By Roger Ball
Every American over the age of 30 remembers exactly what they were doing when they first heard about the 9/11 attacks and saw the images.
Throughout the morning another plane crashed into the second tower and then other crashes in Pennsylvania and the Pentagon.
There were the videos of the towers burning, some people jumping nearly a hundred stories to avoid burning, the towers eventually collapsing and the uncertainty of what was really happening. People were glued to the news.
One Sun City West resident didn’t learn about the additional crashes until much later. In the meantime, he was living a survival story of a lifetime.
Myron Finegold and his wife Susan now live in Sun City West and he is Sheriff’s Posse of Sun City West commander.
On that very significant day in American history, Mr. Finegold was the manager of office spaces for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and in his office on the 82nd floor of the North Tower—just eight floors below where the plane hit the building.
Since that day he has done very few interviews but agreed to share some memories with Independent Newsmedia.
He lost 84 fellow employees that day. But he also saved many lives by helping them escape the building.
After the original crash, fuel from one of the jetliners exploded down a stairway, immediately killing some people, and keeping all others from using elevators for escape.
Mr. Finegold along with colleague Vinne Borst immediately began leading people down a stairway. This was an extremely difficult task under any circumstance and the building design didn’t help.
Reports after the event stated the buildings were not constructed for mass evacuations, and each tower had only three narrow stairwells. When the planes struck, the impact force caused some shift in the building structure that often jammed emergency doors in their frames.
That was the problem when Mr. Finegold and his group reached the 77th floor. A fire door was jammed and they couldn’t go any further in that stairway.
Mr. Finegold said he stood on a desk and gathered an additional 20 people from that floor to their group while Mr. Borst searched out and found a different stairway, and they began leading the people down. The difficult walk was made even worse because there was no light, no communication and sometimes there would frequently be a loud noise and the building would shift. Many people were screaming and panicky, and there was a large amount of dust in the air making breathing very difficult.
After getting to the bottom of the stairway they had to get through a large lobby and then walk back up an escalator that wasn’t working to the ground floor. There was still no light and a lot of dust.
Mr. Finegold told two of the people, a co-worker named Patti Krisch and a man named George, to hold onto his belt as they worked their way to the exit. He told them not to turn him because he thought he knew the way out, and he did.
There was so much dust in the air people were often confused as to where they were. One published report said an officer was confused and started walking the other way. Mr. Fingold’s colleague Mr. Borst asked the officer where he was going, and the officer replied they were going the wrong way.
“You are already outside,” Mr. Borst said.
Mr. Finegold was the last person in his group out of his stairwell before the building collapsed.
“It took me a while to realize the people who were behind me never got out,” he said.
When the first tower collapsed it knocked Mr. Finegold, and many others who escaped the other tower, to the ground.
“When I first looked up I couldn’t see the tower,” he said. “I didn’t realize at first it was no longer there.”
While many people sought relief by going home, Mr. Finegold knew he had to get back to work.
He had another office in New Jersey as PANYNJ has several areas of responsibility. In addition to WTC, the agency operates a large marine terminal, six bi-state water crossings, a bus terminal, commuter rail system and LaGuardia, JFK, Teterboro and Stewart International airports.
The Port Authority board was responsible for building the WTC and owned and operated it for several years. Just two months before the attack the Port Authority entered into a 99-year lease-purchase agreement with real estate developer Larry Silverstein.
Still with his clothes covered with inches of dust and ashes he was able to walk to the Hudson River and take a ferry across to the Port Authority’s offices in Jersey City, New Jersey. There he showered and changed into clothes he purchased at Kmart and began the process of finding office space and equipment to get 2,000 people back to work.
Mr. Finegold spent three days and nights working in his New Jersey office when he took a call from his son Jared, then 16.
“Why aren’t you coming home?” he asked his father. “Are you hurt?”
That is when he decided he needed to go home.
Mr. Finegold waited until after rush hour to drive from New Jersey to his home on Long Island. When he arrived, late at night, he was still wearing the same clothes he had been wearing for three days. His house was full of family and friends.
“I took a about 90 minutes and told everyone what I had been doing,” he said. “That’s the only time I told the whole story.”
He still holds things back now.
Mr. Finegold said he voided talking about it for 10-12 years. Then, he said, after visiting a 9/11 memorial for about an hour all the demons went away.
Frank Adelman, Sun City West resident, said he has known Mr. Finegold for years before he moved to Arizona.
Mr. Adelman said Mr. Finegold didn’t speak of the situation or talk to anyone about the miracle for many. When Mr. Finegold finally began talking about, Mr. Adelman said he was very surprised.
The most impressive statement Mr. Adelman said he heard was that Mr. Finegold said after leading ag group of people down the stairs, he turned around and no one was behind him.
The 9/11 event is not the only disastrous experience for the Finegold family.
Four years later while in New Orleans with their son they survived Hurricane Katrina locked in a hotel. In 2012 when Superstorm Sandy struck the East Coast, Mr. Finegold was in Arizona, but his wife, Susan, was in their Plainview, New Jersey home without power for days.
“We are done. We are moving. You are going to retire,” Ms. Finegold said when he returned home.
Mr. Finegold has a smile on his face when he relates that last conversation but remains somber and contemplative in discussing the events of 9/11, especially his personal involvement.
Reporter Roger Ball can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and 623-876-2523.