Humana employees recall living through 9/11
By Dave Creek
Web Producer - email
LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- On the morning of September 11th, 2001, 23 Humana employees were only blocks away from the World Trade Center. They were in New York City to launch an online insurance plan. The invitation to the event read, "Change Happens...September 11, 2001."
Those words turned out to be prophetic, though for a very different reason.
At 8:46 a.m., as the Humana contingent was still headed to its presentation, American Airlines Flight 11, piloted by hijackers who had taken the plane just half an hour earlier, crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Diane Davis, one of the Humana contingent, later told WDRB News, "It sounded like a sonic boom."
At 9:03, United Airlines Fight 175 crashed into the World Trade Center's South Tower. Anthony Choate of Humana told WDRB News, "You're thinking it's this unbelievable sight. What in the world is going on here? You have no concept of what is really happening at this point. You see a plane smacking into a building head-on and you're sitting there watching it out the window."
The Humana group made it safely to their destination at 55 Broad Street only blocks from the World Trade Center, and became eyewitnesses to history. Giant plumes of smoke flowed from each stricken tower. Horrified people ran from the disaster scene as first responders ran toward it. Sirens wailed. Dust and debris rained down for blocks around the towers, and the sky was filled with papers blown out of offices. Diane Davis said, "I'll never forget, really, the paper fluttering like it was just standing there with a mind of its own. Everything was in slow motion."
Choate noted, "When you see things like that happen and people disappearing right before your eyes, you're sitting there going, 'This is real.'"
At 10:05, the South Tower of the Trade Center collapsed. The North Tower fallowed at 10:28. Dense clouds of smoke and debris flowed through the streets, causing more panic and coating everything, including many survivors, with a layer of white ash. Choate described the scene as, "Ash all over the streets, 1/2 inch to 1 inch thick. Every time you'd take a step this little dust cloud would come up around your knees everywhere you walked."
The Humana group spent several hours in the basement of the building where they'd taken shelter. Once they felt it was safe to leave, they came upon a tour bus that took them out of the city. They were able to catch another bus back to Louisville.
A year later, the Humana employees published a book about their experiences -- September 11th, 2001: Stories from 55 Broad Street. Each person shared an account of their experiences that day. The book also included pictures they had taken immediately after the attacks. Proceeds of the book went to charity.
Those involved hoped the book would help keep the memories of 9/11 alive. Several called it a healing process to share their experiences.
As for any lasting impressions from witnessing, and living to tell the tale of the attacks, Tom Noland of Humana concluded: "I don't think it's made me any better a person. I wish I could tell you, so I live every moment as if its my last. It hasn't really made me better, just more conscious of a truth -- that life is tenuous."
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