WTC 7 Witness Accounts
In their final report on WTC 7 NIST estimated that about 4000 persons were present inside WTC 7 when Flight 11 struck WTC 1 at 8:46:30 am. The largest employer in the building Salomon Smith Barney alone had about 2500 employees housed in WTC 7. The floors were rented out to both commercial and public service tenants. The largest tenant was by far Salomon Smith Barney who rented 34 out of 47 floors in the tower. Workers started to evacuate the building just after Flight 11 hit WTC 1 on their own initiative, this turned into a general evacuation of the building when Flight 175 hit WTC 2. But the Office of Emergency Management on the 23rd floor did not evacuate before about 9:44. An Emergency Medical Service triage center established in the lobby of WTC 7 to assist victims from WTC 1 and WTC 2 remained until WTC 2 collapsed at 9:59. Building staff of WTC 7 and other persons was still present inside when WTC 7 collapsed at 10:28.
For more details see chapter 6 “Emergency Response” and Chapter 7 “Evacuation of WTC 7 ” in:
- Structural Fire Response and Probable Collapse Sequence of World Trade Center Building 7, Federal Building and Fire Safety Investigation of the World Trade Center Disaster (NIST NCSTAR 1-9) VOLUMES 1 and 2
A complete list of the tenants can be found here:
Building Maintenance Personnel Accounts
- Mike Catalano and Jose Gregori were maintenance engineers for Salomon Smith Barney who rented most of WTC 7. Mike Catalano’s story starts on page 23 (PDF 32) and Jose Grogori’s story starts on page 30 (PDF 39). Their accounts covers in depth what happened inside WTC 7 from the time Flight 11 hit WTC 1 and until they left the building shortly before the collapse of WTC 1.
- A shorter version of Mike (Michael) Catalano’s and Jose Gregori’s story from inside WTC 7.
- Mike Catalano’s interview with the 9/11 Commission
- Former Head of Solomon Smith Barney Security Building 7 WTC Peter J. Mulroy’s inteview with the 9/11 Commission
- The collapse of WTC 2 caused a power failure that stalled the elevators inside WTC 7. Resident Otis Elevator Co employees Joe Flanagan and Bob Klaum went into action to free persons trapped inside two WTC 7 elevator cars. On the linked page scroll down to “NEW YORK MECHANICS AT THEIR BEST DURING TRAGEDY”.
Secret Service Accounts
The Secret Service offices were on the 9th and 10th floors of 7 World Trade Center, one of several buildings in the WTC concourse, connected to the complex at the base of the north tower so their windows faced the front of the WTC and looked up at the north tower.“When the first plane hit we looked up out of our building and saw the fire and explosion. It was easy to see that it was time to evacuate.……..“ It was totally unexpected, of course, a complete surprise when it happened. We evacuated – which is easy to say but not easy to do when there are 200-300 people in the building on your floors for whom you’re responsible. We needed to seek all of them out to be sure they left safely. That was a coordinated effort – it wasn’t just me, it was all of us, all of the agents in the office.
He had already started his day’s work in a windowless room in World Trade Center 7 when he mistook the noise of the first plane crashing for the air conditioning system kicking on. Once he heard the building was being evacuated, he, along with his coworkers, headed for the stairwell and started the five-minute journey from the ninth floor to the lobby.First from the lobby then the loading dock where he and others were allowed to exit the building, he saw an awful spectacle: a fireball from the plane crashing into Tower Two, debris falling from the sky, people falling and jumping from the towers.
American Express Accounts
- New York Times: AFTER THE ATTACKS: THE BACKUP SITES; One Contingency Plan in Action: Amex Bank Keeps Money Moving
After the second crash the American Express tower was evacuated, and Mr. Blomquist bumped into Farhad Subjally, another bank executive, who had recently left the bank’s operations center in 7 World Trade.”I fully thought we would be able to go back into our building in half an hour,” Mr. Subjally said. ”So I was heading over to the World Financial Center to make phone calls.”
Salomon Smith Barney Employees Accounts
THE evening of that chaotic day brought the collapse of 7 World Trade Center, a building sheathed in dark brown glass that was 47 stories high but looked like a runty sibling in the shadow of the twin towers. Among its offices were those of 85 people, including Sean Coughlin, on the legal team of Salomon Smith Barney.At 8:48 a.m., Mr. Coughlin was talking to a colleague in his office on the 31st floor, a cup of coffee in hand, looking out over the blue serge Hudson, when he heard the plane hitting 1 World Trade Center, just to the south.……..After the second plane hit, he and his colleagues raced for the stairs.
Andrene Denniston, 36, a vice-president with brokerage firm Salomon Smith Barney, was working in the World Trade Center Building Seven across the street from the Twin Towers when the first plane hit. She said, “We heard a booming noise. We looked around and saw debris falling off the building. We looked up and saw that Number One (the North Tower) had been hit. I was on the 28th floor of our building looking directly at a huge gaping hole on about the 90th floor. Then we saw more debris, what we thought was more building shrapnel, but in fact it was people jumping 90 floors … hoping to survive. We watched about 5 people jumping out of windows, about every five minutes. It was horrifying. They had no chance of living. We watched them hit the ground, just landing on the street right in front of us. It was the most horrible thing I have ever seen in my life.” “I was working in the Twin Towers during the explosion in 1993. I was on the 90th floor then. We felt the building shake, but we did not hear the boom. This time we heard the crash and the lights flickered. But no one knew what was going on. At that point Number Two (the South Tower) still had not been hit. The phone rang and it was my sister. And just at that moment we heard another incredible bang. My sister yelled that a plane had just hit Number 2. She then screamed, “Get … out of there!’ We took the stairs down al the way and then began to head for the Brooklyn Bridge. “I suddenly heard this rumble and I looked back. I saw the building coming down and I saw people start running. So I ran faster than I’d ever run before.”
Whitney Usas was working in the Smith Barney investment company office on the 33rd floor of Seven World Trade Center about 100 feet across a plaza from the towers.The first plane hit the north tower, sending the explosion sound reverberating through the building where Usas worked.“It was like a big boom,” said Usas, who now lives in Cape Coral.……..• 8:50: Whitney and other Smith Barney investment company employees begin filing down 33 flights of steps to lobby in building only feet from tower. Building security keeps everyone in the building.• 9:03: Second hijacked airplane from Boston, United Airlines Flight 175, slams into the south tower. Both buildings burning.• 9:17: Federal Aviation Administration shuts down all New York City airports.• 9:30: Security guards allow Usas and other employees to leave building. After watching the buildings burn, she begins walking to her apartment less than a mile away on Broadway.
SALADINO: I was on the 28th floor of No. 7 World Trade working in the southeastern corner.……..SALADINO: At around 8:40, I heard a tremendous explosion, followed by what felt like an earthquake rumble. After that immediately, we looked towards the southern window and saw debris — building parts, glass and metal shatter to the ground.……..SALADINO: Well, looking back at it now, it was just a blur in my memory. Eventually someone did say, let’s evacuate and let’s get downstairs. And initially once that clicked in my head I knew to, you know, run to the stairs and run downstairs as quickly as possible.……..SALADINO: Well, initially when I got down to the ground floor, the second plane had hit the southern World Trade Center, and again, people started to panic. People started to cry. People started to get away from the front lobby windows. After that, security guards then pushed people down the escalator around the back entrance and up towards Greenwich Street, getting people as north as possible away from the incident.
Her husband, meanwhile, was at the trading desk at Smith Barney Asset Management on the 43rd floor of 7 World Trade Center when the first plane hit. “The building shook for a long time, and we looked out the window and saw debris falling down and fire all over the place.” Mr. Kirkwood said some people in the office started crying, and then someone on the desk told everyone to get out.Outside, Mr. Kirkwood started heading toward the ferry. “I stopped to talk to someone I recognized and looked up saw a plane bank and go right into the other tower,” Mr. Kirkwood said. At that point he knew it was intentional, and said to the other person, “Let’s get out of here.”
Hi. I was working for Salomon Smith Barney on the 38th floor of 7 WTC at 8:48AM on 9/11 when the first plane hit. My office looked out with a south view and I had seen the Towers and Ellis Island for the last 8 years. It was a picture postcard view. A coworker of mine, who was there at the time of the bombing 9 years ago, instinctively knew to get out of there and we all got on the first elevator that came (probably not the right thing to do, but we did it anyway) and made it down to the lobby without incident in a couple of minutes. We waited in the lobby until a second crash hit (not the second plane, just debris falling) and evacuated the building.The second plane hit when I was safely out of immediate danger and several blocks north of there.
Dear Mr. Gallo: My brother Sean and I were both very close to this disaster, and it hurts me a lot to see the names on the SHP website. I was beginning my second day of work in the Trade Center in building 7 on the 30th floor. I have been with Salomon Smith Barney for 3 1/2 years at 34th St., and I had just transferred downtown. When I felt the first impact, I immediatley thought it was a terrorists’ bomb. I was close to a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, Israel in June, and I became keenly aware of how this works. I was advised that Arab terrorists will generally set off a small explosion, and then draw a crowd, so they can set off another one and kill even more people. When we made it down to the Atrium, after going down the stairs, I was thinking that I have to get out before the next one. Unfortunately, the guards had our doors blocked off. I was running back and forth like a caged mouse. When the second plane hit, it was directly above us in the North Tower. The shrapnel was raining down on us, and it was at that point that about 20 of us bum-rushed a side door, and the guard moved out of the way. We ran down a hallway, and we jumped off of a loading dock and ran north.
Hartford Speciality Companey
By the time his day started to unravel, Bryan was already chairing a meeting in his office at the northwest corner of the 20th floor of 7 World Trade Center, just north of the Twin Towers. “I heard this roar over my shoulder,” he recalled, “then I heard the crash and I walked across the hall and I saw all the stuff pouring down from the north tower.” His first reaction was to move everybody at Hartford Specialty to the north side of the building, away from the danger. When the second plane hit, it was time to get everybody down the stairwells and outside. Bryan and three other managers swept the floors to make sure nobody remained behind before leaving themselves. Using something he learned during the 1993 terrorist bombing of the complex, Bryan departed from standard safety procedures to help a Hartford employee recovering from surgery leave the building in an elevator.
Office of Emergency Management Staff Accounts
OEM’s offices are in Seven World Trade Center, so we were there when the first plane hit. I was on the third floor. I was eating breakfast. The electricity went out in the building for about three to four seconds, and then it rerouted and came back on. I knew something major had happened, although I did not feel any vibration or hear any crash from where I was sitting. The folks that were in the cafeteria where I was that had a window seat all got up pretty much at once and started running. I asked them what happened. They said a plane just crashed into the tower, which was the north tower.So I ran down the escalator to the lobby level, where I saw my direct boss, Calvin Dreydon, who is the deputy director for operations for OEM, going down to the street level. He told me to go up to our office on 23 and make sure that we were getting our EOC up and running and that our communications was being properly supervised. We call it our watch command.So I went up in the elevator to 23. First I went to my desk, got my portable radio. It’s a police radio, fire radio and OEM radio. I went into our watch command. The supervisor, Mike Lee, was there running operations, so we were fine there. I went into the EOC. We had the supervisor, Mike Berkowitz, there running that, so I was comfortable that we were doing our job properly.I went down to the street level. (From there he went into WTC 1.)
I’m not sure of the exact time, but I believe as we were coming over the Brooklyn Bridge was when the second plane hit the second tower. We parked — I want to say it’s on like Broadway right off of Vesey Street, between Vesey and Barclay. Captain Nahmod and I started heading down Vesey Street towards where we thought the command post would be. At that time we had received a page per Chief Peruggia to go into OEM at No. 7 World Trade and activate our post in OEM.……..Abdo and I went into No. 7, activated OEM, placed calls to EMS Citywide, RCC, to tell them we were there and we were activated. Maybe five, ten minutes, not even ten minutes later, a rep from OEM came into the main room and said we need to evacuate the building; there’s a third plane inbound. That was the only thing I really heard because I said, Abdo, we’ve got to go, and we made it down to the lobby of the building, street level, met up with Chief Peruggia in the lobby of the building.
At this point, I communicated with Chief Peruggia via the land line, and we were directed to report to 7 World Trade to set up OEM. Both myself and EMT Zarrillo went to the 23rd Floor of 7 World Trade and began to log onto the terminals, as well as inform the citywide dispatch supervisor that we were activating the OEM at this time, and operations were to begin.Moments thereafter, we were advised by the staff at OEM that we were to vacate the building, that they believed there was another possible plane on its way, and proceeded down the stairwell of 7 World Trade all the way down to the ground floor.
I arrived at 7 WTC at approximately 0630hours, for final preparations for an interagency exercise that was to be held the following day. I was preparing paperwork and was walking toward the window facing the towers when I heard a loud, missile type noise and looked up and saw the explosion / fireball in the North tower. I took a second to compose myself and went toward the executive offices of 1st Deputy Director John Odermatt who heard the explosion and was attempting to find out what had happened, we met in the hallway and I directed him back to my work area for the best view of the incident.Director Odermatt quickly debriefed me and instructed me to open the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for a fully staffed operation, which I did. While in the EOC I assisted the Watch Command in handling an enormous influx of telephone calls, many for top City officials, During this time I observed the second plane hit the South tower via live video feed. I realized at this time these acts were intentional. Immediately following the second attack 7 WTC lost primary power and switched to auxiliary generators. The fire alarm enunciator panel lit up indicating there was no water pressure for fire suppression in the building. I was soon on the phone with the FAA who informed me that at least 1 other plane was uaccounted for and possibly heading for NYC. I informed Deputy Director and FDNY Captain Rotanz who was the highest-ranking OEM official in the building at the time. Captain Rotanz surmised that 7 WTC was potentially the next target and subsequently ordered an evacuation of all OEM and building employees. The OEM staffs assembled in the lobby of 7 WTC, and were awaiting instructions via radio.
- NY COP Online Magazine: The World Trade Center Disaster and its Global Aftermath Reflections and Meditations
Dierdre L. had a day job catering meetings with a business in 7 World Trade Center just to the north of the towers (that would itself collapse at 5:20 p.m. that day). She was in a room on the 39th floor (of 50) when the first plane hit the north tower but had almost no idea of the magnitude of what was happening. In a few minutes, however, she and the others were told to evacuate the building. The long walk down the stairs without windows or knowledge of the terror outside was eerie, though mostly peaceful. The one moment of dread came when the second plane hit the south tower and the whole building she was in shook. No one knew what was happening but there was collective terror. When Dierdre finally reached the street and relative safety, she stood for a few minutes to watch the burning buildings.