from the impact of United Airlines Flight 175 crashing into the skyscraper. “The shock wave threw us to the other side of the staircase like paper dolls,” Ross says. “We still didn’t have a clue what was happening, but then we double-timed it down the stairs.”
      The electrical power was gone by the time Ross reached the 8th floor, but he felt sure he’d make it out safely because he could feel fresh air coming in. However, he was not prepared for the horror and devastation awaiting him as he emerged into the open courtyard. “It was very bizarre, like a scene out of War of the Worlds,” Ross says. “Everything was on fire and there were body parts and debris everywhere.”

      The rescuers kept the fleeing people away from falling debris by funneling them down through the underground concourse and up the other side to Broadway. Bewildered, Ross watched in disbelief as people jumped to their deaths from the fiery twin towers. Realizing the area wasn’t safe, he began his long journey home to Chester, New Jersey, by foot and ferry. “As I was making my way up Broadway, I heard an eerie screeching metal noise and looked back to see Tower II disappear in a cloud of fire and smoke,” Ross says.
      By 8 p.m. Ross arrived safely home, where his father and brother were waiting for him. That morning his grandmother, who lives in a Rhode Island nursing home, saw his building destroyed on television. “My grandmother was the one who called my parents and told them about the terrorist attack,” Ross says. “My father immediately drove to my house from Pennsylvania, and my brother drove in from Atlantic City. My brother told me later he had packed a black suit.”

—Christine Yackel

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Main Home Page Contents Chancellor's Message Opening Remarks
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