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john labriola

Posted 4 Nov 2011 at 04:41 AM by clive

John Labriola had started a new contract for the Port Authority about two weeks prior to the attack on the World Trade Center. His account on the morning of September 11: "I drove in that day down the East River Drive and parked in a lot three blocks south of WTC 2. I started taking pictures. The light was beautiful that morning. At 8:05 a.m. I took a photo of the Trade Center and the Greek Orthodox Church that shares the lot with the parking lot, just south of WTC2.
The Port Authority had given me a cubicle on the south side of the 71st floor in the north tower of the World Trade Center. At 8:30 a.m. I was in a status meeting on 71 East. Suddenly, the building rocked and then swayed first in one direction then shuddered back and forth at least five or six feet in each direction and finally settled. None of us were hurt or knocked off our seats but getting up while the building was moving was difficult. From the conference room door I could see out the window. The sky was so blue. Papers were flying everywhere. It looked like a ticker tape parade. We were on the east side of the building. We speculated from the start that we were hit by a plane. I ran around the floor to the south side of the building, grabbed my backpack and laptop. Everyone was off the floor pretty quickly. I, and the guy I report to, headed out to the lobby.
One of the stairwells smelled strongly of smoke, so we avoided that one. The other seemed okay and we joined a group of others. We walked down two by two stopping every so often for some unknown reason. Some people were helped down from higher floors with terrible burns over their bodies. Whenever necessary we would press ourselves into a single file line to let the people who had been badly burned and injured get by. It was pretty hot; people were slipping on the sweat of the people who had come before them. In some places the smoke was worse than others. People covered their mouths and eyes with whatever they had available. A fellow who had been on the 81st floor told me his floor was set on fire immediately after the first plane struck.
We were still climbing down the stairs when the second plane struck. We felt it, but had no idea what it was. It wasn't until someone began getting news on his pager that we knew that a plane had hit each of the towers and the Pentagon. People were constantly checking their cell phones to see if there was service. Many of us had service but no calls could get out. I remember joking that we should all buy stock in the first company whose service worked.
Around the 35th floor we started meeting a steady stream of firefighters walking up and had to press into single file again. None of them said a word as they went up and past us carrying unbelievable loads of equipment. They were already exhausted by the time we started seeing them. I can't stop thinking about the look in their eyes and how heroic they were. I pray some of them made it out.
As we continued down the stairwells, water started pouring down the steps. This got worse as we got lower down. The stairwell led down to an outside door lined with emergency workers who were urging us to move to safety. The courtyard where this outdoor landing led us onto must have been blocked or too dangerous for us to cross because we were directed back into that second floor balcony again and down two escalators into the mall under Tower 1.
Water was falling everywhere - 8 to 10 inches in some places. Many of the stores had their windows blown out. All along the way emergency workers urged us to keep moving. I went up another escalator in the northeast corner of the mall and out onto Church Street. I was outside; it took 50 minutes in all to get down. As I stepped into the light, emergency workers were yelling, "Don't look up, keep moving!" I crossed the street and tilted my head upwards. It was unreal. I saw someone fall from Tower 1: I stopped looking up. I looked at the ground around us and there was a lot of blood. Some shrapnel caught my attention. I couldn't stop thinking that it must have been from the plane. Shoes where everywhere, newspapers and blood. When I looked up, the people I was with were gone."
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