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Sept. 11: One year after

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Survivor of 87th floor deals with his demons while finding hope in the future

By Adam Mayblum, for the Associated Press

Perhaps the soldiers in the barracks in Lebanon or the heroes of the Normandy landings know what "it" is like. But, then again, they were professionals. They knew that they were in harm's way 24/7. We were professionals of a different sort. Lawyers. Bankers. Brokers. Traders. Waiters.

I was having my daily iced coffee. Light with skim and two Equals. Then "it" arrived. Hell on Earth. It was an hour-and-a-half climb down 87 crowded, hot, and smoky flights. It was fires and sparks and doors that wouldn't open. It was stepping over twisted steel and God knows what else. It was losing dear friends.

I look back at the attack as a whole event unto itself. Not the thousands of little occurrences along the way. The attack and its consequences are of such a magnitude that I still cannot fully absorb it. I think I am better off that way.

I do, however, have some demons to deal with. There are those two events that won't go away. I remember seeing my friend Harry Ramos helping people out of one stairwell while I was helping them into another. What would I have done if I knew then that it was the last time I would see him? Would he have done it anyway if he knew he wasn't going to make it home that night? Did he know that he was crossing that fine line between bravery and death? Did he even think about it? I doubt it. None of us did. But in hindsight, I get to ask these questions and he doesn't.

And then there was the third floor. Almost out. Almost home. I can almost smell the fresh air. And then there was that rumbling. That low vibration I could feel in my bones, followed by this inconceivable shaking. Then the lights went out. Pitch black except for some glow-in-the-dark paint and a flashlight.

It was, in reality, 2 WTC collapsing. However, in my world, at that very moment, I was sure it was my stairwell collapsing down upon me under the weight of thousands of people. I was going to die. All I could do was shrug my shoulders, look up at the stairs above, and wait for the pain. Then it passed. A miracle, I thought. It turns out that my miracle was also the death of over a thousand people. Almost a year later, I cannot hear (feel) a train roll by without a flashback to that moment.

I have been told that sometimes a person learns things that cannot be unlearned. I have learned that I am not safe anywhere or at any time. After all, who would have thought that the opening salvo in a war would be a 737 slamming into their office during breakfast?

This knowledge has changed me forever. I don't step out into traffic any more. I drive slower. More cautious. I guess this will fade with time, as most things seem to. On the other hand, I am more focused and driven than ever. I even learned to ski.

I just started working at a new firm. I am now the managing director of The Private Equities Group of Joseph Stevens and Co. It's downtown. Just a few blocks from ground zero. I am not afraid to be there. I will not be chased from there. It is my statement to the terrorists. I work in The Financial Capital of The World. You have not destroyed us.

If I had my way, I would rebuild the trade center as it was, if not taller. What better fitting memorial is there to those who perished that day? My friends were proud to work there. They were the embodiment of capitalism and America. From the traders to the waiters, we all knew that we were part of something special.

Life goes on. My wife and I are expecting another child in late October. Why? Because now we live a little more for today than tomorrow. Because we can't let the bad guys win. Because we love each other. Because people we knew can't. Because when I hold my son, Ethan, nothing else matters and I want more of that feeling in my life.

EDITOR'S NOTE
Adam Mayblum was working for the May Davis Group investment firm on the 87th floor of the World Trade Center's north tower when the first plane hit. He escaped down a stairwell with a wet piece of his T-shirt tied around his face. The day after the attacks, he thought it would help to put thoughts into words and let loved ones know he was safe, so he wrote an e-mail to friends and family. Soon the message was being forwarded around the world, and Mayblum received thousands of responses from people he'd never met. Here, Mayblum, 36, of New Rochelle, N.Y., shares his thoughts a year after the attacks.

Today's news:
Ceremony at Ground Zero
Mass. remembers victims
Silence, tears mark day at Logan
Under alert, Mass. carries on
Bush faces day with resolve
World remembers attacks in US
Memorial in Shanksville, Pa.
Updated wire coverage

Photo galleries:
Families mourn, remember
Ceremony at Ground Zero
Ceremony at the Pentagon
Ceremony at Pa. crash scene
Remembrances worldwide
Remembrances in Boston

NECN RealVideo:
Moment of silence observed
Ceremony at State House
Gettysburg Address read
Procession at Ground Zero
A somber travel day at Logan
Images of Sept. 11, 2001

 THE SERIES

 DAY ONE   SEPT. 3

Preparing for the worst
Security has become the new norm in Greater Boston.

 DAY TWO   SEPT. 4

Fear and children
Children's responses may shed light on human anxiety, resiliency.

 DAY THREE   SEPT. 5

Muslim minds
The US effort to win over Muslim hearts and minds is failing.

 DAY FOUR   SEPT. 6

Science vs. terrorism
New chemical, biological threats spur nation's top minds.

 DAY FIVE   SEPT. 7

Detainees
For those deported after Sept. 11, the losses are wrenching.

 DAY SIX   SEPT. 8

A special Magazine issue
A Sept. 11 narrative by former Massport chief Virginia Buckingham, plus an essay by Christopher Hitchens.

A special Arts section
How culture has changed since Sept. 11, including a gallery of art inspired by the attacks.

A special Focus section
A look at how the lives of six Americans were altered.

Everywhere USA
Terrorism comes to God's country.

 DAY SEVEN   SEPT. 9

Where is Al Qaeda?
How have bin Laden and his terrorist group eluded US forces?

 DAY EIGHT   SEPT. 10

Two cities
New York and DC one year later.

 DAY NINE   SEPT. 11

America remembers
The US looks back at the terrorist attacks.

Victims and survivors
A year later, still hurting.

A time for bells and remembrance
A clash of views on terror
Limited damage to the economy
Families build support system
NYC's healing process
Finding comfort in the kitchen
Bailey: A day of atonement


From the Associated Press:
Tribute paid with tattoos
Charities changed by 9/11
White House calls home
9/11 stole innocence, love
Man escaped earthquake, 9/11
Update on 9/11's famous faces
Firemen still burying dead
A mother's note to a lost son
9/11 created heroes in death
Voice mails bring comfort
Little things hold memories
87th floor survivor copes
Sampling of 9/11 memorials
Pentagon survivors move on
Moments of silence on Sept. 11
Survivors try to move forward
Families cling to chances
Sept. 11 widow trying to forgive
Widow becomes an advocate
Workplace response varies
Graphic: Funds offer relief





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