NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – Michael O’Brien was sitting at his desk at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods on the 88th floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center when American Airlines flight 11 slammed into the north tower on 9/11.
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“There was an explosion and the building shook and there was a big gas ball of fire that shot across our windows,” he said.
His wife Julie started receiving phone calls from family and friends almost immediately. First her mother called, then she received a frantic phone call from a family friend.
“Tom called and said, ‘Where’s Michael?’ I said he is at work. He said, ‘Which building?’ The second one that got hit. He goes ‘Oh my God. It just collapsed,” said Julie.
But, for hours neither husband nor wife could reach the other and she spent hours thinking Michael might well be gone.
“I remember just kind of getting down on the floor and just throwing myself on the floor, putting my head against the tiles on the floor and just saying ‘God, just help me that you’re there,” she said.
Their then 11-year-old son Chris, now a Stanford University senior, sat in a school library.
“We were just kind of waiting in silence. I definitely did some praying,” he said.
His prayers were answered because his father ignored announcements to stay put, took two sets of crowded elevators down, made his way to a packed ferry boat, and ended up at a colleague’s Jersey City apartment.
“When we walked in, his wife was there with the TV on and that was the first time we saw the plane actually flying into the building,” he told WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb. “Then we stood on the balcony and were looking out at the World Trade Center and all of a sudden our building collapsed.”
“That’s when it really struck me that we were going to lose a lot of our colleagues, a lot of our friends,” he said.
Sixty-seven of his friends and colleagues were killed and, after ten years, the emotion is still palpable and powerful.
Once Julie and Michael got in touch with each other, she recorded a new greeting for their answering machine saying, “You’ve reached the O’Briens. Michael is alive. Thank God. God bless America.”
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