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from wall street to the ozarks
The #1 question we are asked by guests is: "So...how'd you get here?"
Below is a copy of an email that I sent to family shortly after 9/11, and it helps answer that question.
Sorry it's kind of a long story.
Hi All -
How are you? Glad to report that our family is still intact, however, the same can't be said for many people in our neighborhood. Frank's office is (or rather was) at the top of Deutsche Bank overlooking the water and the Statue of Liberty, right next door to the 1st building to collapse -- that 2nd airplane passed 50 ft over him before hitting the South Tower. His bldg is the black glass building you can see on some news footage immediately below the plane as it hits.
The first plane made such a shadow out his window, that Frank looked out the window to see what was going on, just before it impacted. He thought it hit his building at first. There was an explosion, and his bldg shook, and he saw all the shrapnel and debris flying past his window. They began to evacuate, but then it was announced that it wasn't them -- it was the World Trade Center next door that was hit, so they all went back to their offices. When the 2nd plane hit the bldg next to his, he went to that side of his bldg which faces the WTC, and was pressing his face against the window glass trying to get a view of what was going on up there, but all he could see was debris raining down and smoke, etc. (His bldg is only 39 floors high, and it appears the plane impacted the S. Tower around the 70th story -- too high up to see from his vantage point.
Finally, they called for evacuation. But some of the guys had a quick meeting to figure out who was going where, to do what, for Disaster Recovery, etc., then they had a conference call. Nobody ever dreamt they were in such danger. Frank, one of the last to get out of the bldg., was finally heading down the stairs from the 38th floor helping an older buddy, Guy, who is kind of handicapped/physically challenged. By the time they wound their way down the stairs floor after floor, his buddy was wheezing and puffing, and did not look well.
(Guy said to me later that night, he felt Frank saved his life. I asked him how? Guy said that at the 19th floor, Frank decided to try the elevator once more to see if it worked, and IT DID! They rode the elevator from the 19th floor to the bottom, which allowed them a few minutes to get 3 blocks away which is when the S. Tower collapsed.)
(And later that night, Frank said to me he thinks being with Guy probably saved his life. I asked him how? Frank said that around the 35th floor, he had the thought of going back upstairs to change out of his dress shoes and into his commuting tennis shoes, but he didn't because he didn't want to keep Guy waiting.) Thank God these two guys were together!
Once Frank and Guy got down on the ground outside the building, there was blood and guts everywhere. (He saw a long piece of spine with a hunk of meat attached, intestines and body parts, etc., everywhere.) Cars were on fire. It was like a war zone. After a few minutes of being outside, there was a horrendous noise as the Tower began to collapse. A huge black billowing cloud of debris barreled towards them. They took off running for their lives -- Frank's Nikes couldn't have carried him any faster than his Florsheim shoes did on this day. But as he kept glancing over his shoulder, he realized that he couldn't outrun the approaching cloud, so he ducked into the nearest doorway -- some kind of lobby. He and Guy got separated in the panic. Then the big cloud blasted by, and he said it turned black like midnight.
(This is when Frank called me from his cell phone to tell me he was alright. I, mind you, was just walking in the door from shopping at Target, and had been listening to CDs rather than the radio so had no idea what was going on. I picked up the phone to hear Frank sounding out of breath, but matter-of-fact, with a weird almost forced calmness about him. He reassured me that "he was okay; that the building had just collapsed; that there was blood and guts everywhere, and that this was so very, very BAD." I said, "Where are you?!" He said he didn't know. He was in some kind of lobby -- it was pitch black like midnight, and he couldn't see his hand in front of his face. He said he was going to try to make his way home. Not knowing the magnitude of the whole situation, I turned on the TV to investigate what was happening. Channels 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13 were GONE...pure static. They transmitted off the World Trade Center. Finally, one channel, Channel 2 out of Philadelphia showed the horrific scene. Within minutes, live TV showed the second Tower collapse. I was freaking out. All I could do was pray that Frank was far enough away by this time to be safe.
Frank said that after 15 minutes or so of waiting for the air to clear, he came out of the lobby with his dress shirt tied around his nose and mouth like a bandana to protect his lungs. Miraculously, he saw Guy on the street once again, who didn't recognize him because of the shirt, so Frank called to him. Frank helped Guy take off his shirt too and tied it around Guy's face to protect him from the dusty air. Then they made their way to the Hudson River. A ferry boat was loading women and children only. When the second Tower collapsed, they jumped down on a loading dock platform and ducked down while the 2nd cloud of debris blew past them overhead.
Frank and Guy ended up getting a ride across the river on a Police Boat. Thanks to God, Guy happened to have his car parked on that NJ side of the river! They walked for awhile heading for Guy's car, but Guy was struggling. That's when a policeman drove up and gave them a ride to Guy's car. Frank was able to get through on the cell phone again from the car to reassure me he was okay and on his way home -- which took several hours, but thank God they made it safely home.
We ended up having 3 other men come over to the house, 2 of which spent the night, because they lived on Staten Island and couldn't get home -- all bridges were closed. (They couldn't even get through on the phone to let their families know that they were alive.) I washed their clothes as they puffed out billows of fine dirt with every movement. Even after showering, Frank said that his hands felt like he'd been up in the attic working with fiberglass insulation. The next day, the smell in the air was such that it made them vividly remember it all over again, as the wind had shifted to blow in our direction from the City.
For the past few days now, they have been working in a Deutsche Bank building Harbor Side (on the New Jersey side) -- Frank is head over the Command Center, and they are busily implementing Disaster Recovery. He's been working around the clock -- he just called that he's heading to the hotel after some 30 hours of work... The guys who came into work this morning to relieve him were teasing him about his red-eyed appearance. But he and other hard-working guys like him have Deutsche Bank ready for business Monday morning when the stock market and bank open again for trading.
Deutsche Bank's building at 130 Liberty Street is a total loss. The newspapers say the top floors are missing and the building is badly burned. The window Frank was trying to look out to investigate what was going on minutes before the collapse, and that whole side of the building, had been peeled away. It supposedly has been blown off its foundation and may collapse or be demolished to avoid further injuries to the rescuers.
Every day that goes by seems to make us more emotional and on the verge of tears. All the families around here are affected -- everybody commutes into the City. Karen, a neighbor from down the street, has her husband missing. Lianna and Valory (our daughters) each have a classmate who is now missing their father. Latest count shows 86 kids in the Middletown school district who have a missing parent. It is just terrible!
But there is love, too! People are rallying around to help each other. I have received calls and emails from around the world with love and support. Even our pharmacist was so helpful when I explained to him that Guy had a heart condition and was missing his daily dose of heart medication -- our pharmacy gave me a pill, free. The whole neighborhood took Karen food and cards and flowers to her house, trying to reach out to her -- we all stood on her front lawn holding candles while singing "God Bless America" but I'm sure she only wants her husband back.
I hope everything is doing fine where you are. The girls love and miss everyone in CA -- as I do, too. Just thought you'd like to have the blow-by-blow.
Must run for now,
Love LZ in NJ
PS. A sad footnote: Guy, the gentleman who Frank helped down the stairs on 9/11, died of a massive heart attack while at work on January 6th, 2002.
PSS. In May of 2002, Deutsche Bank had a 10,000-man reduction, and Frank was laid-off. Unemployment dragged on month after month. After watching our nestegg melt away, we decided we needed to do something with the remainder of our money, and buy a business or something, before we started eating away at the equity in our house. So, long-story-shorter, we saw Mockingbird Bay Resort on the Internet, Frank drove out to see it, we sold our house in NJ ourselves after 5 weekends of open houses, and on October 23, 2003, we bought Mockingbird Bay Resort! And as an added bonus, Frank's parents lived in Mountain View, one hour away. We just love our new life here on the resort! We feel the Lord has led us to this very special place. 9/11 shifted our priorities, and we realize more than ever the importance of family and enjoying life. We are grateful for every beautiful sunrise we watch come up over the lake and pinch ourselves to see if this new life is real.
They say diamonds are forged from a lot of pressure and heat -- well, Mockingbird Bay Resort is our diamond that, without all the stress and pressure and difficulties of the past couple of years, we never would've found! All things happen for a reason. Remember, God will turn a bad situation around and make it good.