September 13, 2001

A Tale From New York

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Salil Gupte ’01 had an abnormal trip to work yesterday morning. Gupte, a former managing editor at The Daily Sun, started working north of the World Trade Center as an investment banker last month after graduating in May with a degree in economics. Living in Battery Park City just north of the World Financial Center, Gupte recounted his tale late last night:

“My story starts at 8:45 a.m. or so when I was about 300 yards away from the World Trade Center towers. I looked up to see a plane, that seemed to be accelerating, plow straight into the building. There was an explosion, a flash of flame and black smoke came billowing out of the hole in the building….

“We ran for cover as debris kept falling around us and there was an eerie sense of calm. The emergency response team was screaming, but everything seemed to be running efficiently and under control.”

Gupte returned to his apartment and watched the action from his apartment building.

“I saw the second plane crash outside the window. After the second plane crashed chaos ensued. That’s when the World Financial Center emptied out and we realized that it was no accident — at that point we knew it was an act of terrorism. Originally I thought it was some sort of freak accident.”

Gupte then left his apartment to move north away from the World Trade Center.

“I decided to go north to my office where I figured I would be safer, but the building had been cordoned off. Outside my office I watched the first tower collapse [causing me] to run up the street to make sure I was away from the soot and smoke. After running I turned around and 20 to 25 minutes later the other tower collapsed.”

Prior to the finality of seeing the towers fall, Gupte saw what he describes as the most terrible scene of the day.

“Before the buildings collapsed we saw people jumping from 60-70 stories up. They would hang out of the windows and then jump out. It happened multiple times. Initially it looked like debris, but the people didn’t float like the debris; they sank like rocks. Especially when people would jump up before falling out the window, we realized that it was not just the unconscious falling out. That’s when people started to scream.”

Following orders and to escape the smoke and debris, Gupte made his way northward.

“I decided to move further north as police, FBI and other officials were telling us to do. Public transportation was shut down and Manhattan was effectively sealed off. There were thousands of people moving north taking up more than half the streets. There were no buses until midtown and the buses were jammed. After walking about 60 blocks I got to a bus and took it to Columbia University where [a friend lives].”

Gupte spent the night at the Columbia apartment hearing updates. According to Gupte, cell phone service is “close to nonexistent” and line phone service is erratic. Gupte has been told by his employer that his building will be closed indefinitely.

Archived article by Andrew Gelfand