Every day is a 9/11 remembrance for survivor
By Tina Sfondeles Staff Reporter September 11, 2011 10:04PM
Heinz Paul was on the 99th floor of tower 2 of the World Trade Center and managed to survive. He has not talked to the media before. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times
Updated: November 9, 2011 3:36PM
After the commemorations are over, after the 10th anniversary is a memory for millions of Americans, 9/11 will be a daily remembrance for at least one who survived.
From the Aon office on the 99th floor of the World Trade Center’s south tower, Heinz Paul, 55, saw the first plane hit the twin tower. His first reaction, to get out, saved his life. The avid hiker took the stairs, the long way but the route that got him out safely. He was on the 48th floor stairwell when the second plane slammed into the 77th-85th floors or his building. Yet he made it out, and — covered in sediment and dust — to his in-laws’ home in Brooklyn.
Even 10 years later, small things trigger memories daily, like a billboard with the same last name of a co-worker who didn’t make it out, or the sounds of planes flying overhead.
“I don’t look for it. I don’t pay attention to these things, but it hits you and you step back and you say, ‘What the hell is that?’ There are no flashbacks but it makes you just stop,” he said. “My brain is trying to tell me there might be something going on, or I saw this before or heard it or smelled this before. That’s the thing that kills you and it doesn’t go away. Ten years later and it still hasn’t gone away.”
Paul, a New Jersey native who moved to Chicago in 2003 and now lives in Oswego, has kept his tale of 9/11 survival to friends and family for 10 years.
“The building started shaking when it was hit by the second plane,” though he didn’t know that’s what had happened, he said. “People were falling down the stairs. We all stopped and listened and waited —maybe 10 seconds. We started to feel the heat rising from the stairs and I thought this is not good, and then we started moving, fast.”
He didn’t realize the second plane hit until he got out and saw the destruction all around him. “That’s when the hairs on my neck stood up and I said we have to get the hell out of here,” Paul said.
He made his way to Lower Manhattan only to learn all buildings had been evacuated. “That’s when the second building teetered. All of a sudden, I’m looking up and you can see tower two. Clear as day. You hear this rumbling and I’m thinking, it’s coming down…All I heard was metal and glass breaking right toward our building.”