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Eyewitness Account of the September 11, 2001 New York attack


A stonemason I admire was working on the cleaning of the old Pan Am building (Emery Roth, Walter Gropius & Pietro Belluschi, 1963; now MetLife, at 46th & Park Avenue) sent me the following account of Tuesday morning, September 11th, but asked me towithhold his name. I have preserved most of his peculiar spelling and informal language.

- Christopher Gray, Office of Metropolitan History (

"The morning sky was a brilliant azure with whiffs of high sirrus clouds sun sparkled the deco chrome eagles of the Chrysler as tourists gathered at the Empire and Trade center observation decks. We can see them from our eagle aerie here at the 60th deck of the old Pan Am; like ants we see the reflection of their lens and chrome covers The view of the Trade towers is distant; but we have brothers there. The steel workers are my crew. We are friends and they do my rigging. Sometimes in mornings we make pre-arranged mirror flashes like clever boy scouts then salute each other by cell phone over morning coffee confirming our signal success and guffaw like errant school boys.

"Eight am yesterday morning we are hanging rigs at the 57 floor; its a busy morning we are on the Vanderbuilt side with commanding views of lower Manhattan. The Hudson is majestic in the September sun. The Circle line and the tugs dart and
ply the island like it was a holiday. Office workers pour into there buildings many with coffee in hand. Its a Tuesday its warm yet you can feel a cool Canadian front upon us.

"Up high my foreman Tiny grins with his missing eye tooth. His rig rests over the side of the 57th floor; appox half the distance in height of the twin tower. We are gamming on about the weather; and and what we "gotta do"...When Tiny (who weighs 275) breaks conversation and sez 'Getta load of this asshole'.

"With that all eyes focus on this incoming 757 wagging its wings coming over the Pan Am just 200 feet from our deck. As the huge jet approached it veered slightly to the right; the sparkle of the sun glistened its wings and the rays warmed its fuselage
our men who hang precariously off the sides of buildings are outraged at the total disregard for safety; stand and yell obscenity at the pilot shaking their trowels as the jumbo careens over Broadway just broadside of us. [to the west of the building - CG]

"The sun is very bright just now we can see the white shirt of the pilot and in the direct sun we can see the heads of passengers at their assigned windows - I distinctly see a blond woman at her seat.

"This is unbelievable - perhaps another low level tourist ride; perhaps he came low to avoid another aircraft; perhaps ... perhaps .... as we watch the plane pass the Empire State Building and then diminish in size until ...until.....poof, a large ball of flame emerges from the twin tower....all at once everyone is screaming.

"We are slack jawed in disbelief; all at once everyone is screaming...radios crackle ..."It hit the Trade Tower...Tower Hit...a plane just hit Trade center!!! We are slack jawed in disbelief; there is a deafing silence as we glance at each other in momentary stillness; radio calls are coming in from below asking for information..we watch the burning and tug at cigarettes and hang nails.... minutes pass and we observe what appeared to us an observer plane coming in for a 'look see'. But suddenly it too plows into the other tower ... explosion ... fire ball ... no mistake this time ... that's deliberate ... all of a sudden it becomes apparent that we are a potential target ... everyone starts yelling ... 'get down ..get down' like submarines under depth charge attack, huge hanging rigs and their crews drop down the ides of the building in fits and starts ... cussing and yelling as they push off the building face and scale down in record time."

See The City Review article on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center

See The City Review article on the televised memorial concert

See Christopher Gray's article on New York City December 7, 1941 in The City Review


Home Page of The City Review