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New Yorkers try to carry on

9/17/2001 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York

By Linda Bloom*

NEW YORK (UMNS) - As the New York Stock Exchange prepared to reopen on Sept. 17, others close to the World Trade Center tragedy also have found ways to carry on.

Steve Gill, who works for Standard Chartered Bank, which had offices at 7 World Trade Center, has set up shop at the bank's back-up site across the Hudson River in Jersey City, N.J. All 400 employees survived the blast, but the building later collapsed.

"We've just recreated our business and got back to quite a high level of providing services to our customers," said Gill, who is a member of Mamaroneck United Methodist Church in Westchester County, north of the city. His wife, Sue, is lay leader of the church.

The tragedy was not Gill's first brush with terrorism. In the early 1990s, an IRA truck bomb aimed at the NatWest tower destroyed his office building in London. Because it was a Saturday morning, he was at home.

But the Sept. 11 attack was much, much worse. He had left the office, walking across the World Trade Center plaza toward a restaurant at the base of Tower No. 2., where guests from India were waiting for him to join them for breakfast. As he entered the restaurant, he heard a noise like a bomb and looked up through the restaurant's glass roof to see debris falling toward it. Perhaps because of the roof's angle, the debris bounced off and landed in the plaza instead, just where he had been a moment earlier.

Gill and his guests managed to get out of the area and set off walking, with two other women, on the West Side Highway. About 10 minutes later, "the second plane passed literally over my head. I turned and saw it disappear into World Trade Center No. 2." He then realized the center had been a target and they began to run.

When they stopped in Battery Park to rest, "the (first) building went down like a candle." After a moment of eerie silence, billowing clouds of ash descended on them like a snowstorm. "You couldn't see anything, but in the middle of that we heard the second explosion," he said. After the second tower collapsed, all went black.

Gill slowly made his way home, taking the ferry to Staten Island, where a colleague eventually picked him up at the Staten Island Hotel. They drove across to New Jersey and up to the Tappan Zee Bridge, where they could cross the Hudson into Westchester County. "My wife and family thought I was dead for about two hours," he added.

He has mourned, with other church members, the loss of friends and family in the community. But at the same time, Gill stressed, there is a need to "keep your foot on the gas, so the business gets rebuilt and the terrorists don't achieve their goals."

Larry McGaughey, who serves as chancellor, or corporate lawyer, of the United Methodist New York Annual Conference, is expecting the four employees of his law firm to meet Sept. 17 in his Flatbush, Brooklyn, home instead of their office near the World Trade Center.

McGaughey was at his desk at the 217 Broadway location when he heard "what sounded like a missile" when the first airplane struck a tower. He took a look out the window, saw the gaping hole and thought it must be an accident, and went back to work. Soon after, he realized it was much, much more and after the second plane struck, his building was evacuated. He picked up his briefcase, grabbed a backup tape of his computer system, and left.

He decided to walk to his children's school in Brooklyn Heights and headed for the Brooklyn Bridge, where he saw the first tower collapse. That was his scariest moment because he feared a stampede across the bridge. "You could feel that terror," he explained. "It was a physical energy that passed over that bridge."

At that point, business was the last thing on his mind. "Even later, when I saw the building fall, I didn't once think about my files, my office. It didn't occur to me that I wouldn't be back."

McGaughey, a member of Park Slope United Methodist Church, knew that his wife, Deborah, who had called him earlier from Greenwich Village, was safe. But he didn't know how long it would take her to get to the school where he was waiting with their sons, Ray, soon to be 12, and David, 10. Eventually, they went home, where they found shards of burned paper, including a World Trade Center elevator pass, on the ground.

"The worst thing that I saw was the people jumping (from the towers) and I still have a lot of trouble with that," he remembered.

To cope, McGaughey recalled something Norman Vincent Peale once said about using tools to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. "The tool that I have been using is a prayer, praying for the souls of those who were jumping and praying for their loved ones."

McGaughey also is much relieved. "I have tremendous gratitude," he declared. "I am one of the lucky ones."

Beverly Judge, a former employee of United Methodist Communications, also is one of the lucky ones. She was in the offices of Faith & Values Media, the group that founded the Odyssey Network in 1988, across from Trinity Church and near the World Trade Center.

She first had a hint that something was wrong when the windows rattled from a blast of noise. Someone from the other side of the building reported that he had seen what appeared to be a missile going into the tower in a reflection on his computer screen. Out the window, "we could see the first tower that was hit, we could see that gaping hole and the flames going up."

After the building collapse, Judge and other staff left their building, walking toward the East River in a cloud of soot and ash. Then she and a colleague headed uptown, finally catching a bus. When she got off the bus at 110th Street, far from downtown, she was still covered with soot. "The thing that was so astounding was how normal things were there," she added. "It was as if I was from outer space."

Faith & Value Media's nine staff people currently are working out of a conference room in the midtown offices of the Hallmark Channel and planning their own coverage of the tragedy. "We can't do the very quick response that the broadcast networks do, but we are doing some special programming," Judge said.
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*Bloom is director of the New York office of United Methodist News Service.


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