September 11 attacks, 9/11: A survivor's story twenty years later

Its been 20 years since 9 11 joe ditmar, was working on the 105th floor of the second tower. When he had to evacuate. He was rushing down the stairs when the second plane crashed just a few stories above him, it just missed him. He miraculously made it out alive and is with us to talk about this nearly 20 years to the day later joe welcome to breakfast television coast to coast here in canada. How you doing im doing great and thank you for having me its great to have this opportunity to speak with you joe talk to us about that day almost 20 years ago. What exactly happened and where were you um? I was on the 105th floor, as you mentioned, in an enclosed conference room with 53 other insurance compatriots and uh ready to have a meeting uh. The meeting was supposed to commence at 8 30. No insurance meetings ever started on time up to this day, but at 8 46 the lights in that room flickered, because we were in that enclosed conference room, we couldnt, see, hear feel anything just this flicker of lights and a gentleman from the company that we were Visiting came in told us there had been an explosion in the north tower told us that we needed to evacuate and 54 of us all did the same thing to this poor man. We waved our hands at him a little bit and we said hey its new york.

Things are always happening here. Let us have our meeting um that man said: hey im a volunteer firefighter volunteer fire marshal for the hundred fifth hundred fourth hundred third floors. I cant leave until everybody leaves and i wan na leave, and i know he got everybody out of that room that day, because i was the last guy out, wow um, all right so joe, so youre youre going youre moving. Then the second plane hits literally right above you. Is it right? Is it possible for you to articulate to us what that felt like physically something that you hopefully never have to feel you are inside this fire stairwell, this concrete bunker and it starts to shake so violently from side to side. Um the concrete spidering out the handrails. Breaking away from the wall, the steps like waves in the ocean undulating underneath our feet, and we feel this heat ball blowing by us and we smell this jet fuel and this thing keeps rocking back and forth back and forth. It felt like forever. Maybe it was minutes um, maybe seconds and it finally settles and comes to and you would think there would be massive pandemonium, but we reacted to this with nothing but a stun, stunned silence and then joe there was a split second decision. You made that saved your life, whether to take the elevator or the stairs. Tell us about that. Yeah. At the 78th floor sky lobby level. Um, you had a choice there.

You could either go to a bank of elevators and try to take them down the rest of the way or get back in the stairwell, the woman that was running our meeting kind of frantically screaming to me to come with her to go to the elevator um. I you know i finally, some common sense took over my brain ive, been in this business for 44 years, and i thought to myself: building state of duress fire emergency shouldnt get in an elevator and um. I never said a word to her wave to her politely went back to the fire stairwell, arguably the best decision ive made and what is still my life because, as you mentioned, i was somewhere between 74 and 72 when that second plane went through our building and That went through our building between 77 and 83. joe. How far were you from the buildings when they began to fall? We were about eight blocks, north of the building about eight minutes away, um. That was at that time. The first chance we had to hear from a radio that we could hear coming out of a laundry that we were passing by that this was an on purpose. Terrorist attack and our jaws just dropped to the ground. This doesnt happen here. This was the attitude this doesnt happen here, but even more incredibly you you hear the crumbling concrete, the twisting steel of what once was at south tower, that building that we had been in just eight minutes: nine minutes prior coming to the ground and even more hauntingly.

The sound of hundreds of thousands of people on the streets of new york all screaming the same blood curdling scream all at the same time, joe last question tomorrows 20 years to the day – and i would assume you have thought about this every day since you dont Seem like a person considering what youve been through, who takes life for granted anymore? I would guess thats the truth, uh. That is the absolute truth. You learn a lot of things from an experience like this, not the least of which is you learn the whole concept of carp bay, dm live the day. There are no guarantees and you learn how to prioritize been in this insurance business for 44 years, been around for 65 years. The most important thing is family friends and the maker that you believe in, and i am so so thankful to be able to still be here with my family and my friends and uh forever grateful to the uh. The man above who saved me and helped me that day amen and thank you for sharing your story. I know you do talks all year, long upwards, to 60 speaking sessions a year. You have something called the always remember initiative and thank you for helping to share your story and what that felt, like you know, to everybody at home today, whether you lived through it like we did uh watching on television and just feeling complete empathy and shock and Horror, what we were witnessing was the worst of humanity and then seeing the resilience and strength that you showcased so beautifully today.

So thank you so much for speaking on behalf of you know, others who survived and those those who didnt for a moment of reflection. Thank you, joe love to you and your family youre quite welcome and thank you very much. We can use all the love we can get thanks. Sending it to you. Love is always a good thing. Joe take care. Brother god bless. Time is 8 46 right now. Uh at the time when the first 840 for the record, its amazing 846, is when the first plane hit the tower nearly 20 years ago.

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