On the eve of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we remember the families and fallen heroes of America’s deadliest terrorist attack. With any tragedy, it’s often difficult to look past the destruction and find the positive moments. For two men who escaped death on 9/11, they were able to find their silver lining in the midst of chaos. This is their story.
On September 11, 2011, Silvion Ramsundar and Doug Brown were employees in Tower 2 of the World Trade Center. Ramsundar was working as the Vice President for Mizuho Capital Markets and was grabbing breakfast at the 44th-floor cafeteria when he heard the announcement that a small commuter plane had hit the North Tower, or Tower 1. He recalls, “They said, ‘Go back to your office.” His office was on the 80th floor, and as he was traveling up, his co-worker told him it was something big; not a commuter plane, but an Islamic terrorist attack that flew into the first tower at 8:45 am.
At 9:02 am, as Ramsundar was on the 78th floor waiting for the elevator, he heard a loud boom. That was the sound of the second plane crashing into tower two, the building he was in. One of the plane’s wings hit the floor he was on. Ramsundar remembers hitting the floor and having a fireball from airplane fluid fly over his head. He could feel the heat “coming down like a barbecue, just burning, burning, burning — and then it stopped.”
Ramsundar saw dead bodies all around him, even though it was dark. He felt alone. A “fist-sized” piece of the jet was lodged into his chest near his heart. He had a collapsed lung and a broken left arm. Miraculously, he and a co-worker made it to a stairwell, where they walked down to the 65th floor.
Meanwhile, Doug Brown was making his way out with his co-worker Stan Kapica when they saw Ramsundar in agony. Brown worked on the 70th floor as an executive for Morgan Stanley. When Brown saw Ramsundar, he put his handkerchief over the wound, and the three men made their way out of the building. Brown helped Ramsundar get medical attention outside. Ramsundar recalls, “I remember him saying to a firefighter, ‘You’ve got to get him out of here; he’s fading fast.” He was one of only 16 people above the 77th floor to survive.
The two men promised one another they would grab a beer after the ordeal, and a few weeks later, they did. Their two families met and shared an instant bond. While they no longer live on the same coast, (Brown resides in California), their families connect via phone and zoom calls. While both men still deal with depression and anxiety from the incident, they’ve been able to receive therapy to help cope. Brown works as a tutor in San Francisco with low-income kids, and Ramsundar is involved in real estate.
The last time they spoke was last year over zoom. “What’s really funny, it’s like we saw each other yesterday,” says Brown. Adds Ramsundar: “Even though time has passed, it doesn’t feel 20 years different, it doesn’t feel like 20 years.”
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