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Interview with 9/11 Survivor Joseph Dittmar

From Audio: Victims Ep. 1- 9/11 Survivor Joesph Dittmar

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Victims
Duration: 13:25
Joseph Dittmar recalls his harrowing escape from the 105th floor of the World Trade Center's South Tower.
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Joseph Dittmar recalls his harrowing escape from the 105th floor of the World Trade Center's South Tower. Dittmar, who was visiting NYC from Chicago, was in a business meeting when the attacks first began. He remembers the brave first responders that helped save the lives of him and his colleagues.
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really, I tell people all the time, I had that pit of my stomach, I want my mommy feeling. I just, I just at that point, I I knew I just wanted to go home. I was so afraid, I had no idea what I was afraid what I was afraid of. There were people on that floor screaming at the top of their lungs and yet they seem to be frozen in their seats or standing at the window watching and um you're, you're seeing things, you shouldn't see, you know, you see in the concrete and the paper and the people being pulled out of that north tower against their will and it's wow, unbelievable sight and I just wanted to go home, I knew I just wanted to go home and um I went to go back down the fire stairwell and they did make an announcement right, right at that time, basically that the, the event had been contained to the North Tower, they believed the South tower was safe. Uh if you worked in the South Tower, uh they suggested that you return to your workstation uh if you were a visitor, they suggested that you stay where you were until further notice and um if you felt you needed to continue to leave, you know, do so with, with caution and a lot of times when I do these presentations about 9 11, uh people will say that's the most incredible thing, why would they say that? But it actually, it's right, it was actual logical sense you've got somebody in charge of the building security down at the lobby level for sure. Okay, you've got a cop on one side, you've got a firefighter on the other side and they're saying, hey um you can't let these people out of the building, it's raining concrete and steel and bodies outside, what are you going to do? And I'm sure that person very logically thought, hey our electricity's on ventilation system is working, lights are on elevators going up, everybody just stay put safer here than there because you could have debris and things all. Exactly, they weren't gonna let us out of the building anyhow. So so it was it was a logical thing to do. Um little did they know, little did they know? And um I I really believe that that's one of the first times where um a little bit of good luck, a little bit of critical decision making and a whole lot of divine providence set in because I I thought to myself, oh man, now I'm not waiting for anything, I'm going to get down and out of this building anyway, I can because there's just so that's the first time I had that something's not feeling that something's not right and uh and I got to go and uh I started to make my way down at that point. Okay, so you're you're making your way down to and do you get all the way out before the second plane hits are don't I wish what happens van just to set the picture a little bit uh you know, at least the mental picture a little bit, The 78th floor in each of the buildings as well as the 44th floor in each of the buildings were Called Sky lobbies. And they were 2nd and 3rd lobbies in the building because the elevators couldn't be uh engineered at that point in time. That goes straight up 110 flights of uh inside. Okay, so you had these staggered areas where the elevators would go up on an express basis to 44 and than 78. So I had gotten down the steps uh the 78th floor, the woman that was running the meeting that I was in, screaming at me to come to the elevator with me with her. And I saw a couple of guys that were in the meeting with us um you know, following her to the elevator. And I I just had another one of those uh good sense moments where I thought to myself building in the state address. I know it's not my building, but I don't think I I don't think I should go in an elevator and waved at the woman and told they didn't even say a word or just turned around, went back to the stairwell that I was in and I have to tell you Britney, That's about probably it's probably one of the best decisions I've ever made in what's still my life because I was between The 74th and 72nd floor in that Stairwell when the second plane went through our building And that plane went through our building on an angle between floors 77 and 83. So we were just a few stories below the strike. So I got to tell you, I've never felt anything like that. I mean, I was gonna say just the impact from hitting and it shook, it shook your the whole building, imagine. And oh my God, you're in this concrete bunker, right, this fire stairwell and it's just, you know, it's it's it's four walls of solid cinder block and and coated cement and it's shaking back and forth and the handrails are breaking away from the wall and the concrete is fighting ring out and uh you, you the steps are like waves in the ocean, undulating underneath your feet and you feel this heat ball blowing by you and you smell this jet fuel and and it just felt like this thing was rocking back and forth forever. Maybe it was seconds or a minute. Um and it finally settled and man, you would think that there would be craziness in that stairwell, but it was just a stunned silence. Nobody knew, you know, we saw that plane in the other building, we thought, okay, a fuel cell exploded, that's why we smelt the jet fuel and felt that heat ball, we never, in our wildest dreams even had an idea that a plane had just gone through our building four or five stories, even after seeing the first one, you just had just never for a second thought that this happened again because that was a freak accident. And then this must be something else. That's exactly right. I mean, you know, and and and and we all grab for our cell phones again and it was actually kind of good that they weren't working at that point because ignorance was bliss that point. You know what, we didn't know what we didn't know, couldn't hurt is the only thing we really at that point had to concentrate on was getting um out of the building. And how many people are you are still because I mean, I know that they announced, everybody go back to your workstations. How many people, you know kept going with you down the stairs. Was it packed out or? Well, we you got to remember the building. We were on 105. Okay, so above 105 in the South Tower, 107 and 110 were the observation decks and and and it was too early in the morning for those observation decks to be open. Thank God. And the other floors above 105 that I didn't mention. We're heating and ventilation and air conditioning and elevator equipment and elevator cable. And so we were coming down from the highest occupied level of the building at that time. Okay. And so there wasn't this boatload of foot traffic for us because we were the last ones out and a good portion of the people decided just to stick to where they were and wait it out and see what was going on, wow. I mean, I had a guy uh you know, it made sense to the degree that, you know, you're in a place where the electricity is working and and you know, like I said, everything was good and so there's an accident, but it was over there and we're over here and everything's fine, but now you've got the second night the planes hit your building and then people I imagine are no longer they feel it, and they're saying, oh no time to get out right, Except that they couldn't because with the way that the plane went through the building and cut access to Going down in the fire stairwells off to virtually everybody. Um so if you were above 82, you didn't get get down, you didn't get down. Oh my God, gives me chills thinking about that, But you're you're like literally right underneath it when it happens and you just keep plugging down. That's right. We um we we we saw something that you don't see enough of uh boy, especially in today's day and age and we could all use a whole lot more of it. That is that human nature where people do what they need to do for who they need to do when they need to do it, everybody became teammates. Uh, there was no black and white, there was no red and blue, there was no republican or democrat, there was no jew or muslim, Everybody was uh, buddies and everybody became teammates and there were people in the stairwell that were coming off of crutches or on a cane or coming out of a wheelchair, plain scared and people just like you and me, uh, started to help these people physically and emotionally and help them get down the steps. I've, I've never, ever witnessed anything so immediately heroic. Is that I mean, and I always call it typical american, um, we can be so divided, but in a crisis, man, we are unbelievable, We are absolutely unbelievable when there's a crisis, we forget all that crap and, and, and we do what we need to do to get through it. And, and that was a day when it was at its best and its finest, not just their outside of that, I think, and for the end, for the weeks following that, I mean, you know, it was just, it was just incredible uh, to see that unification and people say, well, you know, we've forgotten that and I don't think we've forgotten it, I think what it is is we put it in the back of our minds, we compartmentalize everything, We're human beings okay, then you get the tax before the next time you can and then, and then, and then when the tasks at hand, we do it again. Look, look, hey, look at the firefighters that go into the, into those wildfires in California. Yeah. You know, you think they're crazy, but you know, they're, they're like, they're like, you know, bees to the honey. I mean, they're just, they're drilling, supposed to do. And here's a day when even the most common of us with no heroic skills, with no superhero characteristics, we became teammates with each other and just help each other out and we could out of that building. Let's get out, let's get down. It's not right. And I imagine going through your mind. That's right. Something isn't right. We got to get the heck out of Yeah, that's exactly what it is. And, and we probably Britain witnessed that and knew it. It's when I knew something was really, really bad was, you know, we were, we were all going down, everybody was going in the same direction, right? Everything was copasetic 34 people wide. It wasn't real maddening because we were the last ones coming out. So we didn't have a lot of foot traffic and Everything was was pretty copasetic until until we saw the around the 35th floor, we saw the cops and the firefighters and paramedics, from uh. how do you see them. So you see them coming out, you're, you're in the stair, coming up, They're coming up to see what we're going down. And they just had looks in their eyes that told the whole story without ever saying a word. It's real bad. They knew, yeah, they knew they were going up the steps to try to fight a fire, but they couldn't beat, they knew they were going up the steps to try to save lives that they couldn't save. And most importantly, they knew they were going up and they do. They knew they weren't coming back. God, I can't imagine how brave, you know, you would have to be to be the to be that guy, you know, sounds selfless and just amazing doing what they doing, what they pledged to do to protect, to serve to save. I mean, you know, and I said just like same thing all the time. How could how could be that brave or strong? I, I don't know, I just, I don't know, but I know that they're doing what they're doing, helped lux other people get out. Even if it was just from the whole concept of them telling people go, go, go, don't stop, get out, do what you have to do to get out. And it was, it's the haunt, it's the thing that haunts me the most is you can tell from my reaction to this. It's um they're trying to save you, there, there, there and there still purpose saying here and here, They are, giving them themselves in order to do that. I mean, just an incredible thing. It isn't, it's beyond incredible. It's extraordinary.
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