When New Jersey resident Guy Yasika went to work on Tuesday Sept. 11, 2001, he had no idea that it would be the day that changed his life.
Yasika worked on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center but, around 9 a.m., he decided to meet some co-workers on the 43rd floor for breakfast.
“The building started to move and we heard an explosion,” he said. “It felt like the building was going to topple; it moved so much. I dropped to my knees and began to pray. I asked God to spare us, guide us and use me in the situation as best as I could.”
Two airplanes hit the Twin Towers that clear morning, knocking the first tower down to the ground within minutes, killing thousands of people. But at the time, Yasika said he had no idea what had happened — only that he needed to get out of harm’s way.
Yasika and many others evacuated the building through the stairs. He ran down 43 flights of stairs that day.
“Each floor meant we were closer to our rescue,” Yasika said. “Smoke began filtering into the stairs. The smoke burned our eyes, lips and mouths. But thank God we were alive. When we reached the ground floor and could see outside, we now knew how bad it was. Explosions, fires and glass were everywhere outside the building.”
As he continued his journey, he said things worsened.
“Pictures cannot capture it,” he said. “It is the smell of smoke, the cries and tears, fire, and chaos and the smell of death in the air.”
When Yasika finally made it out of harm’s way, he ventured a look at the building he used to work in.
“We looked up. My heart sank. I knew I cheated death,” he said. “I knew I was alive and anyone in our office was not going to be able to survive what I could see from the ground. Right where our offices were was now a gaping hole where a plane entered the building.”