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Posted 5 May 2016 at 03:22 AM by clive

outh Tower worker now living in Harborcreek recounts escape on 9/11

By Ron Leonardi

September 8, 2011 06:50 AM

Online Extras
MORE ONLINE: Click here to read more about how the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks affected local people in Erie, and to see photo galleries and videos related to the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

Jorge Alvear, of Harborcreek Township, was working on the 92nd floor of the World Trade Center's South Tower on Sept. 11, 2001. He was photographed at his home on Sept. 2. JACK HANRAHAN/ERIE TIMES-NEWS

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Sept. 11 is a day Jorge Alvear prefers not to acknowledge.

He will get up early, jump in his car and drive somewhere -- anywhere -- that takes him far away from the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Alvear, 44, a native of Ecuador, was a geologist with Raytheon Engineering on the 91st floor of the World Trade Center's South Tower that day.

Images of the planes hitting, the fireballs, and people choosing to jump to their deaths to avoid being burned alive, still haunt the Harborcreek Township resident.

"I just get in the car and go,'' Alvear said. "It's a day about anything that doesn't become an issue of memories. We just go and come back at the end of the day, and tomorrow is another day.''

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As the nation prepares to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Alvear may be softening his stance.

He said he has thought about attending Sunday's Flight 93 commemoration service in Shanksville.

"I mentioned going to Shanksville before and he said 'I don't want to have anything to do with it,''' Alvear's wife, Keri, 40, said. "But this is the first time since the first 9/11 memorial that he's ever said that maybe we could go see that. Before, he would never even think of it.''

The horrors of 9/11 have taken an emotional toll on him.

Jorge Alvear was at his office in the World Trade Center's south tower by 7:30 a.m. that day. He put on a pot of coffee and settled in at his desk.

Normally, 150 to 200 people normally worked on his floor. At about 8:30 a.m., only 30 to 40 of his colleagues had arrived, he estimated.

When American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center's north tower at 8:46 a.m., Jorge Alvear remembers hearing a terrible roaring sound for a few seconds.

Then he felt his building wobble. His first thought was an earthquake had rocked the city. Then he discarded that possibility.

When he looked out a window, he saw thousands of pieces of paper and other debris from the north tower floating by.

At the other end of his floor, about 25 people were huddled at a window, staring at the north tower.

"Some of them said they saw a small plane crash into the building, and others said there was a missile,'' Jorge Alvear said.

Seeing metal girders and framework protruding outward from the north tower's impact area seconds after the blast, Jorge Alvear believed a bomb had produced the gaping holes and raging fires.

"I saw smoke, and I think there was something burned with the shape of a person on the edge of the wall,'' he said.

Believing that another bomb might be detonated in the north tower, and fearing another blast could potentially impact his floor on the south tower, Jorge Alvear decided to evacuate his building.

That decision saved his life.

He took an elevator from the 91st floor to the express elevators on the 76th floor.

All of those elevators, he remembers, were filled to capacity. Women were shuttled into them as men waited patiently nearby.

Jorge Alvear thought the fastest route out of the building was the stairway. Accompanied by two other men, he ran down the 76 flights of stairs to the lobby.

He remembers encountering several firefighters on the lower floors going the opposite way.

As he exited the south tower, he saw hundreds of people looking skyward at the burning north tower.

Then, another explosion rocked the area.

It was 9:03 a.m. United Airlines Flight 175 had hit the south tower on the 78th through 84th floors.

Jorge Alvear didn't see the impact. Seconds later, he watched the people who had been surveying the north tower's damage drop laptops, purses, satchels and whatever else they were holding and dash for cover.

When Jorge Alvear heard screams, he looked up and saw the fireball. His immediate thought was that it would descend to ground level and burn him.

Debris started to rain down. Jorge Alvear thought he might be killed.

Then an image of his 3-year-old daughter, Athena, consumed him.

"I felt this urgency that I wanted to see my daughter,'' he said. "It just kept me going.''

Jorge Alvear ran along Liberty Street and began to cross the Brooklyn Bridge.

At one point, he remembers looking back to survey the twin towers.

He saw people jumping to their deaths from both buildings. It made him so sick, he vomited.

Ten years later, he still fears being on large bridges.

Jorge Alvear believes about 25 people in his office died.

After the World Trade Center attacks, he did not return to Raytheon Engineering.

"I didn't want to hear anyone telling me that these people died,'' he said. "I didn't want anyone telling me so-and-so died and you knew him. It's one of those things you want to completely forget about. I didn't tell anybody goodbye at Raytheon. I just never came back.''

He got a job with the New York City Department of Design and Construction and spent two years there.

Jorge Alvear met his wife, a lifelong Harborcreek Township resident, in March 2002 in New York City.

Jorge Alvear moved to Harborcreek Township in May 2003, and the couple was married on Sept. 13, 2003.

"I came here and I had no plans except the fact that I fell in love and I wanted to be happy because that tragedy was so horrendous, nothing else would cure it,'' he said. "I was earning good money in New York, making a six-figure salary, but money doesn't make you happy. I came here.''

Jorge Alvear said he sometimes wonders why he survived.

"To see people dying, and then you're not dead, and you don't even know why,'' he said. "Why am I not dead? It's confusing and upsetting.''

Meeting his wife and moving to Harborcreek has helped him deal with the tragedy and heal some of his mental wounds.

"He was not in good shape when I met him,'' Keri Alvear said. "He was shaking all the time. He's so different now than when I first met him.

"He's part of me and I feel that,'' she said. "I wasn't there (at the World Trade Center), but I've seen what he's gone through over the years. It took years of lots of crying and hugs, and to see him get that far, it does mean a lot. In a way, it brought us together. We wouldn't have met without it.''

RON LEONARDI can be reached at 870-1680 or by e-mail.

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  1. Old Comment
    Truthissweet's Avatar
    Thanks for copying the article, Clive.

    What I find interesting is Raytheon didn't lose any employees in WTC 2, while Alvear says he believed 25 died. You would think after 10 years he would know no one died. The stink-meter on this person is at a very high level.

    Raytheon deaths on 9/11:
    Posted 5 May 2016 at 10:15 AM by Truthissweet Truthissweet is offline

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