Gideon Kazin works for the Odigo high-tech company, whose offices are two blocks south of the World Trade Center. He was starting his day with a workout in the health club on an upper floor of a nearby building when tragedy struck.
"When the first aircraft crashed into the building, we heard a loud noise like thunder, and there was a strong tremor," the 31-year-old Kazin said. "We thought that it was an accident and left the place. We went outside to look. We stood in the street and masses of people began to run in our direction. A black cloud of smoke pursued them and a moment later, the whole street was completely dark. It was impossible to see where you were headed," he said.
"We covered our faces with our shirts and groped our way toward the East River. We then walked north along the river since that was the only place where the dust hadn't reached. Then we saw the second building collapse. Only then did we realize that it wasn't an accident, but a terror attack."
Kazin's friend, Ophir Almagor, a 29-year-old philosophy student, has spent the past two days helping to clear rubble and bodies from the area. "When the second tower collapsed, I went looking for Gideon and another friend, since I knew that their office was very close," she said. "When I saw the first building collapse, I was afraid my friends were buried underneath the rubble. When I arrived at the scene, everything was dark. I entered a nearby building for a half hour until the dust settled and then continued. By then, the area was already closed to civilians. I saw a fireman begin to transport the injured to a hospital, and I joined him. They gave me a uniform and I began to evacuate bodies. That's what I've been doing for the past two days.
"The first body we pulled out was the commander of the fire brigade which arrived after the first building collapsed. The 400 firefighters in the second rescue unit took off their helmets and stood for a moment of silence. It was a chilling sight... We continued to pull out bodies but found no survivors."
Ari Braun was on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center (WTC) when the American Airlines plane crashed into the northern tower of the building. A former Israeli, Braun works for an investment company on the 101st floor and was waiting for an elevator to take him the rest of the way. "The second elevator was damaged as a result of the explosion, and the workers on the upper floors were simply stuck there," he said. Braun is nearly always at his desk at 8:30 A.M., but fate was on his side on Tuesday - he spent a few minutes at his son's school, on the way to work and missed the elevator by several seconds. Braun had no idea what happened when he heard the explosion. "I crawled through the darkness until I saw some light. I found someone there who works with me. She had burns all over her hands and said to me: `Don't leave me here alone.' I took her with me and began to descend the emergency staircase. People didn't know yet that a plane had crashed into the building. There was some alarm, but definitely no panic."
Mark Zandmer, an architect, also arrived a few minutes late for his job at the WTC after deciding to take the subway. From a short distance away, he could see smoke beginning to billow out of the twin towers. Zandmer, a 62-year-old Holocaust survivor, returned home and opened a bottle of vodka. "The euphoria that I felt after understanding that again I've manged to survive was short-lived," he said. "I don't know when we return to work. Our place of work, as of now, doesn't exist."
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