The difference between life and death in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, was razor thin.
Take, for instance, Peter Field, the chairman and chief executive of the Risk Waters Group, whose departure for the Windows On The World conference facility on 107th floor of the World Trade Center was delayed 10 minutes when his email system faltered.
I learned this about him while fact-checking for an article on Alec Henrickson of Elk River, who nearly found himself at the epicenter of this tragedy as well. He’s featured on the cover of this edition. The Star News’ coverage of the Rev. Jeff Ethen, who credits a second cup of coffee with saving his life, is another prime example.
As for Henrickson, who is the manager at Pompeii Pizzeria in downtown Elk River, he was there at Windows on the World for a final interview on Sept. 10. He was hired and asked to start on Sept. 12.
He even planned to make a stop at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 to do some banking at Chase Manhattan Bank. He needed groceries, and Sept. 11 was the first day he could make a withdrawal from a new account he set up with Chase exactly one week earlier.
Stories like this give us pause amidst the horrifying details of these terroristic acts that are re-lived during the 10th anniversary of them. It’s important, I think, not to forget them.
I look forward to today’s (Sept. 10) noon program and open house at the Elk River Fire Station, 13073 Orono Parkway, across from Elk River City Hall.
I also wonder what the future still has in store for these individuals.
The short time Field spent on the phone with an IT department in London separates himself from dozens of his colleagues who perished.
By the time he stepped off the subway and made his way to street level on his way to the World Trade Center, the tragedy was unfolding. American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767, impacted the north side of the North Tower of 1 World Trade Center. It entered the North Tower between the 94th and 98th floors at 8:46:26 a.m. The jet was flying at a speed of 490 mph at the time of impact.
Field was unaware of any of this as he and others spilled out onto the streets of Manhattan. But it quickly became apparent something terrible was going on.
“There was a sickening smell of what I thought was gas but which I later discovered was jet fuel,” he said. “On the shopping concourse above the station, I remember a brief glimpse of broken glass and a cacophony of alarms before I became aware of security guards screaming at us, ‘Run, run for your life.’ ”
The Risk Waters conference had already started at 8 a.m. with breakfast, and the first speaker was due to begin at 9 a.m.
At the precise time of the impact there were 16 staff from Risk Waters and 53 delegates from various invited companies and vendors in attendance. An additional 137 delegates had been invited but had not arrived at the time of the impact or did not plan to come after all.
Being above the 92nd floor in the North tower on that fateful day meant certain death for its occupants. No one survived.
There were 1,360 fatalities above the 92nd floor, which was 100 percent of its occupants at the time.
In contrast, the South tower had one fire escape that was passable after their impact, so 350 people escaped even though they were above the point of impact.
Most people recognize no tomorrow is ever promised in one’s life here on Earth. Tragedies like this make that point crystal clear. I’m always amazed by the opportunities that are presented to people who narrowly escape death. Henrickson’s mother and others believe it was more than luck. I do, too.
It’s kind of like reading a good book, when you’re wondering what will happen next as you turn the page.
Maybe Henrickson, the father of a 4-year-old daughter named Kylee, and who is engaged to be married to a woman named Lucy, has already happened upon the reason or reasons he was spared. Maybe it’s still to come.
He still has dreams of owning his own restaurant someday, something that welled up inside him before the attacks.
Maybe he has yet to dream what’s in store for him. The Henricksons’ visit this weekend to Ground Zero and the 10th anniversary of the tragedy might spur something new. I’m thankful he’s able to make the trip, and hope it is fruitful for him and others. — Jim Boyle, editor