Martin Kelly just about survived September 11th
Galway native recalls that horrific day.
Athenry native Martin Kelly emigrated to New York just weeks
after Galwayıs 1964 All-Ireland football success. The New
York State President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians
is an avid Galway GAA supporter and was enthusiastically
looking forward to last Septemberıs All-Ireland final against
Meath when disaster struck: the World Trade Centre - where
he was employed as a Manager with telephone company Verizon
Corporation - was reduced to rubble. Hogan Stand was in
the process of editing a feature in which the avid gael
previewed the 2001 football final. We never heard from Martin
for a week. We feared the worst. Then, from the deathly
silence, emerged the following message in which the Athenry
man relates his remarkable tale of survival from the wreckage
of Americaıs darkest day:
My experience of the events of 9-11-01
On 9/11/01 I went to my office - located on the 11th floor
in 2 WTC - as I have for the past 21 years.
I am one of approximately 100 people who worked there for
Verizon Communications. Most of them are technicians and,
after they get their assignments from managers like myself,
they go to various offices around the World Trade Centre.
On Tuesday 9/11, at about 8:45am, I heard a loud bang and
the building shook. As I looked out the window, I could
see papers flying all around. Being the floor warden, I
shouted for everyone to leave the building. Everyone close
to me jumped up and ran out while I searched the floor for
anyone who hadnt heard the bang.
I found four technicians in an equipment room who said they
thought it was just construction work going on upstairs.
They were reluctant to leave but I forcefully told them
Youve got to go, as it looks pretty bad.
They wanted to know what happened - I told them I didnt
know. All I knew was that there
were papers flying all around outside. With that, we all
left together and went down to the lobby.
As floor warden, I was allowed to remain in the lobby with
a number of electricians and elevator mechanics who were
hanging around waiting to see what was going on. The elevators
were running and I hoped to come across my daughter Margaret
and her husband Mike who worked for Morgan Stanley on the
56th floor and 45th floors respectively of the same building.
I thought if I could meet Margaret and Mike in the lobby,
then we could call home together and tell my wife Anna Marie
we were all fine. That was not to happen so easily.
Just then, there was a huge bang. Its a good thing
I was under the over hang where the flags were hanging,
as glass and pieces of debris fell right in front of me.
At that point all the people in the lobby started to run.
I got pushed back and I was glad to get out of their way
to avoid being knocked down. I got a kick in the leg as
I moved back against the wall. I stopped to plan the best
means of escaping from the building. I knew I could not
go out the Liberty Street side, as there was glass and debris
Then I thought about going into the subways but abandoned
that idea as I thought it might fill with gas, causing an
explosion. Then I contemplated Vesey Street, but remembered
that was where the first explosion had happened, so I decided
to go out under the concourse towards the Trinity Street
side. As I jumped over the railing, there were Port Authority
Police directing people out every exit in front of the buildings.
Some of us helped to organize the move and shouted, Move
fast but dont
People moved very fast and were very orderly. I came out
of the building on Trinity Place and saw people lying on
the ground bleeding but was told to keep moving, as there
were police and firemen attending them. The cops and firemen
were great and were moving the people along as fast as they
could. I looked back and saw droves of people coming out
from the Trade Centre and was hoping Margaret and Mike were
After I got about a block away to Broadway, I looked up
to see fire and smoke coming from the top of the building
I just had fled. I tried to figure out which floor contained
the big hole with all the fire and smoke. I saw the top
of the hole was just about at the top sky lobby, which is
on the 78th floor, and
the hole went down about 10 stories. I was trying to figure
out if it was above where Margaret and Mike worked. It gave
me some relief to figure out that it was about twelve stories
above where Margaret worked. I then figured out that if
Margaret and Mike had left when the first bang hit, it would
have given them about 15 minutes to be on the way down.
I calculated that at maybe two floors a minute that would
have them down most of the way. I was praying to God to
help them get out safely.
I was so upset that I told God that I could not pray any
more for now but to please save Margaret and Mike.
I then went further away from the building and tried to
use my cell phone to contact home but it would not work.
I was very upset thinking about Margaret and Mike still
inside the burning building. A very nice gentleman saw me
and asked if I had anyone inside the building. I said: My
daughter and her husband were on the 56th and 45th floors.
He replied: Take my cell phone and try and call them
and he held my hand and prayed for their safe evacuation
but I still could not get through. I thanked him and began
to walk away. I then remembered that the last time there
was a bomb at the Trade
Centre in 1993, I went to 11 Broadway (about five blocks
away) as Verizon had another office there for the Wholesale
Dept. I went to 11 Broadway and everyone there was happy
to see me, as they hadnt known whether I had gotten
out safely. I called home and my wife - who had come home
from the school where she works - was very glad to hear
my voice. I asked her if she had heard from Margaret or
Mike and she said No. This was about 9:45am.
I asked her to stay by the phone in case they called and
to call me if she got any word from them.
I then called my daughter Bernadette, who worked at 55 Water
St about eight blocks from the Trade Centre and told her
I was OK. She had also been trying to get in touch with
us on our cell phones but they were not working. I told
her I would call her when I heard from Margaret and Mike.
I then called my son Martin who is studying for his Masters
at Fairfield University in Conn. and my son Sean who is
away at Manhattan College. I did not get them but left a
message on the answering machines.
I called home again to see if there was any word about Margaret
and Mike, but there was still no word.
Then I heard a rattle and the ground shook. As I looked
out the window, I saw a huge cloud of smoke coming towards
us at 11 Broadway. Someone shouted, Close the windows
and tape them! I ran and shut the window behind me
and one of the other managers put tape on it as everyone
helped close the windows and tape them up. We all stood
behind some columns since we did not know if there had been
a bomb explosion and thought the windows might blow in on
us. Thank God it was only debris and black dust! As it hit
the windows, it became as dark as if it was night outside
and this lasted about 20 minutes. This was rather creepy
as it had been such a lovely sunny day outside. I began
getting pains in my chest from worry, as I still had not
heard from Margaret and Mike. Just then the second tower
fell and we went through the same thing all over again.
Now my heart was pounding. I was thinking: Even if
Margaret and Mike made it out just before the collapse of
the towers they may have been hit by something falling
since I did not know how the towers fell or if there
were other buildings the towers may have fallen on.
I called home again and Anna Marie said she still had not
heard from them. I tried to calm myself down by beeping
the technicians who were at the Trade Centre that morning
and verify that they were OK. Slowly they called in as they
found phones that worked and informed us they were ok. I
called home again and was told by Anna Marie that she still
had not heard from Margaret and Mike - this was about 12
I went into the supervisors office of that location
and listened to the radio to hear what was happening and
then found out that a plane also hit the Pentagon, and another
had crashed in PA.
The pain in my chest was getting worse and it started to
worry me, so I tried to calm myself down. I was about to
go to the bathroom to wash my face and relax, as I was now
beginning to worry that I would have a heart attack, when
one of my co-workers shouted out Martin! Your wife
is on the
phone! I rushed to the phone and I knew by how excited
she sounded that she must have heard from Margaret and Mike.
She told me Margaret and Mike were safe and on their way
home. I felt as if a ton weight had been lifted off my chest
and jumped up and shouted to all that my daughter and her
husband were OK!! I stayed there at 11 Broadway until about
4:30. As I was about to leave, Kenny, the manager for 11Broadway,
said One World Trade Centre was about to fall. I said to
him: If that building falls, there is a power plant
under it and power will be lost. As I said that, the
lights went out.
We had to evacuate 11 Broadway, as nobody was allowed to
stay. I had to walk up to East Broadway to catch a train
to Brooklyn. As I walked, there was a heavy fog in the air
and I used a towel to cover
my mouth and nose. My eyes started to burn and I went past
a firehouse and one of the firemen told me to wash my eyes
in the mens room, which I did.
When I got home two hours later, Anna Marie and I went over
to see Margaret and Mike so we could hug and celebrate.
I was so happy to see them!!! As we hugged and told our
stories about the day, I asked Margaret to tell me how she
got out. She told me her story: she was on a conference
call on the 56th floor when the first plane hit. Her boss
shouted for everyone to get out -- he was not taking any
chances since he was in the building when the bomb went
off in 1993. She said she was about ten flights down when
a message came over the PA system for people to go back
to their desks as the building was secure. I asked her if
she considered going back, and she said she had for maybe
a half second. She told me she was down about 30 flights
when the second plane hit and it shook the building in a
manner that seemed to be like an earthquake. In hindsight,
she is glad she did not
know at the time what was happening. She came out of the
building on Trinity Place also, and ran across the street.
She tried to call Mike and myself on her cell phone but
could not get through.
Exasperated, she looked up and who was standing right there
- but her husband Mike! He said that he wasnt about
to leave the area without finding her first. Now wasnt
that Gods hand guiding them to each other?
Mike told me how he got out: He was at the elevators when
he realized he did not have his cell phone with him so he
ran back for it, as it was important since both Margaret
and he had a plan if anything ever happened. They both bought
cell phones on the same day after Mike started working in
the Trade Centre and they had established a plan that if
anything happened they were to call each other on their
cell phones and meet at a garage on Greenwich Street.
I thank God they met, as they were company and solace for
each other on the way home. They explained that the reason
it took so long to call home was that the networks were
down but they knew that they had to keep on moving. After
trying to decide what to do, they reasoned that although
they hated the idea of walking across a bridge, it was the
only way home. So they walked across the Manhattan Bridge
(the Brooklyn Bridge seemed to be more of a target for any
other terrorist attack), and stood in terror as they watched
One World Trade tower collapse. After crossing the bridge,
they walked down Flatbush Avenue until they were able to
catch a bus, after which they finally were able to use their
cell phones to call home. They were never happier to be
on Brooklyn soil and that much closer to home.