Ed Lazarus worked in the financial department of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
“On the morning of Sept. 11, I was sitting with my closest colleagues and dear friends in our office, Joe and Barry, on the 64th floor of One World Trade Center (North Tower), when approximately at 8:45 a.m. there was the huge, jolting, indescribable noise,” he said. “The first of two hijacked terrorist planes crashed a few floors above us. The whole building shook and swayed off center.”
In the midst of the commotion, a group of five or six people discussed the situation as Lazarus and his colleagues were still in the main office area on the north side of the 64th floor.
“I went back to my desk to get my suit jacket. As I recall the events of that morning it appears more and more that going for my suit jacket was a life-and-death decision. I began to direct my attention elsewhere and wandered by myself into the inner hallway,” he said. “Thus, for better or for worse, I had separated myself from colleagues, a notable point since 14 people, including my best friends Joe and Barry, stayed on our 64th floor that morning and went down with the building.”
When Lazarus reached the inner hallway people were focused on getting into the stairway and getting out of the building. The stairways would be overcrowded and beyond capacity.
“After 20 steps down, I stopped and looked back for Joe and Barry, my closest colleagues and friends. I did not see them and would actually never see them again,” he said. “But in the midst of all those people in the packed and crowed stairway I decided the best choice was to keep moving. I said to myself that they would soon be right behind me, so I continued to walk down the stairs with another colleague.”
Making his way from the 64th floor to the 35th floor, the crowd of people moving down the stairs hit a gridlock. Eventually reaching the 28th floor, the crowd would then start squeezing to the right to allow firefighters to get upstairs.
“When we had finally made our way down to the sixth floor of One World Trade Center, we came to a long and complete standstill. Then suddenly this huge roar came over everything and the entire building began to sway and shake,” Lazarus said. “I had no idea nor did anyone else know what was going on. Of course this was Two World Trade Center (South Tower) collapsing and crashing to the ground 200 feet away from us.”
He added that they were instructed to get out of the stairway and onto the sixth or seventh floors.
“It was totally dark. Everyone kept yelling, ‘Keep your hands on the person in front of you,’ and we continued in a single file making our way to another stairway down several floors,” Lazarus said. “As we slowly walked forward I had slowly realized that we had come out on the balcony above and around the lobby of the North Tower.”
After coming out of the plaza he would join others as they would run from the North Tower minutes before the buildings collapse.
“I got home that night about 8:30 p.m. I was most thankful to be back with my wife and daughters,” he said. “I then made several phone calls. No one had heard from colleagues on the 64th floor and I did not know at that time that so many had lost their lives. The fact that they died and I survived creates certain thoughts and recurring questions that play itself over and over again.”
A virtual tour of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum served as a lesson in history for Princeton residents as America commemorates the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.
The virtual tour and the words that followed from survivor Lazarus on his personal experience that day in the North Tower took place on Sept. 9. The event was organized by the Princeton Senior Resource Center, which has also arranged an additional event for a virtual tour of the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 21.
The Sept. 11 museum in New York City honors not only those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, but people killed in the terrorist attack during 1993. The museum is below-ground from the memorial.
The memorial is located on 8 acres of the World Trade Center complex and has two pools which display the names of the 2,983 people killed in the 2001 and 1993 terrorist attacks.
The on-demand virtual museum tour spotlighted artifacts to tell the story of Sept. 11.
One of the artifacts is known as the Survivors’ Stairs. According to the museum, the stairs were located on the northern edge of the World Trade Center site at the edge of the elevated World Trade Center Plaza.
The tour also explained Memorial Hall where remains are entombed of those who lost their lives. There is a blue wall, which features tribute art created by Spencer Finch, that separates the museum space from a constructed facility run by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York.
Finch created 2,983 individually blue colored paper tiles. The tiles are for each of the victims on Sept. 11, 2001, and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
According to the museum, 40% of the victims’ remains were never identified and behind the blue wall is a repository for the remains, which cannot be accessed by museum visitors or staff.
Additional artifacts telling the story of the attack and the Twin Towers includes a fragment of a transmission antenna from the two 110-story towers, an elevator motor, box column remnants (archeological remains of the Twin Towers) and a Ladder Company 3 fire truck destroyed by the collapse of the North Tower.
The PSRC’s commemoration continued after the tour with a reading from Lazarus about his personal experience in the World Trade Center on that fateful day in 2001. He is currently a Princeton area resident and had officially started working there when the towers opened in 1973.