Eyewitness Account

The only thing atypical about Dan Kinch?s Tuesday morning was that the temp agency that employs the 1981 USF graduate assigned him to a location, at which he had never worked before.

So the Brooklyn resident figured he?d play it safe and board the subway into downtown Manhattan a little earlier than usual that morning to give himself some extra time to find the building.

When Kinch stepped off the subway at 8:45 a.m. at Whitehall Station in New York City, he had no idea that he was about to enter into a war zone.

?I was walking down Broadway, and when I turned the corner it looked like confetti was falling out of the sky,? Kinch said.

Kinch continued onto Wall Street, but even as he got closer to the building where he was working, which he estimated to be about 1,000 feet from the World Trade Center, the magnitude of the chaos was not yet evident.

?I thought there might have been a fire, but there have been fires there before, so it wasn?t much of a surprise,? he said.

Minutes later, Kinch entered the building at 14 Wall Street and boarded an elevator. It was on the way up to the 25th floor office that someone relayed the news to him.

Though shocked, Kinch checked in with a supervisor and walked to the office where he was going to work.

?When I walked in, nobody was working,? he said. ?They were all standing in front of a long window, looking up.?

Kinch found a phone to call his wife. As he relayed to her what had happened just a few minutes before, little did he know, more destruction was moments away.

?Someone said there was another plane coming,? he said. ?When I looked up, I saw the explosion.?

Kinch said some people screamed because they saw bodies being blown out of the window and falling to the ground. Through the window, he surveyed the devastation of and around the Twin Towers.

?I could see jagged lines from where the plane went in,? he said. ?I could see tractor-feed paper blowing around and decorative aluminum molding, 20 to 30 feet long.?

He then decided he could look no longer.

?I felt really guilty staring at the building. You could see right into it.?

Following the second crash, Kinch said he heard a message broadcast over the building?s intercom system that told people that they didn?t have to stay for work. But he said they were not ordered to evacuate, so he and many others remained.

Minutes later, the decision to stay nearly cost him his life.

??My God, it?s falling,? I heard someone say,? he said. ?When I looked, the tower tilted toward our building. I thought ?My god, I?m going to die,? and turned and covered my head to protect myself.?

A few seconds passed. Surprised to be alive, he uncovered his face to see what had transpired.

?When I looked up, it was gone,? he said.

Following the collapse, Kinch said the dust rose to the 25th floor, and they could just barely see over it.

?We were all looking at each other like ?Now what??? he said.

He and a large group of people decided to leave. After descending floors, Kinch said the scene on the bottom floor was unlike anything he?d seen before.

?It was weird because everything stayed on,? he said. ?Electric, phones, etc. And when we got down there, people were covered in light-gray soot.?

The same soot that covered the faces and bodies of people was 3 to 4 inches thick when Kinch went out onto the street.

?The ash was very fine and slippery. If you were not walking carefully, you could easily lose your footing,? he said.

Kinch stayed with the same group as they traversed the dust-covered streets. He said he heard a loud noise and a long, loud rumble and knowing the other tower was going down, the group ducked into another Wall Street building.

?When we went inside, they came up and told us to get away from the windows because they were afraid they were going to blow,? he said.

Shortly thereafter, firemen came and told all in the building to head east. He said they set off walking again, eventually joining a line of thousands crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. Walking over the bridge, he said the atmosphere was eerily somber.

He compared the walk to the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorah ? the cities that burned and God forbade its fleeing residents to look behind them.

?Nobody was looking back,? he said. ?It was deathly quiet.?

When they got to the other side, he said he looked back at the city?s famous skyline.

?It was like looking like someone whose teeth had been knocked out. There was just something missing,? he said.

Kinch said he best describes his feelings as numb, and he said doesn?t know what?s in store for him next.

?We can?t just move on,? he said.

Contact Ryan Meehanat oracleryan@yahoo.com