Bruce Brodoff Communications
Bruce Brodoff Communications
September 18, 2001: "I Might Not Get Out Alive"
By Bruce Brodoff

NOTE FROM HAL EISNER: Bruce Brodoff, a former KCOP-TV field producer/researcher, is currently the Vice President of Public Affairs and Corporate Communications for the New York City Economic Development Corporation. His office is located three blocks from the World Trade Center at 110 William Street between Fulton and John Streets. I've known Bruce for years and tried reaching him for hours after the World Trade Center attacks. It wasn't until Wednesday night that I got a series of emails from him detailing his ordeal. With his permission here's Bruce's story as shared with me in a series of emails.

Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2001, 7:24 P.M.

I am shaken but OK.

Thank God I left my house early to vote in New York's Mayoral primary and got to my office 30 minutes before I usually do -- otherwise I would have been walking past the World Trade Center around the time the first plane struck. I even stopped to buy fruit at the Farmers Market that operates at the foot of the South building every Tuesday and Thursday minutes before the planes struck. I can't describe what it was like to stand on the street and watch the North tower burn.

Thank God I didn't see anyone jumping to their death like some of my colleagues did. While the sight was horrific, I never imagined that it would escalate to such a catastrophic degree. From my vantage point on the street I could only see part of the North Tower, and it looked like a terrible fire that would certainly destroy the top twenty or thirty floors of the building but one that could eventually be extinguished. After standing outside my building for about a half hour, I went back up to my office to gather my belongings, not fully realizing the severity of the situation.

Once I got up to my office and saw the live footage on TV, I finally realized how catastrophic the situation was. I watched another large explosion rock the lower floors of the South Tower, heard an enormous "boom" and then felt my building rock back and forth as if caught in an earthquake. That's when I finally, really started to get scared. I ran past a large window on my way out of our sixth floor office and saw that within a few seconds the once sunny sky had turned black, and white flakes were swirling around like we were in the middle of a snowstorm. I ran down the stairs and encountered a heavy smoke condition; that's when it hit me that I may not get out of this alive.

On the ground floor, the smoked-filled lobby was packed with several hundred panicked people, all gasping for air and freaking out. One of the doors leading out of the building -- the one most considered the safest exit, was reportedly locked, which just increased the panic. Building staff passed around surgical filters, and I wrapped a handkerchief around my nose and mouth. The door was finally opened, and people started streaming out into the nuclear winter. Some, myself included, didn't know whether to stay in the building or go into the street; nowhere felt safe. I decided to hit the street and follow the crowd. Through the black smoke another jet plane screamed overhead  you couldnŐt see more than three or four stories above you, so we didn't know if it was a U.S. Air Force plane patrolling our skies, or another hijacked jet about to nosedive into the Financial district. Things were unbelievably tense.

The air quality got a lot better after about a 15 minute walk north towards the Manhattan Bridge, but despite the rumors I still didn't believe that the first tower collapsed.

All too soon came the rumor that the other tower fell as well. I continued walking over the Manhattan Bridge into Brooklyn and spent the next two and a half hours walking to my parentsŐ house in Sheephead Bay. My apartment complex in Battery Park City was singled out by the New York Times as having been trashed with building, airplane and crushed auto debris and jet fuel. The buildings were evacuated, the neighborhood is now obviously off-limits, and I don't know if I'm ever going back.

I did know or know of several people killed, like the three top Fire Dept. officials and the head of the Port Authority. I interviewed with the PA a few years ago at their 68th Floor complex, and was back in touch with them recently to see about possible employment opportunities. I was really interested in getting involved with what they do and working in the World Trade Center, in an office right across the street from my house that had a to-die-for view. I'm now glad I didnŐt pursue them that aggressively...

Wednesday, September 13, 2001 6:01AM

On reflection, two other aspects of the disaster.

One: Despite being the middle of a mass exodus  amid tens of thousands of people -- I felt utterly alone during the first hour of walking to Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, where my parents live. I was separated from colleagues, nowhere near my family and friends, had no cell phone, no access to pay phones, with black smoke filling the sky and dreadful thoughts that that some other awful things may yet occur filling my mind. Most people were quiet while walking over the Manhattan Bridge, even people walking with co-workers or friends, internalizing their fear and thoughts. Only after reaching relative safety in Brooklyn did people start to come back to themselves. A lot of people, myself included, were not sure they wanted to walk across the bridge, fearing a collapse from the weight or a possible explosion or attack, and the walk across the bridge was a tense one.

On the Brooklyn side of the bridge, merchants were handing out bottled water, a church set up a water station, and some drivers and commuter vans were offering free rides to people on the street...

The other thing was how confused people were about how to get to their ultimate destination, or even where to go. For people who wanted to get home to Long Island, did they try to walk to Penn Station in Manhattan, or walk to Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue Long Island Railroad station to see if service was available from there?

For people who lived in the Bronx or Queens -keep walking north in Manhattan, or go to Brooklyn? Are the subways running? What about buses? Is it true the bridges and tunnels have all been closed? I personally must have changed my mind and direction three to four times during the first twenty minutes of the Northward exodus. I first thought about going over the Brooklyn Bridge and walking to my parents, but pressed on, thinking I'll go to my brother's apartment on 14th Street and 5th Avenue.

A few minutes later, as the streets around Chinatown became more crowded and frantic with civilians, emergency personnel, and vehicles, I turned around and started walking back to the Brooklyn Bridge. After a minute or two of backtracking I stopped again and turned around and headed back north to my brother. I continued a block or two north of the Manhattan Bridge, and then just stopped in utter confusion.

Will the crowds of panicked people and emergency vehicles start to thin out the further north you went, or just increase? Should I walk over the Manhattan Bridge, or is it vulnerable to collapse or attack? For several minutes I just STOOD there, not knowing what to do. I finally decided to get the hell off the island and go to the relative safety of my parents house on the south Brooklyn shore, near the ocean, where the sky is usually a clear, wide expanse with air that tastes a little moist and salty, not gritty and acrid....

In The News
Video screens
355 SOUTH END AVENUE, SUITE 4M, NEW YORK, NY 10280, TEL: 212.775.0739