Outside, the world watched in disbelief as the two World Trade Center towers, one by one, were hit by jet airliners. Inside Tower Two, Lo, 24, was sitting at his desk, beginning his second week of work. The havoc began with a loud “Boom!” that sounded as though a large desk had been dropped on the floor. Shortly afterward, Lo’s computer began to surge. Lo then turned around and peered out the window. “It looked as though it was raining papers, and my first thought was, who’s on the roof throwing papers?” Looking out toward the rest of the people on the semi-filled floor, Lo began to hear panicking voices saying, “We’ve got to get out of here!”

Still in a state of confusion and having no clue that the first tower had been hit, Lo quickly followed a group of people from his floor toward the elevators on the 44th floor. “I didn’t even know where the stairs were. You generally don’t walk up 73 flights of stairs,” said Lo. While going downstairs, rumors of a plane hitting the first tower began to circulate. “You just heard people saying that a plane hit the other building, and I’m thinking a Cessna or a little prop plane’s wing clipped the building.” Some people claimed to have seen the plane hit, while others couldn’t remotely fathom what was happening. Regardless, thousands of people continued to walk down the seemingly endless flights of stairs.

When Lo finally reached the sky lobby on the 44th floor, masses of people were congregating from all different directions. “We were all just kinda hanging out and talking. Everyone was asking what’s going on and I heard someone say, ‘A plane hit. It was an American Airline 767,’ and I actually laughed a little bit. That’s a jet! That’s a big plane!” said Lo. “I thought he was wrong.” Suddenly, a voice came over the loudspeaker and said, “The fire department is downstairs. Remain in the building. Do not go outside. There’s a fire in the first World Trade Center. Please remain put. If you want, you can go back up to work. Everything ‘seems’ secure.” After the message was announced, Lo proceeded to wait for an elevator back up to his floor, but it was the uncertainty of the word “seems” and the shakiness of the announcer’s voice that caused Lo to think twice.

Lo headed to the window to see what was going on outside, and, suddenly, there was another loud “Boom,” and the building began to sway. “You could feel the building shifting back and forth and then I looked at the elevators and there was smoke coming out from the crevices,” said Lo. Scared and with the building still swaying, Lo quickly walked with the rest of the people toward the 44th floor staircase and started to walk down. Luckily, the lights were still on and, to move faster, some women removed their high heels. “I was trying to logically think of what happened. Why did our building just shake?” The only conclusion Lo came to, while walking down the stairs, was that maybe it was the antenna from Trade Center One that may have toppled over and hit the second building. To him, this was the only comprehensible answer to what was happening. Terrorist attacks were the furthest thing from his mind.

With his feet uncontrollably shaking, it wasn’t fear, but rather anxiety to get out of the building that was consuming Lo.

Finally, Lo arrived in the lobby, technically the second floor. He looked outside the huge glass windows. “I looked out, expecting to see all these people, but it was a ghost town. When I looked out, it was grayness and a lot of debris,” said Lo. While Lo was still completely bewildered by the apocalyptic scene outside, he observed a security guard escorting everyone to narrow escalators down to the mall, which was the bottom level. “Everyone was exiting from the staircases going down, so there’s this huge pileup of people trying to go down these two escalators that weren’t even working and it was like a traffic jam,” said Lo. Cops were yelling, “Don’t Run!” as the mass of people, including Lo, were escorted back up the stairs to the second level again. “This time, I saw this guy and he’s got a T-shirt on and it’s ripped, and his whole arm is singed, and I’m thinking, what happened to you?” said Lo.

Minutes later, he evacuated the building and looked up to see a cloud of smoke coming out of Tower Two. Cops were shouting, “Keep walking! Keep walking!” as Lo walked farther from the building, continuing to look up every so often. People all around were crying, and he overheard someone say that the Pentagon had been hit as well. Ironically, Lo found himself walking past a church cemetery. He stopped about 1,000 feet from the building. Cops were shouting, “Don’t use your cell phone! Don’t use your cell phone!” as Lo unsuccessfully tried to use it anyway. “I felt pretty safe, but I also didn’t expect the buildings to come down. So I was just watching.”

Captured by the surrealism of the whole event, Lo watched as the fire trucks began to roll up. His next thought was, how are they going to put out the fire, because it was so high up? At that point, everyone was standing around, talking, and looking upward. All of a sudden, a cop shouted into a megaphone, “Stand back! The building’s not secure!” All eyes were fixed on the top of the tower. Lo watched as the building began to fall. “All I thought was, oh my God, a bomb went off!” People began to scream, and Lo, along with the mass of people, started running as the tower came crashing down around them.

Smoke and debris filled the air as Lo ran toward the Brooklyn Bridge. “It was so scary because you could see the debris coming at you really quickly. You see pictures from the news of people running from the debris, and I was one of those people,” said Lo. His next thought was that it was poison gas and that he needed to get away from it quickly.

At that point, Lo was running on the ramp headed toward the Brooklyn Bridge. The debris was clearing a bit; however, Lo now faced a new dilemma. Although he was running toward the upper level of the bridge, panic gripped him. “I’m thinking, okay, if they blow the bridge up, is it safer to be on the upper level or the lower level? If I have to jump, would I survive?” Lo said. He then decided that he didn’t want to be on the bridge and, instead, wanted to go uptown, but that meant that he’d have to walk back into the cloud of debris. Choosing the first option, Lo continued onto the bridge, staying on the upper level. “I thought, if the upper level collapses, it will collapse onto the lower level.” At first, everyone was sprinting, then jogging, and, eventually, walking. There was a light dusting of debris in the air as Lo made it to the other side of the bridge. An unusual calmness swept over the crowd, which was occasionally broken by someone crying. “I wanted to get off this bridge because I didn’t feel safe,” Lo said. Not realizing how big of an event this was and that the whole world already knew what was happening, Lo, after about ten tries, got through to his brother in Chicago. “I don’t know if you know this, but my building just got hit with a plane, and it actually just fell down, but I’m safe.”

Although Lo was safe, he wanted to be “really safe” and not on the bridge anymore. “There was this sense of conformity. I wanted to run, but no one else was so I didn’t.” Once in Brooklyn, Lo’s plan of action was to somehow get to the safety of his home. Without having to pay, Lo got on a bus that was heading toward Queens. All around him, people were talking about what had just happened, and this is when Lo found out that both towers had fallen. As he switched onto another bus, he heard over the radio that intelligence thought that Osama Bin Laden was behind the attacks. As Lo looked back toward Manhattan, all that he could see was a trail of smoke.

After a traumatic day, Lo made it safely to his house, and he called his parents, who were on vacation in Italy. “I heard my mom’s voice, and she started to cry. Then I heard my dad crying. They said, ‘You know it’s your birthday, and you had 300 angels escorting you down those stairs.’”

As humans, we are put here to learn and, with each day, we’re shaped into the people whom we will eventually become. Each experience that we go through in life will make us come to realizations about not only ourselves, but also about the people around us. September 11 was a day that opened many people’s eyes to the reality of the world and to their own mortality. This day acted as a huge lesson to us all, to not take any aspect of our lives for granted because you never know when it will be gone forever.

For Tom Lo, he realizes how incredibly lucky he is. Not only did he manage to walk out of the building untouched, he also didn’t know anyone who died. “There could have been a 100 “what if’s” and they’re all very close,” said Lo. “I’m thankful to have my life.” By Amanda Zackem

Talk about coincidence. As an American citizen, it’s unsettling enough to have your birthday on Sept 11, but to also work in the World Trade Center is quite the double whammy. Oddly enough, this was the case for native Buffalonian Tom Lo, who was working for Morgan Stanley on the 73rd floor of Tower Two on that tragic day.